There are many reasons that I am passionate about the sport of cycling; here are a few. I grew up playing soccer, from the age of 4 to about 23, there was not a moment of downtime that I wasn’t on a soccer pitch trying to perfect my skills, whether that be dribbling, set pieces, or in shot variations and finishing skills. Once I began Physical Therapy school, it was the first time in my life that I stepped away from soccer and it left a serious void in not only my physical activity but also in my social life, as I no longer was part of a collective group of guys playing the sport we loved.
For me cardio activity has always been relatively boring, I could run 10 miles in a soccer game, but ask me to run 2 miles for “exercise” no thank you. I began a series of activities to try to be more active but nothing really could provide the excitement of soccer as well as being as an efficient of an activity. In my second year of PT school, I bought a bicycle just to add some variation to my routine. Initially, I would just ride it to class and to the gym to lift. One morning, out of boredom, I took out the bicycle around my college town for a 20-mile ride, and the rest is history. This was the first time I found an activity that provided the exhilaration and challenge that I felt since playing competitive soccer. It allowed me to dig deep and challenge myself on uphill climbs and to also let my inner adrenaline junkie out on steep downhills and curves.
What resonated with me was that it was an activity that I was doing by myself, up to that point in my life all my sports were team oriented, soccer, basketball, doubles tennis, and I loved that social aspect of those sports, but cycling was different. It was the first time that I began practicing introspection as well as meditation. Cycling was an activity that I could do to challenge myself physically and mentally to a whole different level. It can be very quiet on the bike and you can use that time as you please, think about the challenges of the previous day, or what is next, or you can think about absolutely nothing at all.
Best of all, I would get off the bike and on my activity tracker it was showing that I was burning upwards of 1000 calories an outing. I was amazed at the versatility of the activity from a physical and mental standpoint.
At this point in my life I had transitioned out of school and into the working world, again this life transition had side-tracked me and I wasn’t cycling much. In general, I wasn’t doing much of anything, my time-management skills were poor, I was mentally exhausted, and I had general malaise- I felt tired and just unwell. The worst part was I was a Physical Therapist who had all the skill sets and knowledge to know the detriments of inactivity: weight gain, joint pain, fatigue etc. Luckily for me I had a good support system from mentors at work to my loved ones at home. Long story short, in the latter part of 2016 I got back on the cycle and once again there was no looking back. I was madly in love with the sport again. I remembered how much I enjoyed the challenge and before I knew it, I was buying my first high-end road bike.
All my down time was spent cycling and researching nutrition and techniques for improving performance on the cycle. All of this has culminated to the year 2017 where I rode 3370 miles, climbed 117,411ft (4x the height of Mount Everest), and spent over 8 days worth of time on the cycle. This is a feat I am proud of, but my initial thought was what can I adjust in 2018 to surpass that record. And that to me is the power of cycling. It has reinvigorated my competitive side as well as my mental health. 2017 was a year where I focused a lot on self-improvement, challenging myself, dedicating myself to health, and the results were obvious.
A few other reasons cycling is amazing, from a PT stand point, it is an activity that is relatively low-impact on your joints, it’s amazing for your heart, there is relatively no muscle soreness. It also allows you to burn large amounts of calories, which in return means refueling with awesome foods of your choice! Today, if I am not meeting weekly mileage goals on the cycle, it throws other aspects of my life out of whack.
So what is the point of this blog about cycling. Everyone should be a cyclist! No, not at all. This is my personal experience with an activity that challenged me and has helped me grow as a human being over the past several years in many aspects of my life. Everyone should have something in their lives that does that for them, challenges them in new ways, and stimulates them. Only through these types of stressors can growth really be experienced. Whatever this activity is in 2018, enjoy it, own it, and grow from it.
Happy New Year.
– Physical Therapist: Haze Hernandez, PT, DPT