Let’s Get Physical

September 28, 2011 | By Paul Mackenzie Ross | Filed in: philosophy, Zen.

I was thinking of accompanying this post with a picture of Olivia Newton John but thought better of it. It’s nothing personal against the singer of the ’80s pop song from which I borrowed the name for this post, it’s just that I didn’t want to give people the wrong impression – I’m not trying to encourage you to wear headbands and ankle warmers, no way!

Since the first day of July this year I’ve been back on the road, driving a car. I decided not to drive for 1) major mechanical 2) financial and 3) a mix of personal, environmental & experimental reasons.

When my wife got her visa to stay in the UK we decided it would be useful to get a car again, so we snapped up a £325 runaround and, within 6 weeks, upgraded to something a little more comfortable, safe and practical.

So in 3 months I took to driving like a duck to water. I love driving and it’s been really useful for being able to get around to see my clients. Not only do I turn up comfortable, fresh and dry but I don’t have blood and gravel stuck to my legs like I did with one client  few months back. I’m not out of breath and I can wear smart, clean clothes without oil on the right leg.

We can go to the supermarket and load up the back of the car with enough food to feed our little family, we can get to school safe and dry, visiting my parents on the south coast is no problem and my range is now much improved over the previous level which was close to that of a medieval peasant.

The flipside has been this, however…

Driving has meant I have financially jumped from virtually zero transport costs to far more. The car costs £50 a month to insure (even with 9 years no claims bonus), the tax disc is £118 for 6 months and then there are tyres (£120 for the front pair) and fuel etc. The financial burden is quite a leap from riding a bike.

But then there was the biggest loss of all – Health & fitness.

I knew, from being a regular mountain biker, that dropping the regular ride on a Thursday night leaves you in a worse position for the next ride. Missing a couple of weeks is worse still, after a month out of the saddle it starts getting really bad and 6 months, a year etc you start getting really unfit.

This time I hardly rode my bike in 3 months. The result, 2 weeks ago, was this – A bad back and utter exhaustion at the end of every working day. I was in agony, I left the office in pain and was totally worn out. I used to fall asleep at 6pm every night. Of course, there’s the fact that I’ve taken just 3 days holiday in last 266 days and the office situation is not perfect – I sit *near* a window but I’m not looking out of it into a big sky like I do at home in a house that is bright and sunny all day long.

My wife and I had a chat about this and figured out that maybe I should get back on my bike again. This Monday, hey presto, I cycle in, my back hurts but it’s not a *bad* sort of pain – I come home after a hard ride home, and stay up until I zonk out at midnight.

Tuesday I ride to work and back, this time rushing home and not taking the quite so scenic route through the woods. We pop out to the pub for a couple, on the other side of the woods, and bike home in the dark. I don’t fall asleep until about 11/12 o’clock.

It’s only been two days but that’s a good sign already. I feel so much better. So, the moral of the story is this – If you cycle a lot, don’t give it up. If you don’t cycle then you’d better start cycling.

I’m not sure how the winter’s going to shape up again this year – Cycling in the cold and the dark is really not very nice. And when you nearly get knocked off your bike in the blazing sunshine by idiot drivers, it makes you wonder just how much “better” their driving and awareness will be in the winter months. Cycling to a workplace with no showers is not  a pleasant thought, but we’ll see.

So yeah, keep cycling or start cycling. And cycle hard, it’s good for you!


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