-A BIKING LESSON
I’ve been biking for more than 60-years. This is me on a tricycle in 1948 when I was five. It wasn’t long after this photo that I got to regular bicycle…a red Columbia.
However, I really got into biking when I was in high school waiting for a driver’s license. Once I got a license and graduated from high school, I really began an exercise hiatus while in college, grad schools both in the States and overseas. When I got married and had three children, I really became aware of the necessity of getting and staying in a good cardiovascular shape and got into a real exercise program. In addition, I did the math to get into condition. Take 220, subtract your age, and multiply it by 80% to get your target heart rate while exercising 30-45 minutes a day. I did that for the next 40-years.
Today, I find myself riding 15+ miles per day around our subdivision with some small hills but mostly flat terrain. I can go 10mph up the hills, 25mph the down hills, and somewhere in between those speeds when riding on the flat road. I can accomplish this trek in a couple minutes less than an hour to a couple minutes more than an hour…meaning that I average around 15mph.
There isn’t much to do on a bike besides watching to cars and kids. Therefore, I think a lot. Ideas often act as mental distraction, which will often speed up my hour exercise program. As I was going up a hill, I decided to push it and not just grind my way to the top. Therefore, I added about a third to my speed up the hill by standing while pumping the pedals. At the top, I thought if I can improve my average while going uphill, I certainly can do the same going downhill and didn’t coast downhill.
Therein lies an important lesson of life whether it is in exercising, going to school, working, or just enjoying life. Most of us face life like I facing doing my 15+ per day. I don’t put out much to get to the top of the hill…just enough to get there. Then I coast downhill to relax until I’m on the level road. My biking suggestion after six decades of riding is to push on going up the hills and don’t relax going down them. It is amazing. I can average 16.1 mph when I do. I’m not Lance Armstrong; he already knew this fact decades before it just dawned on me. Having admitted that I’m not a biking superstar, I am willing to admit that I am attempting to be the Lance Armstrong of Doubletree, which is the first name of my subdivision. In another couple of months, I might be willing to challenge Lance Armstrong to Le Tour de Doubletree. Okay, it won’t by 3,471, kilometers, and it will have only two very medium mountain stages and the remainder being fairly flat. However, we will have to do Le Tour three and a half times my subdivision, which isn’t as big as the smallest town on Le Tour de France. (See the map.)
The question should be cycling through your head...why am I into to exercise so much? There are several reasons for my dynamism about exercise in general and in biking in particular. I got into exercise because my parents died early in their lives. My mother died of lupus when she was 52 and my father died of heart disease when he was 68. My mother lived almost half her life in illness before she actually did die while my father spent his last 20 years suffering angina, having a bypass, and finally dying of a heart attack.
Those premature deaths and the national drive to get into shape motivated me to take seriously exercise. When the weather wasn’t conducive for outdoor biking, I rode a Schwinn Airdyne during most of those years massing a staggering three circumnavigations of the earth at the equator. When the weather permitted, I rode a regular Schwinn often with one of my kids on a back seat and/or riding with my Irish setter next to me on a leash.
Then there was a near-death experience that I had nearly three years ago. I had fallen from a ladder in hit the back of my head on the paving stone patio. I was in ICU for four weeks and don’t remember a moment there…even though I recognized and talked to my family and friends. I suffered from a subdural hematoma and could have either died during surgery or become a vegetable after surgery. I will do what I can to insure that I am fit and able to accomplish my goal of living a long and healthy life. It has work well so far.
Another driving or rather biking-force was the birth of my grandson, Jack. I have a beautiful granddaughter, Ayanna, who is 15. She knows me well; we have had her and her mother over for dinner several times a month for dinner all those years, and I have taken her out each week to a DQ for more than the past dozen.
However, Jack laughs and smiles at me at three months but won’t remember any of our time together when he is 67 until at least he is five or older. My ultimate goal is still to be alive and hopefully biking when he is 21, which will make me 88½ years old.
There is also a psychological reason for biking. I had two grandfathers who were still alive after I was born but who died before I was five. I have pictures of us together, but I have no memories of those times together. I want to give Jack an opportunity to know and remember me as his papa, something that I don’t have.
Another reason is that I have students at DeVry to whom I teach humanities. In a very real sense, they are an addition to my nuclear family. This extended family of students that I have at the university level is unfortunately a very brief contact. I see them for one course or two, and on very rare occasions for three courses. Then they are gone. I want to teach them the course material and the application to their lives and work. The same drive that I possess to share my knowledge with Jack is driving me with them. I want to share knowledge of the course material in addition to a much broader understanding of life itself.
Then a week ago, I was doing my thing on my bike—adding miles and minutes to staying in physical shape. For a middle aged man, I am in very good physical health and shape. However, for a 67-year old man, I am in excellent shape. This daily regimen of biking, up a hill and down the hill, gives me time to think. Then it dawned on me while biking for Jack, Ayanna, my children, my extended family, and my health. I was biking for the entire family.
Life has its ups and downs, and our tendency is to complain about the hills of life and coast down the back side of those hills relaxing and recovering from the previous hill. In reality, we don’t push going up, and we don’t push going down. Often, we just pedal enough to get to the finish line.
One of the classes that I have taught for a dozen years is art history. I love the class and the scope of knowledge about art and the artists that I possess. The students see hundreds of slides, do online work, have tests, and a term paper. The term paper’s topic is to pick any artist, past or present, and find out what pain that person experienced in life that drove that into creating. For example, I love Ludwig Beethoven, but what I want my students to get is the pain that he endured to drive him to composing. What was it that pushed Mary Shelley to write Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus? Or if you like Vincent van Gogh, what pushed him into painting Starry Night? It wasn’t that they just wanted to compose, write, or paint. Pain motivated each…physical abuse as a child, sexism, and many psychological and physical problems. Pain-filled issues drive all artists.
I’m not interested in my students listing what the person created, then the next item, etc. In a couple of years, they will forget the music, books, or paintings. I want them to learn the advantages that pain possesses. The artist’s metaphorical cycling up hill and not coasting downhill is what I want them to learn. Then I wanted them to apply this lesson to their lives. Therein lies a lesson for each of us whether bikers, students, or whatever. Deal with the pain and push during the difficult times and don’t slacken on the easy things…push on both extremes. If you want to ease up and rest, do it on the level roads of life. However, you will see success in both the hard and easy times; you might try pushing on the average times also.