The 1980s was the aerobics decade for me. Specifically 1984, the year between my 2nd and 3rd child, when I reclaimed from several years of athletic decline a state of fitness that I have clung to ever since. There I was, running up and down our neighborhood sidewalks, 4 months pregnant, pushing two toddlers in a noisy, metal framed, vinyl-clothed double stroller that looked old even then (the cool joggers had not been invented). Jane Fonda and I were fast friends (via her workout videos), and I swam laps during the “breaks” at our neighborhood pool. But I didn’t have a bike until 12 years later, when my fourth child, Samm, was born.
My road to triathlon began on that bike. Because I could not easily schedule aerobic workout sessions around little Samm, it seemed like a perfectly good idea to get a baby bike seat—or in my case, borrow one—stick Samm in it and go. And we did go—everywhere! Samm and I covered our hometown of Woodbridge, VA, uphill and down, to parks, rivers, and playgrounds far and wide, tooling around on an $80 Murray mountain bike purchased on sale at Walmart. As he grew, I continued to pump and grind my now creaky mountain bike to new heights and destinations, and my leg muscles were beginning to show for it. Better yet, I was gaining endurance—or as I know it now, anaerobic tolerance. Samm loved it, too, even had his favorite stop-offs.
But then…one day, while we were climbing the big hill out of our neighborhood, Samm gasped. I looked around to see him leaning back way too far in his bike seat, which had bent under his weight. I knew the time had come; Samm would have to dismount. We had already exceeded the seat’s recommended weight threshold by about 10 pounds, so in the name of safety, I forfeited my li’l bike buddy. 🙁
The bright side: without Samm’s extra 40 pounds, I was now flying around town. The Murray would no longer do, and so I splurged, spending nearly $600 on a Trek hybrid (a cross between mountain and road bike). But it was a beauty, bright green, 24 gears, and pedals with holsters for my feet (“basket clips” to the cognoscenti).
My Trek and I were inseparable. Oh, I still did the Kathy Smith – Jane Fonda aerobic tapes pretty regularly, swam occasionally and even ran—but it was on my bike that I had pure fun. The fact that I was getting in good shape was merely a byproduct now, though it had been the guiding goal initially. I could get away on my bike, physically and mentally. And now, I also had bike clothes: tight-fitting polyester shirts in hideous colors with pockets in the back for my cell phone and apple; spandex shorts that had to masquerade as bike shorts because I just couldn’t fathom spending $54 for padded ones. Then came something really big—the opportunity to do a Century, or a 100-mile bike race. Not a race, exactly, but a ride with a bunch of other people who, like me, loved their bikes and wore funny clothes. End Part I.
Click here to calculate how many calories you can burn biking. One hour should get you somewhere between 400 to 500 Calories. Not bad, and it’s fun—scenic too!
Spring is almost here, so get ready to celebrate…. Get a bike or dust off and lubricate the one in the garage, basement, or shed and get out there! Here are some bike stores you might want to check out, from the basic to the higher-end:
Performance Bicycle. They’re everywhere. Good for clothes (when there’s a sale), basic parts like tires and tubes, and fairly standard bikes and equipment. Also good for a straightforward tuneup of your dusty Schwinn or Trek.
Village Skis and Bikes. A Woodbridge local, located in my stomping ground, nice stuff and nice staff.
Spokes, Etc., several NoVA locations. Nice range of bikes, and where I got my inaugural Trek. Good people in the back, too, whom you can trust for maintenance and repairs on better bikes.
For the high end in bikes and gear, check out Freshbikes, with stores in VA and MD. Great place for high-performance bikes and gear; also an all-too-rare triathlon store (e.g., sells wetsuits, too).
I love biking the many trails around northern Virginia with my daughter Lindsay, also an athlete (see photo).