I have been biking quite a lot recently. I try to get out at least 3-5 times a week. I have even biked to work, although I do not do that often. I’m often hot and sweaty after I get there and the ride home, while primarily downhill, is mostly on city streets and is kind of brutal and scary.
A few months ago, a friend of mine, or maybe someone I know only slightly posted this meme oh Facebook:
I think the person was trying to be encouraging by showing how judgy they are not by posting a meme on Facebook. I was slightly offended by it and became more so the more I thought about it. I’m not upset with the person, just the idea. The idea that there are good fat people, those who exercise or do something other people deem to be healthy. And bad fat people. To me, this is just another form of fat shaming.
The idea that my health, my appearance somehow belongs to other people is offensive to me. If I do what you think is the right thing, I’m worthy of praise, and if I do not, I deserve derision.
Now that I am biking myself, I’m here to tell you that while I’m biking, none of that matters. Here’s the secret. Fat people bike for the same reasons skinny people bike…because they love it. Yes, it is exercise and helps to build muscle mass and burn calories, but that is not my primary motivation.
So I thought I’d share some of the things I actually think about while I’m biking. (hint: those thoughts have nothing to do with you or what I think you think I look like!)
- Balance! Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Whoa Whoa! Don’t fall! Don’t fall!
- I put my feet not the pedals! Whoo hoo!
- OK, pedal, pedal! Don’t fall!
- I’m biking! I’m biking!
- OK get to bike trail…
- Big hill! It’s downhill, you can do this!
- Holy crap here comes a car! It’s OK! It’s OK! They’ll go around me.
- Whew, they went around me. Catastrophe averted.
- I made it to the bike trail! OMG, it’s uphill! At least it will be downhill on the way back.
- On the way back: How can the bike trail possibly be uphill in both directions?? Seriously? Who designed these trails?
- OMG, my legs.
- OMG, my butt hurts.
- OMG, I cannot breathe.
- Just breathe!
- OMG, I think a bug flew up my nose!
- Now my nose is itchy!
- Can’t take hands off handlebars to scratch nose.
- I have to scratch my nose.
- Scratches nose. Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Don’t fall!
- Making bike trail part of the sidewalk…not a good idea!
- Case in point…who decided to put a lamppost in the middle of the bike trail/sidewalk? WTF?
- Bike around lamppost by railing and risk running into the railing and possibly tumbling down the embankment and into the creek? Or bike around lamppost street-side and risk tumbling into traffic? Nice.
- Preparing to bike up a short, but sharp hill. I can do this. I can do this. Uh oh, someone is coming downhill fast in my lane! He’s not looking up. Look up, look up look up! “Hey, look up! Coming towards you!”
- He moved, thank God.
- Lost momentum. Great, now I have to walk up the hill.
- OMG, I didn’t know I could sweat this much.
- Family with kids, “I’m on your left!” Please, God, don’t let the kids run out in front of me!
- Did the runner I just passed going downhill just pass me as we are going uphill? Holy crap, I’m slow!
- When does this get easier?
- Does it have to be so hot out?
- When does this hill end?
- Breathe! Just breathe!
- You can do this!
- Home at last!
- I so totally rock!
I do not think about what other people think I look like. Not at all. I think about safety and the other people I see on the trails. I do not want to put myself or anyone else at risk.
A friend of mine recently asked me that since I live in an urban area and I bike on the streets a lot if cars scare me. The answer is, they terrify me. I have a healthy fear of cars. Every time I have to cross a street or bike on the street, I’m terrified. I know most drivers are cautious and do not want to hit me, but in that moment, all I can think about is trying to avoid being hit. I yield to everyone.
But here’s another secret, I spend most of my time on my bike being terrified. Terrified I’ll fall. Terrified I’ll run into a pedestrian. Terrified of going uphill. Terrified of going down hill. Terrified of going too slow. And terrified of going too fast. Still, I get out there.
So, why do I do it? I do it because I have to. Not because I’m required to, or that the doctor told me I must. I do it because I love it. When I’m on my bike I’m not concerned about what I look like or what anyone else thinks of me. It is the only time I feel free from the judgment of other people; free to just live in the moment. I think that more than anything gets me out there on the trails as often as possible.
I see people of all sizes on the bike trails. Some a much smaller than me, some much bigger. One girl in particular stands out. I saw her this weekend and I think she was biking with her boyfriend. She looked like she was struggling. Still, she was faster than me. The two of them whizzed by me without a problem. I later caught up with them as they had stopped for water. She saw me coming and smiled. She looked just as hot and sweaty as I felt. I smiled back and gave her the biker nod – the nod many bikers have given me. A nod of recognition; of camaraderie; a welcome to the club. I hope she sticks with it and loves it as much as I do.