cycling · family · fitness

Bettina is back in the saddle – in company

Woohoo, our family has emerged from the weeks of survival mode! We’re more tired than before, but who isn’t these days? In any case, I’m trying hard (and not managing very well) to shift my priorities back and include more movement in my life.

The youngest member of our family is now nearly 9 months old. In some ways this helps (we can do more things) and in some ways it doesn’t (increased mobility means less ability to just plop him down next to me and do 20 minutes of yoga while expecting him to still be there afterwards) with my exercise quest.

One thing that does help is that he is now fairly good at sitting up on his own, so yesterday we risked putting him in the bike trailer for the first time. Here we are, mama grinning from ear to ear about being back in the saddle and baby looking sceptical behind the yellow star I use to cover his face in an effort to keep his privacy on the Internet:

Bettina in cycling gear next to a bike trailer with a strapped-in baby in it. Both are wearing bike helmets, which makes one of them look rather like a mushroom – up to you to decide whom.

If that bike trailer looks familiar, it’s because it’s the same vehicle as our jogging buggy, which converts to a bike trailer. But while it’s safe to go running with a baby who can’t sit up on their own yet (provided you follow the manufacturer’s instructions and common sense), biking is a different story due to the speed at which you might fly over obstacles. It requires the little human to have a bit more body tension and stability.

Anyway, yesterday was the day. We strapped on his bike helmet (so cute!), hooked the trailer up to his dad’s bike, and off we went. We didn’t get very far because it started raining, as it is wont to do these days around here. But it was fun anyway! Baby didn’t complain much and even fell asleep at the end. So even if we didn’t go for a long ride, we have proof of principle: the parents had a good time and the little one didn’t hate it, so we can attempt a longer family ride next. YAY!

What sports and fitness activities do you enjoy with your kids, if you have children? If your they are older, what did you enjoy doing with them when they were small – and in particular, what did the kids enjoy?

fitness

Swimming Outdoors – Don’t Win a Darwin Award!

That advice came from a session on safety when open water swimming I attended this week. The session was organized by the Rideau Speedeaus, an Ottawa swim club, and there were three presenters.

Chris Wagg has been with the City of Ottawa as a lifeguard and trainer for 35 years. She started out with some drowning statistics for Canada. Next up was Nadine Bennett, a well-known open water and cold water swimmer in Ottawa, who blogs at https://www.wildbigswim.com/. The last speaker was Jeff Mackwood, a lifeguard and the person who set up the Swim Angel program for Ottawa’s 3 km Bring on the Bay swim, which has made it very accessible to those with disabilities, recovering from injury, or nervous about open water swimming.

On average, there are about 500 drownings a year in Canada, with 64% in May to September, 64% in lakes or rivers, and over 60% when swimming alone. The percentage of drownings among middle aged and older people swimming alone is much higher. Obviously, not all of these drownings are among open water swimmers, but it was a good jumping off point for some basic swim safety when swimming outdoors.

  1. Swim with a buddy. If you can’t then at a minimum let people know where exactly where you will be swimming and when you expect to be back.
  2. Medical emergencies are more frequent as you get older – have a buddy who can call for help, loan you a float, or just coach you back to shore.
  3. Make yourself as visible as possible in the water. Wear a brightly coloured swim cap and a tow float. If available to you, especially for longer swims or where there might be boats, having a kayaker to go alongside is even better. If you are swimming early in the morning or late in the evening, invest in some lights you can attach to your wrist and swim goggles
  4. Tow floats are not official flotation devices, but they do float, so you can use them to rest on. They are also good for holding snacks, drinks, your car keys, phone and other valuables (be sure to put them in a waterproof bag just in case the float leaks). Write your name and a phone number on the float, in case of an emergency.
  5. If you don’t have a tow float, tie a rope to a pool noodle. It won’t hold your keys, but it will make you visible and you can rest on it in the water.
  6. If you are new to swimming in open water, or out of practice, start out easy. Do short loops. Stay close to shore. Stop for a rest or snack as needed, then go back in if you are ready. If you are nervous or out of shape, find a supervised beach and swim along the buoy lines.
  7. Learn to breathe regularly even when there are waves (bilateral breathing is a really useful skill). Also practice swimming in a straight line by picking a target, then peeking up every few strokes with “alligator eyes” just barely out of the water to make sure you are still heading in the right direction.
  8. Listen to your body. Especially if you are going in the shoulder seasons of May or late Fall, pay attention to your breathing and heart rate, and whether you are losing the ability to move easily in the water because you are cold. Make sure you have a plan to get out and changed into warm dry clothes quickly. You may experience “after drop”, shivering as the blood starts circulating. Wait until that has passed before trying to drive home.
  9. Pay attention to the weather and be prepared to get out quickly if a storm rolls in. Swimming in the fog or dark can be dangerous. This is what can earn you that Darwin Award.
  10. Above all, have fun. Practice some drills. Do other strokes than freestyle. Take pictures. Admire the scenery. Revel in the freedom of being in a wide open space with glorious water all around.
Diane and her sister floating in a river.

Diane Harper is a long-time open water swimmer from Ottawa. She isn’t fast, but she has a lot of fun.

Book Club · fitness

FIFI Book Club: Why We Swim, by Bonnie Tsui

Hi readers– we’re reading a new book for this installment of the FIFI book club. It’s called Why We Swim, by Bonnie Tsui. Some of the bloggers are long-time and even year-round swimmers, inside and outside. Others of us have dipped a toe in from time to time, but are newly intrigued by wild swimming, lake swimming, open-water swimming. We’ve written about it recently.

We’ll be reading and commenting on the various sections of the book over the next five Fridays. We’d love to have you join us and add your comments to the mix.

To start, we’d like to introduce ourselves in terms of our past, present and aspirational relationships with moving around in water.

First up, Bettina:

I’ve been a swimmer for most of my life. My mum signed me up for a course when I was five and for the local swim club when I was in primary school. Later, I became a lifeguard. When I was 17, I moved to Wales and qualified as a beach lifeguard too. That was the only time in my life I’ve been anywhere close to an open or cold water swimmer though. Back then, we were in the ocean even in the winter, admittedly with very thick wetsuits.

Unfortunately nowadays, I don’t live close enough to a body of water large enough not to give me the heebie-jeebies. Small, murky lakes and rivers creep me out for some reason. I prefer the pool. I love the flow I can get into while doing laps. Swimming is my favourite way to get away from things and clear my head. Nothing quite compares!

Here’s Diane:

I’m a water baby. My earliest memories involve playing in the water at a lake. My hair would turn greenish in the summer from spending so many hours in the chlorinated public pools. I was even a lifeguard and swim instructor for a while. Masters club swimming, and the friends I have made there, have been central to my life for the past 15 years. I love the drills focusing on making every stroke streamlined and efficient. I swim outdoors with friends year-round. My goal is to do a 10 km swim this summer.

Next up, Sam:

Try as I might, I am not a fitness swimmer. I wish I were a fitness swimmer. I try and I try but it never seems to take the way that running did and cycling has. I know it’s great exercise and it’s easier on my joints than other forms of exercise, but still. My last attempt was just a couple of years ago, when my knee was really bothering me, and I paid for small group swim coaching/stroke improvement at the university pool. It worked for a few months but then didn’t.

The only time I’ve been successful as an indoor pool swimmer was when training for triathlon on campus with the university triathlon club. I was the anchor person for the slow lane. People came, got faster, and moved on. But I stayed. I really liked the team drills and having a coach suggest what I should try next. Apart from the team environment I’ve never been able to make it work on my own.

My struggle with indoor swimming is in contrast to my love of the water outside. I grew up on the east coast of Canada, in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, and lots of my childhood summer memories are of days at the beach playing in very cold waves. Now living in Ontario I love swimming in the great lakes. What do I love about it? It makes me feel like a kid again. I feel very relaxed and comfortable in the water. I never feel like I’m at risk for drowning. It’s fun and playful. I’m drawn to the water. And I still hold out hope that eventually I’ll be a lane swimmer. Someday!

Here’s Kim:

I love swimming and miss it so much right now. I’m a lengths in the pool kind of woman; I really enjoy the smell of chlorine, the light through the windows on the water in the winter, the clear view to the bottom of the pool and the lines marking the lanes. I love indoor and outdoor pools, and I really really love cooling off in outdoor pools, stretching after other kinds of fitness activities (for example: long summer cycle tours).

I lived in the UK for several years and became quite attached to winter swimming in the outdoor lidos – generally the heated ones, as I do not own a wetsuit. That said, I am now very cold-water, wild-swimming curious: I have a chronic inflammatory condition and have heard cold water immersion is a source of terrific therapy. I’ve started standing in my shower under a flood of cold water once a day to begin getting used to the concept. I cannot wait for my local pool – Victoria Park Outdoor Pool!! – to reopen in July, and I’m very keen to read Why We Swim and share my thoughts with my fellow flutterers.

And now, me, Catherine:

I’ve always loved swimming for fun. I learned at age 4 in this creek near my grandparent’s house:


Black Creek, near Darlington, South Carolina.

I spent summers at the local pool and loved playing games with other kids, practicing dives, and swimming underwater when I wanted some solitude. In high school we lived in Myrtle Beach, SC, and I went to the beach and swam often. The beach and the warm waters of the Atlantic are my happy place. My sister and her kids and I go as often as possible.

Like Sam, I’ve never been a fitness swimmer. I’ve tried, but going to the pool and doing laps has never become a habit. Honestly, I don’t like it a lot. I always feel slow and my stroke techniques feel awkward. It’s recently occurred to me to get some swim instruction, which I think I’ll do.

But, the main thing I love about swimming is the ability to go outside my lane– to paddle around to the middle of a lake, float on my back and look at the sky, to use my own body to power through and on top of water to get places. In the ocean, to jump up or dive through waves, to swim out past the breakers, tread water and look at the scene– I love it all.

Then there’s the experience of being in water: the weightlessness, the hydrodynamics of movement, the quiet world of underwater swimming (I’ve scuba dived a bit and loved it). I’ve not pursued swimming for pure pleasure since adulthood. I think it’s high time now.

Well, readers, that’s us. What about you? What’s your currently relationship with swimming? Do you want to change it? Are you looking for inspiration, community, warmer weather, a cute swim cap? Let us know, and join us next week as we talk about section one of the book: survival.

Susie the Swimmer says, we can swim!

fitness

Quick Hit Dance Workouts to Keep You Awake

Do you ever have the kind of day where working from home seems to put you to sleep? The home office set-up isn’t great so you have migrated to the comfy couch. You have no physical meetings to attend, so you just sink deeper and deeper into the upholstery. No-one ever seems to schedule breaks between those virtual meetings, so there is no chance to get up and stretch, grab a fresh cup of tea, or even go to the bathroom. Suddenly hours have gone by and you can barely move. Maybe that’s just me.

I am trying really hard to break this pattern. I use an app on my phone to remind me to get up and move for five minutes every half hour – when it doesn’t interfere with those meetings, or my flow when trying to write or revise documents.

When I do use that app, or just have a few free minutes, what to do? There isn’t enough time for a yoga session or a walk around the block; I feel silly doing jumping jacks or squats. But I can get behind a quick YouTube dance video. Today it was a couple of six minute videos from MOOV, a hip-hop/street dance studio in Ottawa.

There are so many to check out on YouTube. Zumba, hiphop, salsa, African dance, Bollywood, even Disney tunes – all in 10 minutes or less. But right now my favourites are the Caleb Marshall dance workouts. Inclusive, easy to follow, and just a little bit goofy so I don’t stress about messing. They are perfect. Check this out and see if it doesn’t bring a smile to your space as you bop around on your “way to the next meeting”: https://youtu.be/zxbN_r3Xx-w

fitness

The transcendence of moving your body: The Superhuman Strengths of Alison Bechdel’s new book

I’ve been a fan of Alison Bechdel since the early 1990s, when she was writing a weekly niche queer comic called Dykes to Watch Out For long before the Bechdel test and the phenomenal mainstream success of Fun Home, her graphic memoir that became a heart-wrenching musical.

“Fan” isn’t even the right kind of word, really — I feel a strange intimacy with Bechdel for someone I’ve seen read in person once but otherwise have no actual relationship with. I don’t have this kind of “parasocial” connection to too many public figures — but Bechdel is one of the few people whose life tracks feel so aligned with mine, who reflects my lived experience of self in ways I rarely see in public space.

When I spread out my treasured original paperbacks of Dykes to Watch Out For, the chronicles of a crew of queer and lefty folks in a tofu, granola, make-your-own-family world of the 1990s, I see my own queer history and yearning for visibility, community, acceptance in narrative form. These books were carefully hoarded from the time when queer/feminist bookstores were rare, semi-hidden affirming oases.

When I was in my first serious relationship with a woman, I saw my own coming out angst mediated through the relationship between Harriet and her family. In Bechdel’s sly capturing of the “look” of mid-90s queers, I saw a community where the haircuts, male-of-centre clothing and sharp eyeglasses of my tight little breakfast club were the norm. When the DTWOF gang ventured into the world of procreation, and of women’s bathhouses and polyamory, of genderqueer identities, it paralleled my world. When same sex marriage became a possibility, I grappled with the same paradoxes of mainstream acceptance and subsequent scrutiny on my relationships as Sydney proposing to Mo with “Will you do me the honor of paradoxically reinscribing and destabilizing hegemonic discourse with me?” DTWOF was the our pop cultural touchstone, a tracing of the evolution of queer culture as nothing else did. The comic faded out as queer culture became more mainstream, feminist bookstores disappeared and the treasured little pockets of carefully curated affirmation got woven into greater openness — but that imagined world was always a mirror realm where I both saw myself reflected back and could aspire to the confidence of a fleshed out community where queerness was taken for granted and people had language I hadn’t stumbled across yet.

In that fading, Bechdel also produced work that had more mainstream resonance in her graphic memoirs Fun Home (about her relationship with her father) and Are You my Mother (about her mom). Her success with these felt like my own sibling was being recognized in the ways I’d always hoped for — and her re-telling of her life in relation to identity, to family, to gender, to sexuality, to community, to wanting more for the world — opened up new spaces for me. So when I heard she had a new book, I ordered it without even looking at what it was about.

And lo and behold, The Secret to Superhuman Strength is about Alison’s relationship to her body, to movement, to fitness. It’s like I dreamed this book into being.

Like her earlier memoirs, this is a telling of Bechdel’s life, a literal trek through running and skiing as an adolescent, karate in her early 20s, hiking, yoga, cycling, more skiing — a bulging gear shed of four decades of changing culture AND Bechdel’s own grappling with her understanding of self as she experiences her body. Bechdel’s unique gift is her ability to depict a deeply familiar experience in “comic” image form while scraping four layers off the skin to reveal the sheer human emotion, existential questioning and revelation underneath– and then interpolating a philosophical inner dialogue with other voices. In Superhuman Strength, as she experiences and inhabits her body differently over her life, she — in true Bechdel form — also ponders romantic poets and transcendentalists like Wordsworth, Emerson, Coleridge and Margaret Fuller, Fuller’s descendent Buckminster Fuller, and Jack Kerouac.

On one hand, Superhuman Strength is an illustrated, accessible treatise of a lifelong ontological journey to understand the transcendence of movement, the eternal question of the interplay of body, mind and spirit. It’s a clever depiction of queer life in North America over the past 50 years, a where’s waldo of lesbian tropes and nostalgic recognition of moments where bare breasts at a womyn’s music festival were giddy and freeing, a reminder that the quest for a more progressive, interdependent, accountable world have been woven through our culture for a long, fatiguing amount of time. It’s a funny telling of how our culture has successively and obsessively grasped at different forms of exercise, movement and promises of spiritual enlightenment. And it’s one person’s gloriously, lovingly told life story, a fundamental grappling with meaning, with belonging, with presence, an unexpected, perfect additional melodic line in Bechdel’s life work.

Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who practically crowed picking up this book. Buy it from your local independent bookstore, like she did!

fitness

The luxury of attaining a meditative mind while running

When I run I seek that feeling I’ve felt many times before. The mindless forward trotting. The active meditation. It usually happens midway through a run. As a morning runner, I often finding myself waking up in the first 1-2 kilometres of my jog. Also, because I run in the city, there is not always an opportunity for a mindless flow. I have to stop at red lights and for cars backing out of driveways. I have to remain alert to the city hazards. Until I get onto the recreational path on Lakeshore. Here, I can run without worrying about many things. It’s often where I find my stride and my meditative mind. Somewhere after acknowledging my stiff legs, reminding myself I love this movement, if it’s feeling like a sluggish day, and perhaps giving myself the encouragement of “I Am I Can I Will I Do”, if I’m lucky, I’ll realize I’m in the quiet mind, body working in unison stage. The runner’s high.

But I am learning this is a luxury for many.

As a woman, I do have to be alert in certain circumstances. And, I never run too early when it’s dark. But once it’s light out, I rarely think about how I may appear to others or whether I may be perceived as a threat to others, in a way that could end up being a threat to me.

A white woman with long, straight, dirty blond hair, black tank top and multi-coloured tights, mid-stride on a trail.

I have thought about this, when hearing about tragic and unnecessary violence perpetrated on Black runners. For example, when I heard about Ahmaud Arbery, a 25 year old Black man who was running through a Georgia suburb in February 2020, when he was pursued, shot and killed by two white men (a father and son) with guns. Cate wrote about this in this post.

A Black runner I follow on Instagram, recently shared an IG video from Christopher Rivas. His video explained how he feels as a BIPOC, running in Los Angeles. He describes how he doesn’t get to that runner’s high, because he spends most of his time, while running, thinking about what others are thinking about him and whether he is safe.

And, lest we Torontonians think this is an American problem, a BlPOC woman I follow on Twitter shared the following the other day:

“Went to the Scarborough Bluffs with the boys this morning. There was a ton of white people who were absolutely terrified of us. One white lady jokingly said that we looked like a gang…it was funny to her.”

For a second, I was surprised. I thought, who would say such a thing? But I know enough, to know, that I have the privilege of thinking this type of behaviour doesn’t exist in Toronto. It’s a sad reminder of how much work there is to do to support people who have to endure this type of racism, over and over, again. And the problem is Canada-wide, as this man eloquently describes in his article about being a Black man in the Canadian wilderness.

If one looks for information, they will see that this is a well documented and regular problem for BIPOC in the outdoors. There are lots of tips about how to be a better ally. The woman who tweeted the information posted above about the Scarborough Bluffs incident, mentioned in another post that allies can speak up when witnessing these types of situations.

Here are some links to resources about how to be an ally outdoors:

https://www.audubon.org/news/how-you-can-be-ally-outdoors

https://www.trailspace.com/blog/2020/06/03/diversity-inclusion-being-an-outdoor-ally.html

https://thegreattrail.ca/stories/10-instagram-accounts-outdoor-enthusiasts-come-outside/

I can’t be completely blissful with my meditative high, until I feel that the majority of people feel just as comfortable while participating in their outdoor activity of choice. I am committed to continuing my learning and finding ways I can speak up, acknowledge, follow and help those that seek to do so.

Nicole P. lives in TO with her husband and 2 dogs. Her favourite forms of fitness are running, HIIT style weight and conditioning workouts, long walks and indoor cycling.
fitness

Mixed feelings about high fashion cycling gear (#reblog, #blogluv)

It’s spring when a cyclist’s heart starts thinking about NEW CYCLING KIT. And all the ads in my social media newsfeed are for cycling clothing. I wrote this a few years ago and I guess I still have mixed feelings about fashion and cycling gear. How about you? Any new cycling clothing purchases planned for spring and summer 2021? Let us know in the comments.

FIT IS A FEMINIST ISSUE

As readers of this blog know, I own a lot of bike jerseys. Most of them are team kit and they’re covered in sponsors’ logos. They’re race fitted and not the most attractive garments on the planet. Function over form, etc etc.

You might not know that as an academic, as a feminist philosopher, I’ve written a couple of papers on politics and fashion. See Fashion and Sexual Identity, or Why Recognition Matters and “Those Shoes Are Definitely Bicurious”: More Thoughts on the Politics of Fashion.

So I confess I was a bit torn when this story made its way through my various social media newsfeeds, Our Favorite Indie Bike Apparel Companies. Some great clothing there. I think fashion matters and it’s interesting, especially when connected to specific identities–such as bisexual, or cyclist, and so I’m intrigued by the idea of fashionable cycling clothing. I think it’s connected to…

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fitness · injury

Appreciating All the Moments (guest post)

Guest post by Michele A.

I use the kitchen counter to balance myself for 15 reps of mini-squats as I stare forlornly out the window at a cyclist pedaling by on my street on a gorgeous sunny day and wonder “when will I get to do that again”? I fell while riding recently, breaking and dislocating my femur. I’ve been told 6-12 months until full recovery. I’m fully weight bearing because of the long Cephalomedullary nail that is now a permanent part of my anatomy, so at least I can balance myself here long enough to do my PT exercises, but six or more months feels like an awfully long time.

As I was approaching my 50th birthday a couple of years ago, I became very conscious of time and how much of it I had left to do the things I enjoy. I made a focused effort to not wish away any of it. No longer would I say things like, “I can’t wait until this is over” to a crazed period of work, or “I can’t wait until -fill in the blank- event/ day/ activity is finally here.” As if anything between now and that time didn’t matter.  Be in the moment, even when those moments are difficult and try to figure out how to make the best of it. Appreciate the mundane as well as the more exciting days.  So when the pandemic hit, this approach was challenged. How do I make the best of things in this isolated new world?

I pondered how I could reflect back on this time and not think of it as a horrible year. Perhaps I could even consider it with some fondness. If I do say so myself, I think I did a pretty good job of adjusting. I grew to not hate working from home by finding pleasure in the little activities I could do during the day that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. I befriended a herd of goats, which I blogged about. I cooked up a storm and returned to my recipe blog with renewed vigor. I took virtual group guitar lessons that turned out to be much less intimidating than in-person ones. And, of course I rode my bike and ran on trails because moving outside is typically a cure for all that ails me.

I settled into a new groove and was fairly content even though I missed a lot of activities from the Beforetimes. There was light at the end of the tunnel:  more people I knew getting vaccinated, warmer weather was descending upon us, and I was making actual plans to partake in weekends away with friends this summer.

Bam! There I was in an ambulance on the way to the hospital.

Me and my "fall risk" bracelet.
Me and my “fall risk” bracelet.

In the last many weeks I’ve been trying to come up with yet another new groove and a way to get through this period of time without wishing it to be over as fast as possible. I depend on movement and specifically movement amongst the trees to socialize, keep fit and stay in good spirits. With that gone, this mindset of not wishing away time has become much more difficult, but I am trying hard to stay the course.

As anyone who has been injured knows, the recovery process is just as much about tending to the emotional challenges as it is to the physical ones. I’ve been given a lot of advice during my recovery, all of it well intended, yet not all of it helpful. However, I’ve found on several occasions, someone has come along and said just the thing I needed to hear in that moment. At a particularly low point, a friend said to me in a texting conversation, “think of all the firsts you have to look forward to!” I stared at that text for a few moments and realized this was the thinking I needed to adopt. (Thank you, Rachel!)

Rather than expending my mental energy focusing on all the things I can’t do right now, I will recognize and celebrate each of the firsts I encounter. The first time walking with a crutch instead of a walker. The first time changing my bed sheets. The first time going into my basement to do my own laundry. The first time making something in my kitchen that was more complex than boiling water or heating prepared food in the microwave. The first time visiting my goat friends. The first pedal strokes on my indoor bike. (I’m hoping this last one will be soon.) This provides me with many milestones to reach and allows me to feel a sense of accomplishment regularly.

I’m curious to hear from the readers out there about how they made a recovery period not only tolerable, but perhaps even, dare I say, enjoyable.

cycling · fitness

Riding a bike is easier than flying a plane. But aviation experts have good tips for us, too.

Now that the weather is warmer (or threatening to be warmer) in the Northern hemisphere and vaccination numbers are going up (albeit gradually), many of us are heading back outside on two wheels. Yes, we’ve been dutiful and some even enthusiastic about indoor cycling (see Sam’s posts about the joy of Zwifting, like this one). But nothing beats riding outside on or off-road, amidst sun and clouds, greenery and flowers, breeze and sounds.

Two road bikes-- mine in foreground, Pata's in back, relaxing while their owners stop for coffee on a fine summer Friday. To be resumed...
Two road bikes– mine in foreground, Pata’s in back, relaxing while their owners stop for coffee on a fine summer Friday. To be resumed.

Resuming cycling in real life does require us to dust off long-unused skills like bike handling, holding one’s line in high-traffic areas, paying close attention to road conditions and getting used to the abundance of sensory input.

If this seems challenging, imagine how pandemic-furloughed pilots feel about getting back into the cockpit of a 737. In a New York Times article this week, one pilot reported:

“It’s not quite like riding a bike,” said Joe Townshend, a former pilot for Titan Airways, a British charter airline, who was laid off when the pandemic hit in March last year.

“You can probably go 10 years without flying a plane and still get it off the ground, but what fades is the operational side of things,” he said. “There is a multitude of information being thrown at you in a real working environment, and the only way to stay sharp and constant is to keep doing it.”

Tell me about it. Driving a car felt similar after months of staying home and off the roads. And my dashboard doesn’t look remotely like this:

An updated 737 cockpit from the Mid-Canada Mod Center (no idea what that is). Many dials, levers, screens and buttons.

Still, having to process all that information in real-time, while on or off-road cycling, requires some focus and adjustment when we’ve been riding in our basements for months on end.

Which leads me to tip #1: remember that cycling (like flying) is a full-sensory experience.

We can all appreciate the need to brush up our skills with our sporting equipment, especially when it’s been a long time since we’ve used it. The same goes for aviation. From the article:

There is no “one size fits all” training model aviation experts say. Typically, pilots receive variations of training based on how long they have been idle. In simulator sessions they will be required to perform different types of landings and takeoffs, including those in adverse weather conditions, and practice for emergency events. 

So, tip #2: Check that all safety and repair and emergency supplies are in good order.

As cyclists, we need to remember to take lights with us, checking that they’re charged, testing brakes, replacing weak or worn-out tires, cleaning out and refilling saddle bags with safety and repair tools, some dough, ID, etc.That will help us be ready if and when some weather or emergency situation comes up.

Once we’re back out there, we may not feel completely up to speed yet (as it were). Pilots feel this way, too:

“There’s certainly an aspect of rustiness that comes with not flying regularly,” said Hassan Shahidi, the president of the Flight Safety Foundation,… “As travel recovers and demand increases, we must make sure that our pilots feel fully comfortable and confident when they get back into the cockpit.”

Before the pandemic these pilots were practicing the same procedures day in and day out flying over and over again. When you’re not flying as often your cognitive motor skills are degraded,” he said.

Here comes tip #3: know that you may be rusty (even though your chain isn’t). Give yourself some time and space to ramp back up in terms of speed, handling, distance, etc.

Airline pilots who were furloughed had to find other jobs during the pandemic. Many of them worked in warehouses or did package delivery. Those jobs paid some bills, but they didn’t feed them vocationally. For many pilots, flying is part of who they are, not just what they do:

“At the beginning there was a lot of worry about the risks of Covid, but now that vaccinations are underway everyone who has been recalled is so happy,” said [one pilot].

“We love the air, the view, the aircrafts and it’s so much more about those feelings than the money, although in this pandemic you realize that the money is also important,” [the pilot said]. “Everyone is making a big effort with training because they just want to get back.”

Which leads me to tip #4: despite the worries, the logistical hurdles, the changes in equipment and physical acclimation to exercise, for many of us, riding bikes is a big part of who we are, not just what we do in our free time. Getting back to riding means reclaiming that part of our identity.

For me, that means getting ready to fly again– in my case, down some hills on two wheels will do nicely.

Readers, have you been dusting off gear, checking batteries, replacing parts in preparation for a return to sportsing outside? How’s it going? We’d love to hear from you.