I want to invent a superhero whose only super power is biking.
A lot of people don’t know this, but biking really is a super power. Biking has amazing healing powers. I used to have chronic back pain. It was often debilitating and at the very least was a real detriment to enjoying life. I tried everything I could think of: trips to the chiropractor 3 times a week, special stretches and physical therapy, massages, etc., but nothing worked other than providing temporary relief from the pain.
At that time I had a long commute to get from my home to my work and I used a car to accomplish this. Yes, I spent an hour of every day driving a car to get to work. That sounds so strange to say it now! My job was very stressful and I sat all day at a computer. When I got home I was usually in too much pain to think about running or going for a walk, despite the fact that I lived in a really beautiful place that was very conducive to those kinds of activities. I stayed stressed even at home and it led to a kind of downward spiral that eventually made my life less than great; at least not nearly as great as I wanted it to be.
Fast forward to the next scene, where our hero is now in a new place at a new job.
Yes, I still work at a computer all day and my job could still be considered pretty stressful. Now I commute almost two hours each day, but my back pain is nowhere to be seen. My quality of life is on a different dimension. No work-related stress ever comes home with me. Ever. (You may have guessed already what my next line will be, but I’m going to write it anyway): The only difference was that now I was biking to work, instead of driving.
At first I thought this was counter-intuitive. I mean biking looks like it should hurt your back, if one was susceptible to back pain. So I spent a lot of time trying to figure out where all that pain went and why it wasn’t with me any more. My initial thought was that the exercise I was now getting every day was strengthening my core and that this was making my back stronger. The problem with this theory was that I couldn’t explain why the stress never came home and why my quality of life was so much better.
Then I had an epiphany. It wasn’t the sitting at a computer all day, or the stressful job, or even the commute in a car that led to the back pain. It wasn’t that I didn’t take enough trips to the chiropractor, or do my physical therapy stretches religiously enough. The pain was real, but it was a symptom and not the cause of my uptight thinking and stressed out attitude. And I wasn’t happy because my life wasn’t active. I was like a dog locked in a little kennel.
Once I became physically active again, my whole attitude changed. I realized that I was only treating the symptoms, rather than the root cause of my pain, which was due primarily to my lack of healthy, daily activity. In a statement that preceded existentialism by several hundred years, Hamlet says: “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so…” The truth is, we can’t really think right if we’re not getting enough oxygen pumped through the brain. Once Hamlet started the biking trend that is now so prevalent in Copenhagen, he became less moody and a lot more fun. He and Ophelia got married and rode the EV-7 for their honeymoon, had lots of kids, and lived healthy, happy, and long lives (in my alternate universe.)
The choice is simple: Start living, or start dying. Let your inner dog out of its kennel to run free.
–This post is dedicated to my friend Christa, who is a real-life super hero.