How I keep the healthy habit going’

At the peak of Victoria’s coronavirus restrictions, one writer found solace (and family time) in bike riding around her neighbourhood. Now, as the state emerges she’s shown that what happens in lockdown, doesn’t always have to stay in lockdown. 

At the beginning of 2020, I would have said the following two personal statements were 100 percent accurate: One: I am a reluctant exerciser. Two: I am a VERY reluctant cycler/I do not do bikes.

Then three months ago at the height of Victoria’s lockdown, I walked into the bike shop where I had purchased my daughters’ bikes a year or so prior. The two rooms that had once been filled to capacity with every type of bicycle imaginable were so bare you could almost see tumbleweeds.

Soon a Lycra-clad staff member approached me, and I hesitantly told him that I was “contemplating getting a bike” so I could ride with my children. Although I had walked into the store with great reluctance, somehow some sort of cycling magic was weaved because about 30 minutes later, I walked out pushing my new bike alongside.

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For the next few weeks, my daughters and I would escape lockdown by cycling the paths around our neighbourhood. It was our way to get out and experience freedom while also spending time together as a family.

After about a month, I decided that I would brave it and go solo for a longer ride and actually venture onto a bicycle lane on the road. Yes, the road (cue dramatic music).

I clunkily fiddled with the gears as I struggled up the hills, eventually working out which gear to change into when I was going up, versus when I was going down. I ducked my head and cowered while riding down what I dubbed ‘Magpie Avenue’ pleading to the resident bird to “please stop swooping me, I am your friend,” while simultaneously hoping that no one was watching me.

As I rode down a much steeper hill than I had anticipated and cars drove past me, I gripped the handlebars hoping that the tighter I held them the less likely I would be to die. The combination of achievement and relief when I didn’t was incredible.

Eventually, I found myself out on my bike every single day. And most incredibly, I didn’t go on my bike out of an obligation, which is normally the case with me and exercise (i.e. the gym and memberships), instead I did it because I enjoyed it. I still can’t believe I am writing these words.

Soon, I realised that not only was I enjoying it but the hills that I once had to stop, hop off my bike and walk up, I could now ride up. I was also getting fitter.

Now that lockdown is (finally) over in Victoria, cycling is now a healthy habit that I am continuing because of all of these positives.

Although now post lockdown there are more options for fun and fitness, what I have done to go from a reluctant cycler to one who does so every day:

1. Finding new cycle tracks

Variety, as they say, is the spice of life, and because with cycling you can actually go a long distance quickly, I have found that researching different cycle paths and tracks nearby to me, and trying them, with or without my children (depending on how difficult it is) makes riding more exciting.

From hilly and bumpy paths along a bush track, to flat roads, through to family-friendly loops at the nearby park, they all offer something different.

2. Setting goals

I live in a really hilly area and have found the more often I ride, the further up the hills I get. So, now I set myself a goal to get up a specific hill, and each day I attempt to get up it without stopping.

While it might not be much to witness (sorry all inadvertent spectators), I have recently made it to the top of my nemesis hill summit and I literally fist pumped when I did it.

Other times I just set goals of time or pace and try to challenge myself more each time I do it.

3. Keeping it fun

This may be the most important for me personally as a reluctant exerciser because I think perhaps this said reluctance stems from the fact that often I don’t find it fun. Although I never thought Shona and a bike would make a fun combo, apparently, I was wrong, and I want to stay wrong!

In between cycling with my children, the different cycling routes, and the personal goals I have been setting, so far nothing has become monotonous or a struggle to keep doing and I intend to keep it that way.

Shona Hendley is a freelance writer and ex-secondary school teacher. You can follow her @shonamarion.

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