In the very beginning, bike riding for me was not a comfortable process at all. Up until recently I've been an extremely non-exercise driven person. As a younger and somewhat overweight child, I hated “working out.” I was not physically active. I hated running, and I really hated biking; I lived on a gravel hill that I had no desire to bike up. It was pretty sad, because I realize now that if I had picked up bike riding in my younger years, I would probably be a much more confident rider today.
Initially I thought riding was just going to be about getting out there. I had no concept of what to wear for biking attire, so I wore a pair of gym shorts and a sports bra. It was June and pretty warm. I hate being hot so I decided to do my best not to care being out and about without a full shirt on. I saw people wear the same sort of thing while jogging, so I figured I wouldn’t be breaking some kind of unknown or secret dress code. With a helmet and a pair of sunglasses, plus the fact I was completely new to recreation, I pretended no one would recognize me at all.
Most times this was the case, minus a gravel truck driver who would periodically honk at me from the street. I really was and still am uncomfortable with how I look physically, especially my mid-section. One person would look at me and say I have nothing to worry about, but you say it without knowing I’ve been on the other side of the spectrum. I grew up as that “little fat girl” and I remember how it felt to be told I was a “fat cow” on the school bus. You are picked last, you are not athletic, and you grow up with a low self-image and even lower self-esteem.
So yes, it was a huge deal for me to go out in public with minimal clothing on. But on my bike I felt powerful. On my bike I didn’t care what I looked like, I figured for those who were walking I’d be past them so fast they would forget as soon as they saw me.
When I first bought my bike I was extremely excited just to pedal it out of the parking lot, but had no idea at all how to bike up a steep hill. I was very nervous about going downhill too, so the first time I rode it to work I walked my bike most of the way. That evening a co-worker/friend met me outside the backdoor of the food co-op and escorted me home. He showed me a flat route that I could take to work and back and I rode that route for several weeks until I wanted to cut off some time.
I began getting hooked. I began to feel strong, confident, and secure with myself so long as my legs were pedaling and I had sweat dripping down my brow. The sun felt great on my body, the rush of air on my face made me feel free. Changes started happening to my strength and endurance before I even realized it.
Frankly? I’m still amazed and/or in shock and delighted over it all.
My legs started to become more toned and muscular and my calves started to look, in my opinion, amazing. My butt is still fuller-figured but it isn’t as full as it had been, and probably has become more toned. My forearms are noticeably stronger and more defined, as a friend of mine couldn’t stop commenting on them when she’d see me at work. Even my midsection and waist changed a little and became trimmer!
For the first time in a long time I didn’t care so much about my looks, all I cared about was being on my bike, being outside, and just having that sense of mental and emotional freedom. I didn’t care about losing weight, toning up, or being physically active; I just wanted to ride! The physical and health benefits were simply a bonus to what I felt was my true reward-my morning bike ride.
To read Josie's first piece for us in Bike Love and how she met her bicycle shop owning sweetheart Travis click here!
About Josie Smith
Josie lives in Decorah Iowa and hosts the "Life on Two Wheels" blog which focused on the trials, tribulations, successes and lessons learned on bikes. She's the cat mom to three wonderful (and mischievous kitties) and loves riding her bike(s). Josie works at the Oneota Community Food Co-op and also writes for the Imagine Northeast Iowa blog. She hopes to inspired other women to learn to love their bodies more through her writing and bike adventures.