Here's to Your Heart Part II - The Power of Joy

One of our big goals here at Women on Bike SoCal is to present the wonderful opportunities the bike brings to experience a healthy, smart, cost effective urban/suburban life from a diverse array of voices. To that aim I am so delighted to welcome Maria Sipin and Machiko Yasuda as new columnists for us.

Both young women are received our League Cycling Instructor scholarship last year, and both have not only jumped into bicycle advocacy wholeheartedly attending and supporting all kinds of bike-minded events, but have also used their talent as writers, and their social media acumen, to spread the word to a broad twenty-something audience. I am very proud of them and excited about the energy and ideas they bring with them.

Last week I went for a check up and found out that my blood pressure had improved, I'd definitely lost some of that stubborn middle aged belly fat I'd wanted to, and my resting heart rate has dropped close to what it was in high school. I felt triumphant and have almost daily bicycling and/or walking to thank for it. For much of my life I've been able to maintain the weight I wanted, but I'm not kidding myself, I was pretty darn out of shape. At 21 I started a job that had me sitting an hour+ on the freeway each way for my commute and things went downhill from there. I didn't begin to really get regular exercise again on a daily basis until my health crashed in 2000.

But a better heart rate and blood pressure aren't the biggest reasons I bike and walk - I do both for the joy of it. Nothing allows me to feel a sense of place and connectivity to my world like biking and walking do. Nothing allows me to listen to the birds, and enjoy the fragrance and colorful vibrancy of flowers in my neighbor's yards the way biking and walking does. Nothing makes me feel more alive than moving under my own volition in a comfortable way.

If we want to successfully combat the terrible pandemic of sedentary diseases that now face us we need to harness joy as one of our key allies. Selling bicycling as a sport has made it very popular to a select crowd who want to put in the grueling hours to train to be avid road cyclists. Our challenge as advocates, however, if we want to do the job right is to do our best to engage and empower the masses.

We all know that sexy sells, but add joy to that mix and well, interest goes through the roof. If you're old enough to remember, just think of Farah Fawcett's famous bikini poster and her gigantic (and authentic feeling) smile. Think of Tom Cruise (before you decided he might be a little crazy). Think of young, refreshingly frank Jennifer Lawrence and her extraordinary Oscar winning performance in "Silver Linings Playbook" where it's her joy of dance that helps focus her and keep her sane.

To this list I'd like to add the talented high hurdler Michelle Jenneke and her pre-race warm up dance that has set the internet on fire (oh yes, and she goes on to win the race too). Her video below has had 22+ million views. It's led to her being hired by Sports Illustrated to model bikinis. Is she beautiful? Yes. Is she sexy? Of course. But she's also a seriously talented Olympic caliber athlete. Watch what happens when she starts to dance - the joy radiates off the screen. If we could bottle that joy I think we'd have a powerful antidote to our sedentary disease pandemic. What do you think?

Here's to Your Heart Part I


Happy Valentine's Day Week to You!

I've got an important question for you - what are you doing right now in your day to day life to care for your heart? I don't just mean your physical heart (though as an active living advocate I feel strongly about that of course), but your emotional and spiritual heart as well. In essence, what I'm asking is what are you doing to ensure your own well being?

If you have read any of my pieces you probably know by now that I come to active living advocacy as both a creative (an artist and writer) and a media relations specialist. I feel that active living advocacy in general, and bicycle advocacy in specific, need the compelling engagement of the very best emotionally impactful storytelling, and the full outreach potential of the media, if we are ever going to successfully reduce the current negative and growing impact of sedentary diseases and become a society that embraces and encourages the active wellness of our citizens overall as a top of mind objective.

The universal needs to become very very personal if we are going to influence millions of people to reset their thinking from speed and convenience to actively creating better health for ourselves with our daily routines - we've been given all of the evidence as to why we need to eat better and move more and it's not working so well. Last week on Alice Park reported that after years of the Baby Boomers being touted as the healthest generation it turns out that research is finding it simply isn't true - and sedentary diseases are the big culprit.

As a Baby Boomer (albeit a reluctant one, from the very last year) my sense of urgency in trying to do something about all of this is heightened.

To play my part I am working on becoming the best possible storyteller I can possibly imagine. To do this I am reading, and listening and watching master storytellers to discover what they do, and say, and present that opens my heart, heals my heart and inspires my heart in the hopes that one day I might be able to share active living information in a way that will do the same for others.

I am so excited that this is Valentine's Week because it is the perfect time to share with you one of the advocacy organizations that has used masterful storytelling so very brilliantly. This organization has so so inspired me, and has much it can teach bicycle advocacy. I'm talking about Eve Ensler's V-Day organization.

Five years ago I gathered together a talented group of lady friends here in Long Beach to perform a reading of Eve Ensler's "The Vagina Monologues" for the Ten Year Anniversary celebration of the V-Day movement. Personally I wanted to be involved in hosting the event to honor the memory of my birthmother Shirley who was a rape survivor. Working on this event was one of the most profound and rewarding experiences of my life. It was so easy to work with the V-Day organization, they had all of the tools and tips ready and available online, as well as helpful personal at the ready to answer personal questions. Our performance sold out, and our cast put on an unbelievably marvelous performance - and yes I can say that as I was just the MC host!

But it is what the V-Day organization continues to become and how they continue to get their message out that continues to inspire me now. As an organization lead by an artist they have no need to be politically correct. After all, this is the organization led by the women who made it okay to say Vagina in public! V-Day is fearless, absolutely fearless in creating moving, soulful, authentic, diverse, fun, heartbreaking and yes even sexy outreach pieces - especially videos. I am particularly impressed how they have now partnered with dance to bring a defiant, joyfully active angle, as if with each step of the dance women and girls are taking their own steps to actively protect themselves against violence.

I invite you to watch and dance along with them in solidarity. It'll be good for your heart, I promise!