Michelle Jenneke

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?