Yesterday she wrote about cycling and self-esteem, and specifically about the issues of body image...
"In our bipolar society, where the most obese population in the world is inundated with dangerous images of “beauty” by the media and where “fit” people drive to the gym to run on the treadmill, millions are locked in a struggle with their bodies..." she writes; "The solution is a lifestyle change that favors simplicity over excess and regards the human body as a tool rather than merely a decoration. A big part of such a lifestyle is active transportation, especially cycling. Riding a bicycle as daily transportation can radically shift both how you feel and how you feel about yourself."
Photograph from Let's Go Ride a Bike
I think this is pretty powerful stuff. Not just a case of 'look good, feel good', but something deeper... I think exercise is increasingly seen as a form of punishment, a panacea with which to try and fix the ills of our lifestyles. Just as we go on a diet to loose weight, so we have come to view exercise as something that fixes something which is 'wrong', rather than looking at the cause of our problems. An active lifestyle, where we learn to trust our bodies as being strong and reliable enough to get us round town, works in the opposite way. You do a little exercise as a consequence of your activity, which in turn makes you fitter almost by accident, which in turn makes you feel better about yourself, which raises your self esteem. When I first started cycling seriously I was heavy-smoking and over weight. I would arrive at work pretty puffed and sweaty. I quickly realised that my lifestyle was so sedate that other than when I walked to the car or the tube station, I got NO exercise at all. At first, I hated the way cycling made me feel (the PAIN!) but slowly it got more and more easy, but only as a consequence of my active form of transport, as oppose to slogging it out in some gym somewhere. Now I am lighter and most definetly fitter, and whilst I won't be roaring through the Alps on my 3-speed anytime soon I have no doubts about my ability to zip all over town comfortably. The bike has given me a mental as well as geographical independence that I hadn't foreseen.
A little light exercise by bike not only gets you home quicker but also totally avoids the post modern conundrum whereby people are driving home in their cars for a hour, in order to then drive to the gym for an hour to exercise... Go by bike and save yourself the time and money. Oh, and you're improving your mental well-being, and knocking the years off too. Best of all you'll feel better about yourself for it.
So thanks, Dottie, for this week's reason of 101 to love cycling in London: it raises your self esteem!