Cycling is so much fun and is such a great way to explore more places! This blog is about exactly that, the benefits of not just cycling for fun occasionally, but to encourage you to start riding your bike to work on a regular basis!
This world is a beautiful place, it is inspiring and full of wonder. However, the society we have built can sometimes get in the way of our time to explore nature. Having to work 8 hours a day restrains our ability to take in some of the beauty that is all around us. Instead of exploring nature, people are in shops and offices with artificial lighting, in confided spaces, and traveling to work in cars relying on artificial air-conditioning, in their little box of “safety”. It is time to start exploring your environment again! Just like when you were young. It all starts with buying a bike, or wiping cobwebs off the one you’ve had in the shed for the last 10 years.
We are people of the land, we come from it. Yet we have somehow disassociated ourselves from nature, we have built walls and roofs to protect us, that also confine us. These concrete jungles have no resemblance to what our brain chemistry remembers and has been programmed for.
Humans have been on this planet for 6 million years. Homo sapiens (Latin: “wise man”) are the most recent evolution of people and have only been around for 200,000 - 300,000 years. Only within the past 50,000 - 150,000 years have Homo sapiens harnessed the ability and mental capacity for language experts claim. This is why the oldest city we have discovered is Mesopotamia in Iraq, and was only created 6000 years ago. That is not a long stretch of time. Prior to that then, the vast majority of Homo sapiens existence has been more immersed within nature and I think it is time to get back to that!
Until cities change and become green cities, with lush plants and foliage growing up the side of building (which we are starting to implement), we need to proactively peruse the beauty nature provides us. A bike allows you that freedom, with the added bonus of being fairly quick to get you to where you’re going!
I personally love cycling. It reminds me of being a child as it is freeing. I mean what a great way to wind down and zone out, just letting the body do its thing and move creatively. To me, a perfect Saturday is putting some music on in my headphones and going for a bike ride with a friend or partner down the canal, or to the beach, stopping off and having a nice picnic, and feeling the sun on our faces, the wind in our hair. Then getting home feeling accomplished and tired. Unlike many people my age (25), who's ideal Saturday is getting drunk in a pub or nightclub until they can't remember their name. That is fun on occasion, minus the hangover part, or forgetting your name, but I don't think I would class that as "living" if it is every weekend. We experience so much more in nature, things that create long lasting memories with people surrounded by beautiful scenery!
Cycling is a great way to get a little boost of adrenaline, dopamine, and endorphins surging through the body. Exercise generally is known to help regulate our dopamine system helping our executive functioning skills and mood! If you are feeling a bit low or depressed, I challenge you to go for a bike ride for just 30 minutes. I would be very surprised if you did not reap some benefits from this and felt more energised.
It is soothing to the system going for a bike ride, it gives you time to be a part of nature and allows you the "me time" to think things over. It is meditative in that regard, because our focus is just on our breathing. Especially if you go up a steep hill, by the time you battle to the top, you’re gasping for air and ready to fly down the other side of the hill and experience the adrenaline the speed will bring. In that moment I highly doubt that you will be thinking how Janet was passive aggressive by the coffee machine in the office, or how Robert thinks he’s more efficient at work than you. No. All you will be thinking about is breathing, about how fun that hill looks, and deciding whether you will scream or whoooop as you go down this hill.
There are many benefits that come with cycling, some are small and incremental, like your legs getting stronger or you getting fitter. But cycling also offers instant gratification. Cycling gives you instant positive feedback and pleasure, like described above. This is the best of both worlds. There is short term and long term goals associated with cycling. We get to challenge ourselves and beat our personal best for certain distances and we can save money on transport. If getting healthier is one of your long term goals, and you have started going to the gym, then cycling will help you see your body change that much sooner. If you want to save money, then it makes so much sense using your bike to get to work, visit your friend’s houses, or to explore nature with. You can go wherever you want to go (within reason if restrained by time). You can spend as little or as much as you want on a bike. Some cost tens of thousands of pounds, others you could pick up from a charity shop or off Facebook market place for £30, even free sometimes. Let's say you buy new, you get your bike for £1,500 (this would be an extremely reliable and high quality bike), how long would it take before you were saving money?
The average UK worker spends £66.31 a month travelling to and from work. According to Lloyds Bank, over a lifetime we spend roughly £37,399 travelling to work. So your £1,500 bike (which you could easily have for the next 20 years, if not longer if you look after it) sounds expensive at first, but when you look at the stats it's really not a lot and could save you thousands. On an average salary after 2 years you would start reaping the financial rewards. If you used the bike for 20 years you could save roughly £15,000 (minus a few new tires, inner tubes and chain repairs when needed). That could be a house deposit! The less you spend on the bike, the sooner you will start saving money! If the bike was £66.31, the same as an average month traveling, then after just 2 months you would be saving money.
Money and fitness is a great motivation to start cycling, but freedom and independence are another big motivator. We Homo sapiens like feeling autonomous. There is nothing freeing about the bus being late and resulting in you getting stressed and panicked at being late for work. Missing important meetings with clients due to relying on public transport or the hazards of traffic. Nor is there any fun in sitting in traffic tapping the driving wheel getting flustered. This stress and agitation can result in road rage which then impairs your judgement when driving and could cause mistakes. Do not get me wrong, there are benefits to each of these systems of transport, as there are faults with cycling to work, such as it raining, but as long as you prepare properly you can prevent most of these issues. Cycling allows you freedom, and it helps you take control of your day. Think of how satisfied you would be cycling past a long line of traffic you used to be trapped in daily.
There are some considerations you need to be aware of when cycling to work:
- Have you already got a bike?
- Have you got a bike lock?
- If you don’t have a bike, how much are you willing to invest into the bike?
- How long will it take you to save up for a bike?
- How far are you traveling? Is it realistic?
- How long will it take in your current fitness state? (Trick question, you don't know, just try it and find out. Google maps is a good guideline to estimate from though, but don't take their predicted time as definite science.)
- Is there bike storage near your work, at work, or can you bring your bike into work?
- How intense will you be cycling? Gentle pedal? Or a full on fat burn? If it’s going to make you sweat is there somewhere you can shower and change? (Top tip, if you do bring with clothes to work with you put them in a plastic bag inside your backpack as this will keep them warm and dry if it rains)
- How long before you start making money from your savings?
- Do you have a friend who you could cycle with?
Hopefully this small list will give you some ideas to think about before you enter the work of cycling.
The point I made about time, how long it will take you, is a really crucial point. For me, from door to door it takes me 50 minutes to travel into Liverpool City centre on the bus, including walk time each side. In rush hour traffic this can take even longer. But if I cycle into Liverpool city centre, about 6 miles, it only takes me 27 minutes. I then need to shower and change my clothes, but I will have still saved so much time. If I cycle to work I will have productively used my time in a fun, invigorating, and empowering way. I will have experienced a thrill, improved my fitness, and I will be more productive at work as a result (greater executive functioning skills, e.g. memory and task planning).
During my rides I usually like to listen to a podcast, or something educational in the areas of interest I have. So not only am I getting fitter, but I am learning and developing my mind too. Whereas when I travel via bus I tend to find I spend considerably more time less productively, not only am I not getting fit, I also spend time on social media, mindlessly scrolling, or blasting music to drown out the sounds of chatter around me. Time is precious, how we spend our time ultimately defines us. So why not maximize your time.
This is smoothing I live by, and I will continue to encourage others to do so too. For instance, my first ever race was a half marathon. Most people start with a 5k, or a 10k. But not me. During the build up to this race I hardly ran at all, the most would be 100m sprint for the bus. However, I also cycled to and from work every day. As I am a Personal Trainer, I have clients at various points throughout the day, this results in me cycling to and from work several times a day. It is almost a 6 mile journey and I was riding a BMX, which means I almost always was standing up. It also unfortunately meant that I had no gears to help me get up the hills. Despite not doing any running prior to the half marathon, the cycling had made a huge impact on my fitness. During the half marathon I got a sub 2 hour time (1 hour 44 minutes and 51 seconds to be specific). My body was physically fit, but not from running. This meant that my heals hurt, my knees hurt from the impact, my inner thighs burned raw from the friction of running for that long (it didn't help that it rained heavily for the first 2 out of 4 laps), but my body was fit enough to carry me! Cycling had trained me to go the distance.
Cycling is so beneficial for the mind and body. As described above, it will help with other skills, such as running, at least the cardio side of things, and is genuinely a great way to strengthen your body. Talking about pain from running, another benefit from cycling for your cardio fitness gains is that there is considerably less pressure going through the legs. This impact can sometimes create injuries, especially if you are new to running. The most common running injuries usually occur in the knee, whereas cycling greatly reduces this risk! Cycling is a no weight bearing activity. This means that your joints are at less risk of ware and tare. However, we would recommend if you are new to any fitness to incrementally improve, listen to your body, and progress at the right pace for you. For example, at the start you could ride just one day, then rest for two days while you are sore. Then cycle again when you are ready. As you get fitter and the weeks go on you will shorten the recovery time between rides and start enjoying your bike daily! The fitter you become, the more you will be able to enjoy the ride, challenge yourself, and get back to nature.
In sum, cycling can help you save money and get richer, fitter, smarter, more adventurous, allows you time to think, and boosts your mood. What more could you ask for! Hopefully this blog has inspired you to consider cycling to work and getting more freedom of mind, body and soul. If you liked this blog, please share it with your friends.
Strength and honour until the next time we meet my friends, happy riding!