Are you serious…that’s all it takes? So for just 45 minutes of my life I’ll be fit, healthy raring to go. Well bring on the active wear, hand me the sweat bands and let’s get this fitness thing sorted once and for all!
Forty five minutes…yep 45 minutes! As I rode past the call to action sign I couldn’t help but cast my mind back to the days when I was unfit – and trust me, it was longer than 45 minutes ago!
That’s me, several years ago before I set out on a path to feel better about myself…and me now, looking a whole lot happier about everything! It didn’t take 45 minutes…it’s taken years.
I also wondered how that comment would sit with the riders I joined with over this last weekend to complete a 100km ride – for some their first attempt at the distance. Or what message that sign sends to those who are struggling to make their first 20km ride after several months and many hours of riding.
It’s easy you know…just get that active wear on, run and jump and puff your little heart out for 45 minutes and there you go. Bingo…fitness! Yes, the world is full of false promises…okay, we know it is probably a line that needs clarification: 45 minutes a DAY, or 45 minutes several times a week of quality exercise is what leads to fitness. But is that all it takes? I found it intriguing anyone would choose to use this line…when I don’t reach ‘fitness’ in your 45 minute session once a week have I failed? Was I too fat, too unfit to start with, did I eat too many cakes? No, you gave me false hope.
Fitness takes more than 45 minutes …it takes a change of lifestyle, a change of thinking and a change of how we manage our time. Fitness does not come in a 45 minute quick fix program a few weeks long…once you are fit, you can’t just stop! Maintaining that fitness requires time, effort and, well, more than 45 minutes a week!
Our 100km riders…they all know that you don’t just wake up one morning and say ‘Hey, it’s 100km today’, without putting in the hard yards for a long time pre-ride.
Riding 100km does not happen after 45 minutes of exercise once a week. It takes many, many hours of cycling and for some, there have been complete changes in lifestyle – some of the riders even said that when they were ‘young’ they weren’t ‘sporty’ at all. Some started out saying “I’ll never ride on the road’ or ‘I just want to ride confidently with my kids on the weekend’.
For those women, fitness was not something they felt they would ever achieve because they simply didn’t engage in physical activity from a young age. Some had cited reasons such as being called a ‘nerd’ or the ‘fat kid’ at school, or ‘bad at sport’. Sadly, some say they were just the ones who were always last to be picked for the netball team – those experiences gradually diminish self confidence and can be the start of an entrenched idea of ‘I’m no good at sport’.
It is a sad message of how we assess our peers from a young age and what value we place on those who can, and those who WE think can’t. Yet there they were, our fabulously fit riders…smashing out 100km, smiling.
Our Coaches and Ride leaders…I’ve seen some dramatic changes take place…from where they were when I first met them, to where they are now.
What makes me abundantly happy is to know that those women who I rode 100km with all started at the some point (including me), some time ago, with little skill, little fitness and not much of an idea about riding. Yet a willingness to perhaps forget their own, and others, negative opinions has taken them a long way. The difference is that riding for each of them is not about ‘exercise’ or ‘sport’, or the quick fix to fitness. No, it’s been an attitudinal change – simply making time for their own passion.
Bike riding offers a sense of freedom, an escape, a way to see places you might not otherwise see and a chance to meet some amazing people, just like you, who may also have been the last picked for the netball team. But we may never know those histories because the bicycle is a great leveler – it provides a chance to enjoy each other unencumbered of past sporting achievements simply through our shared passion for our bikes. It truly can change lives.
The bicycle also makes no false promises – as Greg LeMond is famous for saying ‘it doesn’t get any easier, you just get faster’. It may seem hard, but every pedal stroke your body is gaining strength, your heart is building cardiac fitness and your lungs are increasing their capacity to carry that oxygen through the ever-increasing muscle mass you are creating…it doesn’t happen in 45 minutes. It happens pedal stroke by pedal stroke, ride by ride. Over months and over years.
Sharyn started out saying she just wanted to be able to ride a bit further with her kids but would never get on a road bike. Deirdre was envious of friends who did Around The Bay and started out in secret in the park, in the dark! That’s them…then and now!
On a 125km ride with one of our riders, I asked her what she was thinking that day – her longest ride ever. How long did it take to get to the point physically where she could do that kind of distance? What things did she need to change or prepare for and what did it take mentally. The 125km that day was not a planned event – she hadn’t set out to do that distance, it just happened. The day was right.
It took 2 years. Yes, 2 years of riding several times a week, with ever increasing distances. It wasn’t an intentional target at first – the initial target was to be able to ride to school with her children! But as she gained confidence and that 5km ride was over in minutes, she rode further, but in the same amount of time it originally took to do just 5km. She still worked just as hard, but she went further and faster…and it was fun!
She met other riders who were at her level who enjoyed riding. Those riders all had their own very personal needs – be it an escape from a job, escape from the chores that were dull, a desire to meet new friends, a need to be away from an unhappy home or a simple wish to try something new. Whatever their ambitions, they rode, and they rode, and they rode. For more than 45 minutes!
So, 2 years to ride that kind of distance…that’s a big ask you might say. I don’t think so. In the process of that 2 years that same rider gained skills in so many other ways – a new positive body confidence, a new way of seeing exercise as something fun and a way of being social. That rider also learned about her mental capacity to take on challenges. She had gained some self belief.
Alicia once told me she was never very sporty at school and had no interest in riding a bike other than to get her kids to school…now look at her! Body positive!
For our riders on the 100km ride, the same can be said – it took change over a long period. It took many rides and adequate knowledge about eating and hydrating correctly to handle that distance. It took understanding of what was needed mentally to continue on the bike despite tiredness. It also took a commitment to throw out the idea of a ‘quick fix’ or a ‘silver bullet’ to fitness – it took a view that riding is fun, and when it’s fun you do it more and then the magic happens!
No matter where you are with your riding – whether you have just dragged the bike out of the shed, or you’ve been plugging away at increasing the km’s to get your first 20km ride, keep going! Change does not happen overnight and nor does it happen in 45 minutes. Whether your goal is 10km, 100km or 1000km it doesn’t matter…shake off that need to look at the numbers all the time: don’t worry what the clock is telling you, or for that matter, what the scales tell you. Do you feel great, do you feel better about what you’re doing…then that’s just perfect. Keep going!
The point is doing your activity regularly and enjoying it – that may come in 25 minute snatches to start with, it may come in 3 hour snatches. Do what works for you, not what some silver bullet false promise advertising line tells you will change your life.
Now you’ve finished reading…go on, go for a ride!
NOTE: Not all riders take 2 years to get to the level to ride 100km. Some are faster to reach that target, some are slower. It is important to speak to your health professional before starting any regular physical activity.