Friday, September 14, 2018

use it or lose it?

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I left Citybikes six years ago this week.

I still had a part-time job teaching at a local synagogue, which kept me commuting regularly by bike for another two years. When I was let go from that job in spring 2014, I had no regular bike commute anymore. Instead, I became a touring freelance musician, which meant I no longer rode a bicycle daily.

In addition, my body was undergoing the very real and sometimes challenging changes that come with perimenopause: mood swings, hot flashes, increased brain fuzziness and depression.

Finally, the effects of Crohn's disease were increasing in frequency and intensity, leading to greater and more frequent fatigue and a lot more time spent in the bathroom.

Over the last six years, and especially over the last three or so, I've watched my body grow slower, creakier and heavier. I've noted that my moods aren't what they used to be. And this week, I had to admit to myself that I'm just not as excited about bicycles or bicycling as I once was.
I tried turning wrenches a few days a week at a nonprofit in July and August, and in the end my hands hurt so much that I couldn't continue past the end of August. (I'm keeping the door open for next spring in case they have the funds to hire me again and my hands are improved.)

And now that the days are noticeably shorter, I've pulled out the SAD lamp (happily scored this summer at a yard sale for two bucks) and my wife and I take turns using it in the morning. Does it help? Not sure yet. I hope so. Because I do not want a repeat of last winter when everything felt awful.

I am pondering a gym membership -- if I can find an affordable one -- and also looking at other ways to create reasons to get out of the house and ride my bike when I'm in town.

I've also bought myself a new pair of rain pants. I don't enjoy riding in the rain as much as I used to, but if I can remove the equipment barrier perhaps that will help.

Looking over the list of physical and emotional challenges that have laid me lower, can I pull out specific causes for why and how this evolution has happened?
I'm a mechanic, so that's how my brain works: find the cause of the problem, fix it, and get back on the road.

However, it's not that simple in this case. The human body is complicated and messy, and everything is wired together in ways scientists are still trying to understand. The fact is that, between entering my mid-50s, perimenopause, depression and auto-immune disease, some people have told me it's a wonder I still ride at all, or that I still have the energy to travel at all. The fact is that all of these pesky things are wired together and fixing one won't automatically fix the others.
Of course, I've asked myself repeatedly if the decrease in my riding (both time and miles) has also contributed to this current sorry state, and it probably has at least in part. But that's really a chicken-or-egg question. Because it's all of a piece. The vagaries of aging are impossible to catalogue so precisely, and I could waste a lot of time trying to do that here.

I've gained 25 pounds since I last raced a mountain bike seven years ago. I don't like that, either.
So today, another bike ride. And some research on cheap gym memberships in Portland. Because I feel the need to try and change this, even in some small way, if I can.

Below: Scenes from yesterday's ride to Kenton.
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Happy riding.

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