I’m one of those people who actually likes to exercise; getting me to sit still is more of a challenge. I find that the answer to many problems is some sort of physical activity. (I bet you’re wondering: “How’s that ‘sitting-in-front-of-a-computer-writing’ thing working out for you?”)
There’s a yoga studio located a short walk from my home (through a small park, no less). This place caters to the student crowd; I felt a bit old going in there, especially once it dawned on me that my leggings could be older than the instructor. But I’m generally able to keep up with the rest of the group, even in the hot classes. And I do mean hot—like 90-100 degrees.
But after a few months of yoga I decided I wanted to be outside more often, rather than packed in a sultry room amongst a bunch of sweaty co-eds. I enjoy walking as much as possible but I also felt I needed something a bit more intense. I love hiking in the woods but having to drive for 20 minutes in order to do this seemed a bit contradictory. I’ve dabbled in jogging but since I can run only marginally faster than I walk it didn’t seem worth it considering the extra wear and tear on my body.
Then a friend was leaving to go overseas for a year and let me have custody of his bike. This guy is a bean pole so I thought this was good testimony for cycling as a good way to stay in shape. (He’s also a mathematician, or as I call him, the “Mathemagician.” Read that again—it’s not a typo. I can’t take credit for making that up; it’s from the Phantom Tollbooth. You can check it out of the library from the children’s section. And while you’re there you can visit the owl.)
In all fairness, I’m not exactly a brick house myself and so far as I know no one has ever written a tribute to my body type. I guess “Skinny Little White Girl” isn’t a very catch song title. Let’s just say I understand why they make specially padded cycling shorts.
Biking is huge in Bloomington, with such events as the Little 500 and Hilly Hundred. It can be intimidating going into a cycle shop as an average civilian. I once went into one, asking about purchasing a 10-speed. This is what we called them when I was a kid, when this kind of bike was the hot new thing. I was informed that as most bicycles now have at least this many gears, it is properly referred to as a “road bike.” (Duh. Where else am I going to ride it, my bathroom?)
I discovered that my pants were floppy enough at the bottom to risk getting caught in the chain so I had to tuck my pant legs into my socks, making me look like a complete dork. And my only pair of sneakers are Grinch-green. Add to this whole ensemble my new glasses which I feel cause me to resemble a giant cartoon insect. Overall I felt pretty conspicuous but if I can manage to get stared at in Bloomington then I must be doing something right. I figured I’d be in good company with some of the local characters such as the guy who rides around on a recumbent bike with a parrot on the back.
I had forgotten how long it had been since I had ridden in traffic. I had to remember to use some sort of hand gestures when turning. I wondered if I’d be coordinated enough to brake, signal, and turn at the same time. Spoiler alert: I’m not.
I felt much better once I was on the B-Line Trail. This goes all the way to the south end of Bloomington where it runs into to the Rail Trail, which in turn meets up with the Clear Creek Trail. (And the hip bone is connected to the thigh bone, but that’s not really relevant to my story.)
By the end of the ride my behind was completely sore, my back ached from hunching over the handlebars, my wrists hurt from holding them in one position, and my hands were vibrating the entire evening as a consequence of the gravel on one trail.
But all that was forgotten when recalling the stunning array of autumn colors I encountered. This reminded me that outdoor exercise is good for both mind and body and is well worth the effort. And the excursion confirmed my belief that the most beautiful place in the world to be in the fall is southern Indiana.