Active living is life changing

My bike changed my life.

So not only is February the home of Valentine’s Day, but it also happens to be Heart Health month. This coincides with something I had been thinking about recently.

I was contemplating some of the bigger shifts I’ve made in my life.

It occurred to me that there are a few things I’m passionate about and am always trying to convince other people to try, knowing nothing but good can come of them.

One of those things is an active lifestyle, a critical key to a healthy heart.

Now, staying fit was not always as natural for me as it is now, and while I’m not exactly in peak physical condition, I maintain a fairly healthy and active lifestyle for the most part.

This was most definitely not always the case, but one great thing truly changed my life.

That thing was an old-school ‘90’s era Nishiki mountain bike.

While I didn’t realize it at the time, in my first years at university, I was in a bad way.

In my first year, I lived in residence. A frequent problem for students, the hectic schedule and cafeteria food combo joined together with the metabolic changes that occur between the ages of 18 and 21 meant I became very unhealthy in an incredibly short amount of time. I wasn’t hugely overweight, but I had no energy and spent very little time actually getting any real exercise.

But I had always been naturally athletic in some ways, and so I didn’t really notice much, until I tried to do certain things. This ended up being a bit of a vicious cycle, because as things get harder people tend to do less, and so things get even harder, and living in residence, I never had to go very far.

But the shift came when I was in my third year, I lived a bit further away, and I was deadly poor.

I was living off of inadequate savings and student loans, sleeping on a foamy in the living room of a one bedroom apartment I shared with my friend, and I couldn’t afford much food, let alone insurance and gas for my beater station wagon.

So I had to park the car and ride my bike.

At the time it didn’t even seem like a sacrifice, just a necessity.

I lived close enough, it was less than 15 minutes by bike, and on a bike I could ride right to the door of my lecture hall, while with a car I had to park almost 10 minutes walking away, because I could never afford to pay for parking in on campus lots.

For my early morning classes, I remember riding to school in my usual black cloud of morning misery (I have never been a morning person, just ask my dad), and then getting to school with a big grin on my face, euphoric at the early morning sunrise I witnessed in the cold crisp air.

After school, I would sometimes race my roommate down to the grocery store, where she’d be stuck in long lines of the student cars escaping after class, I could ride up past all the rows of traffic to the lights and beat her there.

Now, it wasn’t all sunshine and roses, I’ll admit.

There were rainy mornings when I thought it was a little ugly, but once I had the right gear, and changed into dry clothes in the washroom before class, I was alert and awake, something I never managed to achieve when I drove to morning classes – I didn’t drink coffee in those days.

But besides the wake-up factor, the low cost factor and helping the environment, I changed my body completely. All without even realizing it.

While other people paid for gym passes, I was getting fit without even thinking, heck I thought I was just getting to class.

That bike managed to get me back to a more energetic and vigorous self, and I began to become more active in other ways as well, because funnily enough, it didn’t seem so darned hard to do those things anymore.

That Nishiki mountain bike became my undisputed champion of dependable travel. I think I changed one tire on it the entire time I had it, somewhere around 10 years.

Eventually I gave that bike to charity, after the station wagon had long ago given up the ghost and I had nothing but my Nishiki to get around on while living in Nanaimo, B.C.

Somewhere that same bike might be changing someone else’s life today.

In fact, I think it is.