Jane McDowell Reflexology and Massage in Bristol

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Why I Cycle

I started cycling in 2011 when I still lived in London. My wonderful Dad was dying from terminal skin cancer and I found the months leading up to and following his death very difficult. Put simply my Dad was my best friend and I couldn’t understand a world where he didn’t exist. Unsurprisingly, I often had a hard time keeping things together. Whenever I was left to my own thoughts I would break down and cry. This mostly happened when I was commuting to and from work on the bus or the tube which meant that I was constantly trying to pull myself together and not draw attention to myself.

So I got to thinking about how I could overcome this daily tearful commute and my answer was to buy a bicycle and start cycling to and from work. I learnt to ride when I was a child during the summer holidays when we’d visit my great aunt in Norfolk and every summer I’d spend a few days wobbling around on an old bicycle with my cousins but outside of those few occasions I never rode a bike let alone owned one.

As you might imagine, I approached my new commute with some trepidation. Luckily I only lived about 3.5miles from my office so I set off on the first day from my house feeling excited and terrified in equal measure. The first journey took me about an hour as I think I did as much walking as cycling; I was nowhere confident enough to attempt to turn right so was constantly getting off my bike and walking across zebra and pelican crossings and then waiting for ages before having the courage to rejoin the traffic. One thing I wasn’t prepared for was how sore my bum would be after riding a bike. It was agony getting back on my bike to go home, it almost put me off cycling altogether but I persevered after all it was either crying on public transport or a bruised bum so I opted for the latter.

It only took a month or so for my confidence to grow and soon I was turning right and making it all the way up steep hills without having to get off and walk. It wasn’t without a few hiccups along the way – there was the morning that I stopped at a red light next to a bus when I suddenly felt myself slowly falling to my left and in so doing knocked another cyclist off their bike much to the amusement of the passengers on the bus. I realised that I had simply forgotten to put my feet on the ground when I stopped and had slowly and uncontrollably crashed to the ground. Luckily no one was hurt, other than my ego. Then there was the time I got on my bike to return home; I hopped on, started to cycle and cried aloud several times, ‘ow!, ow!’. I couldn’t understand why my knees were bashing the handle bars as I pedalled, this had never happened before. . . then I realised that my front wheel was facing in the wrong direction at which point I became really confused as to why the bike wasn’t going backwards if the wheel was facing the wrong way... Yes, sometimes I can be that stupid. On a positive note it made me laugh out loud which was a vast improvement to bursting into tears.

In the years since then I have continued to cycle whenever possible and I’ve found that as well as keeping me fit, it has helped to combat stress. Before I became a full time therapist I was a project manager in the NHS and I found that cycling was a great way to leave the stresses of work behind; as soon as I got on my bike my mind was focussed on my journey and no longer brooding on the ups and downs of work.

What I love most about my cycle rides is that I get to see the world from a different viewpoint; through parks and playing fields, alongside rivers and allotments, in-between houses and down old railway lines all of which give me the opportunity to soak up the beauty of nature. It never fails to lift my spirits no matter what time of year or whatever the weather I’m always struck by the beauty of the natural world from glorious blue skies to thunderous cloud formations, the first signs of spring to the myriad colours of autumn, blossom strewn paths to icy puddles, dancing dragonflies and drowsy bees, chattering sparrows and the screech of a buzzard soaring overhead, all of which lift my mood and give me a sense of joy and perspective.

I realise that cycling isn’t for everyone but if you’re grieving or experiencing stress then I’d recommend trying to build more exercise into your daily routine, whether that’s getting off the bus or the train a couple of stops early or going for a walk in your lunch break. And even if you’re not lucky enough to be near a park, a river or woodland always take a few moments to look for the beauty in the world, it’s there even in the harshest of concrete jungles. xx

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