I love riding my bike so much. Not in lycra, or with a speed demon determination, no, I love riding my bike slowly, shifting gears gradually and taking it easy. All through my childhood into my teens and now in my adult life I have loved the freedom riding a bike brings. The wind on my face, exploring roads and places unknown and at a pace that enables me to watch the world go by and take it all in.
My first bike was red and black and called 'Alex' funnily enough. It had stabilisers and a fixed pedal. But my true love was a sparkly, golden children's bike with a cream saddle and basket on the front - she was a beauty! Today I have a lovely purple Victoria Pendleton hybrid called 'Brooke', it was second hand from my niece and of course, she has a basket on the front.
The Importance of Play
There is a sense of joy in cycling along, as though my bike could take me anywhere, even back in time to more carefree days. It connects me to my six year old self that would play outside my Nannies flat for hours, going round the block, up and down pavements and having the inevitable grazed knees when I fell off. I think there is something wonderful about revisiting the things that brought you joy as a child and including these in your adult life. I have heard people say that this form of nostalgia is regression and childish, but I disagree. There is a great quote by George Bernard Shaw - "We don't stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing". I have a whole list of things that I loved to do as a child that I still do today. And do you know the best bit - I'm not very good at some of them, but they still make me smile.
For instance, tennis. I'm not especially co-ordinated or the most agile, but I love everything about the game - playing it, watching it, the sound of the tennis courts in our local park, strawberries and cream - I digress! In fact, I will keep some of my stories about tennis for another post, as playing tennis was one of my favourite things to do with my sisters. I'm also not the steadiest of cyclists - but as long as I'm having fun, I think that's all that matters.
Cycling has so many benefits from reducing illness, diabetes, osteoporosis, depression and even mortality rates. I know from experience there is an ease and relaxation that comes from freewheeling along. The fresh air, sights and sounds of nature, together with a sense of freedom reduces my stress levels and lifts my mood. It also brings us together as a family, as I can head off with my children alongside me, chatting and stopping off for a treat on our journey and making a simple bike ride a fun part of their day.
Pedal Power not Petrol Power
Now that spring is officially here, I can get out on my bike more - I do prefer the brighter days when it's not lashing down with rain. I would love to be able to commute to work, as they do in Scandinavian countries in particular, but my current commute is just up the stairs to our home office. So, my idea for this year is to use my bike more than my car for local journeys - to pop to our town, go for a coffee or visit friends and relatives. I have become comfortable with the convenience of getting into a car and driving for 5 minutes, rather than peddling (or walking) to where I need to go. I admit, it is not always practical, but I can certainly make more of a considered effort. The benefits to our natural world will be well worth the climb up the hill to my house!
Joy is Not A Luxury
Now it's your turn. What did you love doing as a child that you can reintroduce in some way into your adult life? Is there an element of play or fun that you can revisit, an activity that brings you joy or a past time that still makes you smile? Or are there healthy hobbies that you loved to take part in that could bring a spring back into your step? And what about how your activities impact on your relationships, health and the environment - could you make some simple changes to bring you closer to the people and nature around you? I'd love to know your thoughts on this, so please share in the comments below, or post to my Instagram @iamsarahalexcarter
Remember, joy is not a luxury, it is an everyday essential to living life to the full. Happy springtime all!
Image via Unsplash