Building Better Habits

I always struggle with the first couple weeks of the new year.

Everyone talks about new year’s resolutions and what they hope they’ll be able to accomplish through them, but we all know most of those goals end up lost in the backs of the minds where they were conceived. After all, it’s almost as much of a tradition to fail at these resolutions as it is to start them.

But what exactly is a new year’s resolution?

Simply put, it’s a yearly attempt at establishing a good habit.

But why limit yourself to a yearly attempt? Why not drop the whole resolution game and boldly step into the realm of building good habits year-round?

You can even build on goals going from one, smaller good habit to a larger one, spanning a couple weeks or the whole year.

The bottom line is you open your mind to possibilities when you take the perceived limitations away.

But building good habits isn’t easy. There’s lots to find online about this challenge, and here are a couple reads I think are worth your time:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/inspired-life/wp/2015/03/02/expert-ten-super-smart-ways-to-build-good-habits-and-make-them-stick/

http://www.lifehack.org/articles/featured/18-tricks-to-make-new-habits-stick.html

Taking from the good advice given in the writings above and the many lessons life has taught me so far, here are my favorite tips for building good habits:

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly — Know what the positives and negatives (if any) are in this new habit. If it’s obviously much more good than bad, then it’s probably time to take this good habit seriously. So focus on the positives as this will help you become more focused and determined.

Ask yourself the following: How is this habit good? Does it keep you from something bad? Does it keep you from something ugly?

I am trying to build a good habit of riding my bike more locally for errands/utility reasons instead of defaulting to the bad habit of using an automobile, so I’ll plug my idea into this strategy:

The Good — I’ll save money while exercising and doing something that needs to be done anyway. Hopefully my driving neighbors will become a little more aware of the fact that they need to share the road with cyclists since they will see me on the road more often, so this should help make our streets a little safer. And this might even encourage some of the folks in my community to get out and ride to the store as well.

The Bad —  This will keep me from spending unnecessary funds on gasoline and car maintenance. And although the pollution effects are fairly small, this will reduce pollution in my area, especially if others are encouraged to bike.

The Ugly — The obvious works here, especially when you’re hoping to start a healthy habit, but I tend to think about attitude/mood with this one. Even short bike trips to the store help me feel better, and that almost always translates into a better mood. Even short rides in the car can be stressful, and that usually leads to an unpleasant attitude.

Be SMART — The good habit you’re going to build has to be Specific, Measurable, Automatic, Rewarding and Trackable.

Here’s how my idea fits into this strategy:

Specific — I need to ride my bike when I have to go anywhere locally. Notice the word “need” there. Good habits are needful things!

Measurable — I need to ride my bike when I have to go anywhere within 3 miles of my home. I’m starting off with a pretty low number to keep it realistic. I’ll raise that number as I get more consistent and comfortable with my good habit.

Automatic — I will place my bike where it is convenient to use and I see it when I exit my home so that I am constantly reminded of my good habit. It can’t be automatic unless you make it convenient and you are reminded of it when you are to choose the good habit. The best way to be reminded of something is to see it. This can be the object that is associated with the good habit such as the bicycle itself, a symbol of the object such as a bike sign, or even just a post-it note with a message to yourself such as, “Ride your bike to the store!”

Rewarding — I will see an ever-increasing number of calories burned thanks to this good habit, and my wife will be happier because I’ll be helping more with grocery shopping (happy wife = great dinner and maybe more!).

Trackable — I will use a GPS program to track the extra miles and calories burned. You get to see where you’ve been and where you’re going. It’s great to see progress,  and one of the best ways to do this is with numbers. Most people want to be able to say at least to themselves, “I rode 4,000 miles last year,” or, “I burned 100,000 calories exercising last year.” And once you’ve seen that number, now you have the challenge of making that number even higher this time around!

CYA — I have no idea why my wife frowns when I say this. Maybe she has no idea it means:

Convenience — You have to make whatever it is you’re trying to do as convenient as possible. Trying to build a good habit of going to the gym? Keep a change of clothes in your vehicle (please tell me you’re riding your bike to the gym!). Trying to eat healthier? Keep the fridge full of fruit and veggies. Trying to have a better attitude? Hang out more with people who encourage positivity.

You — Your good habit has to be something you really want and not just something someone else wants or thinks you should do. If you want it and others agree with it, that’s fine–just be sure you are serious about it and not attempting to build the good habit simply because of what others think.

Accountability — This might be the toughest of them all since it can lead to confrontations, but this one is definitely one of the most important of them all too. Tell your family and friends what you’re up to. Chances are if you start going back to your bad habits, at least one of them will say something to help you get focused again. Don’t let yourself or them down! It is all about you, but that doesn’t mean you can’t care about how they’ll feel if you fail. And I don’t know about you, but I’m not looking for any pity parties anytime soon. 

No way.

I’m looking for great dinners and more. 

 

–David

 

grocery getter

My new grocery getter! I wonder if the trailer would look better with wood panels…

 

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A Passion for Pedals

I’m a passionate person.

There! I said it! (I bet the wife is nodding her head and whispering, “I told you so,” right now.)

I’ve been called “passionate” by most anyone who has known me for more than a few minutes, and I’m just now coming to terms with it thanks to my love of the bicycle and what it can do for all of us.

And although I long to be a cool guy who is laid back and doesn’t sweat anything, I’ve learned that being passionate about something can be a great thing, especially when your passion helps others.

One of the reasons I’m so smitten with the bicycle is because I have seen what it has done for so many.

What other means of transportation do the affluent have in common with the homeless?

What other vehicle helps you reduce stress and lose weight while getting groceries to the house?

What other machine makes you sexier and enrages gas station owners every time you cruise by with your “Burn Calories Not Gas” T-shirt on?

It’s impossible to find a machine that works harder for us with such few demands.

Einstein likened it to life itself.

H.G. Wells didn’t despair for the future of the human race because of it.

Mark Twain said you wouldn’t regret it.

So what is there to not like about riding a bicycle?

I can only think of one thing — the fact that so many refuse to give it a try.

The only regret people have once they start peddling is that they didn’t do it sooner. But folks always have excuses. I’ve heard them all by now.

I’m just wanting to help people see how awesome biking is and what it can do for them, and all they can think to do is run and hide behind a wall of whines.

Here are a few of my favorite ones:

“I just don’t have time.”

How many hours a day do you watch TV/scroll through your Facebook feed/play video games/insert completely optional waste of time here?

“That’s for younger/older people.”

To you whippersnappers out there: Stop kidding yourself, kid! You’ll thank yourself when you’re my age if you start peddling now and don’t stop. The health benefits alone make up for any sort of issue you think you might have if you actually stop snapchatting for one minute!

To you elderly folks out there: I just saw an 80-something in a bike race the other day, and he was ahead of some cyclists that could be his grandchildren. Don’t tell me you’re too old! You might still want to get a checkup first to be on the safe side, but I have yet to hear of any doctor anywhere tell anyone to not ride a bicycle. But on the flip side, I’ve heard lots of doctors tell their patients to get on a bicycle right away!

“I have children.”

If they’re babies, then maybe someone can watch them for 30 minutes. If you simply have a child seat or a trailer for your bike, then the problem is solved! They’re not that expensive, and the trailer can be used for anything when the babysitter is over or when they’ve outgrown the thing and are riding along beside you. Oh, and children LOVE to ride along and see the sights! Most of them sit in amazement for the entire ride. The only issue you might have is they might not want to get out of the carrier/trailer when you get back home. Oh, darn! You might have to burn more calories and get even sexier!

Here’s a bicycle child carrier!

Here’s a bicycle trailer for two!

“I can’t keep up with you.”

This is where I get frustrated with “drop” rides. I don’t invite anyone to ride with me and then leave them in the dust. That just isn’t right. So if I or anyone who actually wants to ride with and help people invite you to ride, rest assured we’ll be understanding of your cycling shortcomings. After all, what kind of bicycle advocate would we be if we didn’t? Oh, and you will be able to pedal much more efficiently, quicker and longer if you start riding today. So stop your whining and get on the bike already!

“I have pain in my back/knees/whatever.”

Bicycling is a very low impact way to get in shape. It’s kinder on the body than just about any other exercise.  And burning calories on a bike can help keep off excess weight that can aggravate those aches or even cause new ones and other health issues. Just take it easy at first, and the pain will most likely ease up as you bike more and more and your muscles stretch and build. Also, making sure your bike is properly fitted to you will make a big difference too, so let’s check out the fit before the first ride. Sitting around complaining about the pain certainly won’t make the pain go away, so get on your bike! You won’t know unless you try!

“I’m out of shape.”

If you do a search online you’ll see multiple stories of people more out of shape than you who got on a bicycle, shed pounds and are well on their way to a healthier life. So stop stalling!

“I’m tired.”

Exercising actually gives you energy. You feel much better once you push pedals for a while and get the endorphin rush. Trust me! I’m counting to 10!

“What if the sky starts falling?”

I’m going to slap you…

 

If you ride a bicycle, you already get all this. If you don’t, get on a bike and see what all the fuss is about.

If you’re lucky, you might even become a passionate person!

–David

BikeyWife

My bikey wife passionately pedaling away! 🙂

 

Did I miss a couple excuses? If so, please leave them in the comments! 

 

Why should you explore by bike?

Here are the top 10 reasons why vacationing and exploring by bicycle is the best way to go:

1. Get in shape while vacationing.

Part of the fun in vacationing is partaking of local dishes that may not be quite as healthy as what you normally eat. Spend too much time sitting in a car or around the pool and those extra calories might pile up around the waistline.

Pump the pedals to burn those extra calories while exploring the area and you might even lose weight while enjoying those exotic feasts.

2. Experience the area you vacation in.

Instead of viewing the environment from a car window, get into it from a bike seat.

What better way to experience an environment than to be immersed in it?

3. No obstructions to any of your senses.

Feel the cool ocean breezes and the warmth of the sun.

Smell the salty air and flowers in bloom.

See all the sights–not just the ones along the curbside.

4. No traffic jams.

You can ride where you like according to traffic flow and safety conditions. You can even move around stopped cars and road hazards that can slow or even halt people riding in larger vehicles.

And you will definitely move faster and cover longer distances than pedestrians, who can be safely ridden around as if slow moving obstacles if you need to ride where people walk.

5. Free parking.

Rare is the vacation land parking lot that is free of charge, and even rarer is the parking space that is easily claimed and convenient to your destination.

I’ve yet to be troubled with finding a convenient and close spot to park my bicycle, and I have never paid for bicycle parking even in the biggest and most populous cities that charge ridiculous parking rates for cars.

6. Go as fast as a golf cart or as slow as a pedestrian–your choice.

You set the pace of your adventure and change it at will.

Want to hang with the rented carts (some say it’s safer to hang in these packs than in packs of cars)? You probably can if you just pick up the pace and keep a safe distance.

See a bunch of street salesman in your path? Speed up and move around them without so much as a timeshare flyer in your face.

Want to see everything in a shop window? Move to the right and spin the cranks a little slower.

Try telling a taxi cab driver what speed to drive, and good luck window shopping from a car.

7. No tickets.

I have never seen anyone riding a bicycle get pulled over by anyone.

That’s not to say it doesn’t happen, but I have to guess that it’s a rare event in most places.

Now, what I have seen with people driving cars everywhere is in stark contrast–I have always seen people driving cars get pulled over and citations written by law enforcement officials.

So do your ego and wallet a favor–ride a bike.

8. Get to know the locals.

You might find many of them ride bicycles too. If so, you obviously have something in common.

Even if they don’t, I bet you’ll see quite a few walking, and you’re a lot more likely to get into their social world on a bike than in a car.

9. Respect the area you’re exploring enough to not pollute it.

That includes the air.

10. Be a happy and humble visitor.

You may earn the respect of the locals, and chances are you’ll appreciate the area even more.

Riding a bicycle properly is a very humbling and happy experience. And if you pay attention and ride safely, it’s hardly dangerous to anyone, including you!

— David

20150506_091611
Our most recent bicycling adventure — Cancun!

The Crazy Lady Who Rides Her Bike to Church

My family and I love riding bicycles. We are even part of a bike club. We ride for recreation, to visit friends, out to eat and sometimes even to pick up groceries and shop.

As spring approached, and the days became sunny, my husband, David, and younger son, Gabriel, wanted to ride to church on our bikes. As pretty as it is outside, it just seemed impossible to me.

Most Sunday mornings I wear a dress. And, of course, the whole helmet hairdo thing just wasn’t going to work.

Thankfully, I had an ally in the teenager. At 14, Ian was horrified by the idea of his friends seeing him riding in church-appropriate apparel with his parents. Can you imagine how many cool points would be lost by riding a bike in anything but expensive sports gear with names such as “Pearl Izumi” and “Nike” written all over them? And parents are just reputation collateral damage before you get your driver’s license and can finally drive away into the sunset of coolness. But both church clothes and parents?

So for several Sundays, half of us rode bikes and half of us took the car. I didn’t really like us riding separate, but David and Gabriel were so happy riding out in the sunshine.

Week after week, David would mention to me that I could just take a brush. He offered to take extra shoes or whatever I needed. Sometimes we just sort of put ourselves in a box, but the more he talked about solutions to my concerns, the more I started thinking this might just work. Maybe…

Finally, one beautiful Sunday morning–I am thankful to say–I gave in.

Dress and all, I rode the the short trip, enjoying the sunshine and really seeing all the flowers blooming in my neighborhood, and seeing my family smile and laugh. But I think the boys were laughing at me in my dress riding to church!

Our poor teenager was not too thrilled but had no other way to go since we were all riding bikes. But he was laughing at me most of the time, so that was a nice distraction for him.

As promised, David carried my brush, and I spruced right back up after we arrived.

After service, when we were leaving on our bicycles, one of the older teenagers walked by and saw all of us. Ian cringed. You could see the terror in his eyes.

“That is so cool!” the older teenager said with a smile, and you could hear the sincerity and even excitement in his voice.

Ian relaxed and smiled, and all was good again in Teenage Land.

I got lots of waves, smiles and even a few laughs at my expense, I’m sure. But it was a great experience.

I love riding my bike to church now. I enjoy soaking up the beautiful weather on the way to worship with my family. I’m thankful for my husband encouraging me to get outside my comfort zone.

And I am totally OK with being known as “the crazy lady who rides her bike to church.”

–Natasha

Tasha on her way to church
Enjoying my ride to church! For the record, I did wear a helmet. 🙂

Car-free Weekends

I was just reflecting on how much fun I had this past weekend. Although I and my family did quite a bit, it was fun and relaxing.

The sun was shining and the cold air had given way to at least lukewarm breezes—a sweet reminder that spring isn’t far away.

We rode bikes all over. We rode all around Satsuma and Saraland. We rode to the tennis court to play tennis. I even rode my bike to church Sunday morning.

And then I realized something—I didn’t drive or even ride in a car all weekend.

That thought is pretty surreal in today’s fast-paced age where getting someplace as fast and “efficiently” as possible means speeding away in an automobile.

But what does all this supposed efficient transportation do to us? We know about pollution and money spent on fuel and maintaining our gas-guzzling machines, but what does it do to us immediately?

A quick Google search with the words “driving car” and “stress” will give you plenty of information about that. And while I’m sure you already have a clue about what I’m talking about unless you’ve never been in a car, here are some quotes (and links to their web pages) from online sources:

“(A)… study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Audi found driving a car can be as stress-inducing as skydiving.”

http://www.chron.com/cars/article/MIT-study-Driving-can-stress-you-out-as-much-as-4591501.php

“A study published in Psychological Science reported ‘stress-related reductions in the quality of driving led to a spike in the rate of fatal traffic accidents.’ ”

http://www.driverside.com/auto-library/8_ways_to_reduce_stress_while_driving-961

“The moment we get behind the wheel of a car and start driving we become involved in a series of events that take a toll on our stress levels.” www.healthcentral.com/anxiety/c/4182/150277/driver-stress/

So now I’m thinking it might be a good idea to have car-free weekends as much as possible as it’s starting to sound like car-free is usually carefree. I know some people have car-free lives, and I’m envious of that. But for most of us, that’s just a fantasy.

But if we could set aside maybe just one weekend a month to be car-free, that would be a great start to a healthier lifestyle.

If you don’t have much planned on a weekend except hanging around the house, the car-free weekend will be very easy to do. Just be sure to step outside and get some fresh air sometime.

If you have a few things to do such as grocery shopping, visiting a friend who lives nearby and going to church, then you should be able to pull that off with walking and/or biking to your destinations.

Here’s how it’s possible even when you have places to go, things to do and people to see:

Under a couple miles:

Walking—I know it sounds dated and not very exciting, but walking a couple miles around your community is not only healthy but also very liberating, especially in pleasant weather, and it’s a great way to get to know your neighbors and neighborhood.

Under 10 miles or more if you ride often:

Utility cycling—Bicycles aren’t just for recreation. You can carry groceries and all sorts of things on your bike. You can even tow a small boat! With a small amount of money invested in a bike rack and panniers or a sturdy basket, you can carry at least 30 pounds of just about anything. Also, cycling is everything good about walking except with less stress on your body. And riding your bike to a destination instead of always just for recreation is actually fun. Try it!

No matter the distance or if you’re walking or riding your bicycle, plan your route before you leave the house and take the quieter roads with less traffic. Know your state and local laws, wear something bright so others can easily see you, and always take your fully-charged cell phone. And if you’re riding your bike, wear a helmet.

Be sure to invite a family member or the whole family, or a friend or two to accompany you. What starts as one person going for a bike ride to the store for a loaf of bread can sometimes turn into a fun social outing with family and friends.

If you enjoy car-free weekends, and if your place of employment isn’t far from your house, try walking and/or biking to it one day a week for starters just to see the difference in your stress level.

Going car-free a weekend a month or a couple weekends every month won’t melt away all of your anxiety, but it might surprise you.

Walk and ride your bike more often even when you have places to go, and get to your destination feeling refreshed, energized, stress-free and not even worrying about where to park.

— David

Enjoying my time with family and friends on a car-free, carefree weekend!
Enjoying my time with family and friends on a car-free, carefree weekend!

What the Club is About

We’re:

Family oriented — We like spending time with our family members and that includes our children. This might slow us down some, or it might make us feel old and slow as they race by us, but they’re worth the minor inconveniences and slightly bruised egos on a bike ride. Today’s child is tomorrow’s adult. So teach them well and spend lots of time with them.

Practicing and encouraging bicycling safety — We’re always trying our best to keep safety first. We think it’s wise to use helmets, headlamps, tail lights, reflectors, bright/reflective clothing, hand signals and more, but those aren’t required for membership. We also encourage safe riding, which means practicing safety awareness and skills for people on bikes and everyone who might be affected by our bicycle rides.

Practicing safety in numbers — Riding in a group is much safer than riding alone, so we encourage group rides when possible. And the more people driving vehicles see our group of riders in our community, the more aware they become and the safer we all are.

Bicycling advocates — We’re advocates for bicycling, community, family, businesses, health and people. Bicycling is both physically and psychologically healthy. And we encourage our friends and families in our communities to enjoy the outdoors, support local businesses and thrive in a healthy lifestyle.

Community-minded — We’re community activists. We believe citizens should befriend their neighbors and always consider them and their well-being.

Charitable — We believe in helping those who are less fortunate in our community.

Adventurous — We enjoy bicycling vacations, bikepacking, and bike touring and sharing our adventures with family and friends.

Enjoying family-fun events — We host many rides that are fun for the whole family such as “Cranksgiving” rides, Christmas lights rides and more.

Healthy — As we’ve already pointed out but feel it’s important enough to mention again, we believe bicycling is healthy, so we encourage everyone to get out and ride!

So if you’re interested in at least one of the topics mentioned above, and you like to ride bikes in the North Mobile area, join us by clicking the link below!

https://www.facebook.com/groups/NorthMobileBicycleClub/

This site is about the bicycle club and bicycling advocacy.