Overcoming Commuting Obstacles: It’s too far and I’m too out of shape!

Ed. Note: The Overcoming Commuting Obstacles article was originally published in Bicycle Times #15, and offers solutions to common commuting roadblocks, written by a variety of people in a variety of places. I’m publishing each obstacle/solution as its own short post on the web. You can find the other posts in this series here.

Words by Karen Brooks (former Bicycle Times staff) 

Setting yourself to work under your own power can be a daunting prospect. The fact that showing up to one’s job each day is generally considered necessary for continued employment adds an element of urgency to what might otherwise be a pleasure cruise. If your commute is longer than a few easy miles, and you’re not sure of your ability to cover it in a timely fashion, bike commuting may seem too risky.

But on the other hand, riding your bike to work can be an easy way to incorporate some regular exercise into your schedule. Think about this: the time you spend in your car driving to work is essentially wasted, as far as fitness is concerned. If you convert that time into riding time, and then add some more time for the fact that you’re going slower on a bike, it probably adds up to less time than you’d spend traveling to a gym, or even scheduling a fitness ride on the weekend. Each way, it takes me half an hour to drive to work, and an hour to ride; when I bike commute I’m getting two hours of exercise for the price of one. Some of you who live in metro areas perpetually snarled in traffic may even find that you’re saving time by riding.

When I first started working at Bicycle Times, I was not all that fit, and the thought of riding the 12.5 hilly miles each way was intimidating. The key was to start small. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. To scope out the route, I rode in one morning with a coworker that lived nearby, and then caught a lift home with another that evening. Next I added a full day’s commute once a week. Then two. Currently I average three to four days a week. You may be able to take advantage of public transportation to cut the distance, or perhaps find a convenient location mid-way to park your car and ride from there.

Pedaling a bike happens to be a great low-impact way to exercise that is easily tailored to your fitness level. But it’s a good idea to get a general medical checkup before you take on a challenging commute. Also keep in mind that what you eat becomes more important, since that’s now your fuel. Make sure to have plenty of healthy options for lunch. You will be more hungry, perhaps a lot more, so bring some extra food for snacking, especially for after you arrive and before you leave. You also may need to sleep more. Just try to tune in to what your body is telling you.

Inertia works both ways: it can be tough to get going, but once you get used to the routine of riding, your body will adapt and consider it “normal.” In fact, you’ll grow to miss riding on days you drive. I’m not going to lie—there are days when the distance still seems far, particularly as I step out the office door into a cold and dark winter night. But that lonesome feeling dissipates in the first half-mile as I pedal away the day’s stresses and worries, and I arrive home relaxed and rejuvenated.

Photo: Marci Chamberlain

Photo: Marci Chamberlain


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