Cycling: Staging Your Personal Tour de France (cont.)
People who bike to work report less stress from having to deal with traffic and say they generally feel good about themselves. Plus, some cyclists have the added satisfaction of being friendly to the environment.
If you're still not convinced, consider this: At age 50, Mary Madison was in the worst shape ever. She suffered from arthritis, complications from childhood polio, and had the beginning symptoms of emphysema after smoking for three decades. She did not think she could ride even one mile on the bike.
Fast forward 18 years, and Madison cycles some 2,000 miles from East Montana to Sacramento, Calif., to her 50th high school reunion. The retired nurse also made the trip back home. She says doctors now can't find signs of her emphysema, and her arthritis and complications from polio don't bother her as much.
What happened? Madison says she just started biking. First, she did one mile, then two, and then five. Gradually, she worked her way up to cycling multiday long-distance rides around her home state of Montana.
"When I biked, it was the one thing that gave me relaxation and help me feel good," says Madison.
Getting Into Biking Shape
To make her cross-country expedition, Madison used biking maps laid out by the Adventure Cycling Association (ACA). The group offers a network of relatively safe bike routes (mainly secondary highways and back roads) through a big chunk of North America. It also provides handy information for traveling bikers, such as location of campgrounds, bike shops, water holes, and general weather alerts.
The ACA's mission is to inspire people of all ages to travel by bike for fun, fitness, and self-discovery. They sponsor 7- to 93-day tours around the U.S. They also offer tour classes, and, at the very least, give interested bikers some tips on how to prepare for a trek.
The organization is only one of a number of cycling clubs around the country. Various groups are geared toward different levels of riders. The League of American Bicyclists posts a list of groups around the country.
A lot of bike groups give information on how to make the most of the sport. Here are a few tips and cautions to get started:
Biking is, indeed, a sport that can be taken up by people of all ages and levels, even for the inactive and not so young. For these people, Bryant has the following advice: "Try to focus on enjoying the scenery, and going at a comfortable pace. Look at it as a positive time to be moving. After developing some consistency with that, then start thinking about challenging yourself. "
Published June 28, 2004.
SOURCES: Bob Roll, author, The Tour de France Companion. Cedric Bryant, PhD, chief exercise physiologist, American Council on Exercise. Patrick McCormick, spokesman, League of American Bicyclists. Mary Madison. Nancy Nichols, spokeswoman, Adventure Cycling Association. Le Tour de France. Bicycling magazine.
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