Healthy Living in the North

Bike season is over…or is it? How one cycling team keeps wheeling through winter

For avid cyclists, this time of year is bittersweet. With the changing seasons and winter at our doorstep, it’s time to put the bikes away. However, in Dawson Creek, this isn’t the case! The local cycling club, the Greasy Chains, hosts indoor spin classes so even the most dedicated cyclist can keep spinning all winter long.

I spoke to team captain Jamie Maxwell about the club and the classes.

group cycling indoors.

The Dawson Creek Greasy Chains Cycling Club rides Tuesday and Thursday nights 7 to 8pm in the Coyote Rock Cafe at the Dawson Creek Secondary School – Central Campus from November 1 to April.

Tell me about the Greasy Chains Cycling Club!

Here in the Northeast, there are three active cycling groups: the Fort St. John Blizzards, the Grande Prairie Wheelers, and the Dawson Creek Greasy Chains. All three of us are vibrant, active groups. The Greasy Chains are predominantly a road cycling group. From about April to August, we ride outside and in the winter, we spin inside.

What do you enjoy most about spin and cycling?

Recently I found out I wore out one of my knees and was told I needed to run less. I’d read that biking and swimming was therapeutic. The nice thing too about spin and cycling is that it can be a group activity – it’s social. For cycling, it’s a way to experience being outside – similar to running but you get to cover more territory. It’s really fun too.

How does biking help you incorporate wellness into your life?

It seems like as you age, you’re genetically lucky to continue as a runner. With cycling, there doesn’t seem to be lasting negative impacts. For me, it’s an ideal aerobic endurance training tool without the joint impact.

How is the team staying active this winter?

Right now we are offering indoor cycling all winter for $70. We ride every Tuesday and Thursday night from 7 to 8 PM in the Coyote Rock Cafe at the Dawson Creek Secondary School – Central Campus from November 1 to April.

Most of us are riding road bikes, and an indoor bicycle trainer is required (we have a couple trainers available for those who haven’t taken the plunge and bought their own yet!). We’ve had users riding mountain bikes with a smooth urban tire. If you’re going to use a mountain bike there are a few things to consider so the bike stays in the trainer safely.

We use a ceiling mounted projector and sound system and we ride to cycling videos. This is a time where I, and others, can offer advice and instruction, and riders are free to work as hard as they wish. All riders must have a Cycling BC membership (Provincial RIDE $60: affiliate yourself with DC Greasy Chains) for insurance purposes). Riders looking to try it out first can drop-in for November and December and then join Cycling BC for 2019. In the spring the group has mountain bike trail enthusiasts as well!

Where can someone find more information?

Haylee Seiter

About Haylee Seiter

A Northerner since childhood, Haylee has grown up in Prince George and recently completed her Bachelor of Commerce at the University of Northern British Columbia. During university Haylee found her passion for health promotion while volunteering heavily with the Canadian Cancer Society and was also involved with the UNBC JDC West team, bringing home gold as part of the Marketing team in 2016. Joining the communications team as an advisor for population and public health has been a dream come true for her. When she is not dreaming up marketing and communications strategies, she can be found cycling with the Wheelin Warriors or enjoying a glass of wine with friends. (NH Blog Admin)

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Big moves with big health rewards

Leah Smith with her dog, Sage, holding a fishing rod near a river.I, like many other healthcare professionals, find taking care of patients to be second nature – it’s just built into who I am. However, when it comes time to taking care of myself, it’s easy for me to neglect my own personal health and well-being.

As healthcare professionals, we’re very good at talking the talk. So, why are so many of us unable to walk the walk? This was a question I found myself pondering after 10+ years working as a pharmacist. As a result, I’ve realized we can’t fully look after our patients if we aren’t talking care of ourselves. This revelation has led me to make some big lifestyle changes this past year.

It wasn’t overnight that I decided I needed to make changes; in fact, my story spans a decade now. I started out my career in 2007 working as a community pharmacist in the Okanagan, and within a year and a half I found myself in a management position. After five years, I decided I needed a change – life had become too busy and hectic, my stress level was off the charts, and ultimately, I just wasn’t happy. So in 2013, I made the move to Smithers to work for Northern Health (NH).

It was a huge move, but I did it for the lifestyle and the opportunities that northern living brings. Since working for NH, I’ve been fortunate to gain experience working in several different roles. I currently have a unique position; my job title is Regional Remote Pharmacist. This means I help cover sites across the region, all the way from Prince Rupert to Dawson Creek! It certainly has its challenges, but I feel lucky that I get to work with so many different individuals across the north.

With this vast repertoire of experience, one of the common themes I continue to realize is that looking after one’s health doesn’t just happen; it takes work and practice to make good lifestyle choices.

Healthy Eating

Our diet is often one of the first things to overlook. With a busy, unpredictable workload, I would often grab things to eat that were easy and quick. These were never whole foods; most often, they were processed and certainly not well balanced. I now try to always have healthy snacks available, and make an effort to think about the food I have around my house, and the choices I make related to eating.

I don’t deprive myself, and I still enjoy special treats and more extravagant meals here and there; it’s just all in moderation. If I’m going to allow myself to overindulge, I plan some sort of extra activity in my day to make up for this special occasion, which brings me to the next big change I made!

Physical Activity

I always thought of myself as an active person because I enjoy the outdoors. I love hiking, biking, fishing, skiing, snowshoeing – really anything that gets me outside. But the reality is, doing these activities once a week doesn’t fulfill our physical activity requirements. Being a weekend warrior doesn’t mean you can take the week off in between and expect to be in peak shape.

So, I recently adopted a 12-week workout challenge, which I now do four times a week! I have a very busy schedule, so in order for me to be successful and stick with it, the workouts were designed to be targeted and short enough that I can complete them during my lunch hour. At seven weeks into the program, I can confidently say that I see and feel big changes in both my health and appearance. This experience has certainly laid the groundwork for incorporating a regular exercise routine into my life!

Mental Wellness

Although the change in diet and exercise have been wonderful, I couldn’t do either if I wasn’t mentally healthy. If I’m not in a healthy frame of mind, the last thing I want to do is exercise and I definitely don’t reach for an apple. For me, the best source of mental strength and balance is in spending time with friends and getting outside to enjoy the fresh air with my four-and-a-half year old German Shorthaired Pointer, Sage.

True friends always have a way of allowing us to show up and be who we truly are, without fear of judgment or recourse. Social engagements with them, whether it’s an activity or meal, is an essential part of keeping me connected and grounded.

My dog keeps me motivated to get out – whether I feel like it or not! We love to go out cross-country skiing in the winter and camping has become our favourite summer pastime, ideally next to a river where we love to fish! I love watching Sage’s enthusiasm when we are out, and more importantly, I love the peace and serenity I feel when I’m standing next to a river, skiing through the snow-capped evergreens, or gazing into a campfire. These places are where I feel the best, and where I go after a busy, hard day at work. These experiences and activities keep my body, and mind, healthy.

 

You can also view this article in Northern Health Spring 2018 edition of the Healthier You Magazine, Wellness by Professionals.

About Leah Smith

Leah Smith is a Regional Support Pharmacist with Northern Health.

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Wellness at Work: Tips from your Recreation Therapist

jaymee webster on a bridge in the woods with her dog.In the world of recreation therapy, we often think of wellness as not the absence of disease, but rather on a spectrum. As such, there are many factors – physical, social and psychological – that have an impact on someone’s ability to reach optimal wellness. Optimal wellness is personal and it changes throughout the lifespan; it looks different for everyone.

As a recreation therapist in the rehabilitation setting, I work with those whose well-being or independence has been compromised due to multiple health or social problems. I provide leisure education opportunities for individuals to learn the benefits of leisure involvement, how it can have an impact on well-being, and what opportunities are available to them in their home community.

My work has an obvious link to wellness and I am passionate about leisure and recreation. In my spare time, I love exploring the many trails in the Prince George area with my dog, Juno. However, focusing on your well-being doesn’t have to stop when you get to work. We spend a lot of time at our work place.

Here are some things that I try to make a priority for keeping well at work:

  1. Pack a lunch and eat it too.
    Bringing food from home tends to be the healthier and the most cost-effective option. And don’t forget to eat it! The only way to give yourself the energy to perform your job effectively is to actually eat the food.
  2. Take the stairs.
    Take any opportunity to get yourself moving during the day.
  3. Get a good night’s sleep.
    I know this one’s easier said than done, but try to make it a priority. When Netflix asks if you want to continue watching… click “No.” It will set you up for a much better work day. Your body will thank you!
  4. Make a list.
    Managing your time and prioritizing tasks helps reduce workload stress. Take a deep breath while you’re at it!
  5. Have a laugh.
    Professional boundaries are important, but so is being yourself. Get to know those around you. If you’re in a helping profession, get to know the individuals you’re working with. Sharing an inside joke does wonderful things for the therapeutic relationship! Smiling and laughing can be contagious but that’s okay, it’s good for you!
  6. Balance.
    Leisure is defined as time free from obligation, an activity that is freely chosen and as a state of mind. Engaging in meaningful recreation and leisure activities in your personal life has the ability to improve overall well-being, which will spill over into your work life as well.

Wellness is a dynamic process that encompasses body, mind, and spirit. I challenge all of you to set an achievable wellness at work goal this spring, because a healthier you leads to a healthier work environment!

You can also view this article in Northern Health Spring 2018 edition of the Healthier You Magazine, Wellness by Professionals.

About Jaymee Webster

Jaymee Webster is a Activity Worker Recreational Therapist at Northern Health.

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Help your Community Health Star shine!

All over northern BC, in every community, there’s someone who’s pumping health and wellness back into their community. This could look like many different things: they’re raising awareness for mental illness; they’re supplying a healthy eating initiative to their town; they’re encouraging others to get up and be active; and who knows what else?!

Community Health Star Logo The best part? These folks are doing this for nothing other than to make the community they live in healthier and happier! At Northern Health, we call these people Community Health Stars (CHS), and we want to help them shine!

Each month, Northern Health would like to showcase a CHS, but we can’t find them without your help. When chosen, a CHS wins their choice of prize from Northern Health, and is highlighted through our social media channels plus the Northern Health Matters blog! Nominations will be accepted on an ongoing basis, so once a nomination is in, they’re eligible to win later as well!

Wondering what a Community Health Star looks like? Here are a couple examples of past Stars:

Peter Nielson – Quesnel, B.C.
Peter is a retiree who has always had a passion for helping seniors. He has created and supported several groups to address a wide range of issues impacting seniors. His message to others? “Check on your neighbours. If you know a senior, keep an eye on them.”

Myles Mattila – Prince George, B.C.
Myles works to promote youth mental health throughout the Prince George area and works with Mindcheck, a program that addresses mental health in a manner that is accessible for youth. It features a broad range of topics, including depression, mood, and anxiety issues; coping with stress, alcohol and substance misuse; body image, eating disorders, and more!

Hollie Blanchette – Valemount, B.C.
Hollie has served on 17 different community committees in Valemount, inspiring projects like Valemount Walks Around the World, the building of the Bigfoot community trail system, working towards a dementia-friendly community designation, looking into projects to keep seniors happy and healthy at home, coordinating a visiting hearing clinic, installing indoor/outdoor chess, and more!

So, who’s doing what around you? Do you know someone who’s helping others? Someone who betters your community? Nominate them as a Community Health Star!

Nomination takes almost no time at all, and you can help put the spotlight on someone who’s been doing something good for others and deserves to be recognized!

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Clearing a path to the future: IMAGINE funding for Pidherny Recreation Site

There’s just something about the sound of tires rolling over dirt. It’s a hum, an almost sub-aural vibration, and at its best it moves through the rider’s body like a wave, washing away the mental cobwebs of a digital world and sweeping all consciousness into a singular, focused state.

man on mountain bike biking down a trailMaybe it’s this sensory gift that inspires mountain bikers to volunteer their time and energy to create and maintain the trails that provide it. But it was those volunteers themselves that inspired the Prince George Cycling Club to apply for IMAGINE Community Grant funding to purchase tools to support their efforts.

Pidherny Recreation Site is a popular trail network in Prince George that features a wide variety of trails catering to riders of all interests and abilities. The varied terrain of the rec site makes it an ideal location for trail development, and through careful planning and skillful execution, the site has evolved from a relatively small number of user-built trails into a vibrant, multi-use community recreation area. While mountain bikers are the primary user group on the trails, many local residents also enjoy walking there in the summer and snow-shoeing in the winter months. And with interest in the sport surging in the community, the future looks bright.

“We have seen tremendous growth in participation in mountain biking in Prince George over the past few seasons,” says Prince George Cycling Club Mountain Director Josh Staub. “As a non-profit organization, we rely on funding from grants like IMAGINE to provide safe and accessible trails for riders. The tools purchased with this grant will help ensure that the Pidherny Recreation Site remains safe and sustainable for years to come.”

Similar to a bike, community improvements like the Pidherny Rec Site keep on rolling. As interest in an activity grows, demand for infrastructure increases. As that infrastructure is developed, more people are attracted to the activity and the cycle is renewed by the increased demand for new options. Pidherny Rec Site is a perfect example of a community driven effort that not only contributes to the health and well-being of participants, but also draws them together. The IMAGINE Community Grant program is proud to support efforts like this throughout the Northern Health region, investing in the people and organizations who take action to make our communities healthier places for all!

For more information regarding IMAGINE Community Grants, and applying, visit the IMAGINE homepage , or email Imagine.Grants@northernhealth.ca with any questions.

Andrew Steele

About Andrew Steele

Andrew Steele is a 33-year-old HR Assistant living in Prince George, BC. He enjoys biking, paddling, and almost any outdoor activity you can name. When not on his bike, he enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter, listening to and playing music, reading and writing.

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With help from family and Northern Health, wildfire evacuee celebrates 100 years

husband stan and wife ruth.Despite being evacuated to Vanderhoof due to wildfires, Fort St. James resident Stan Northcott was able to enjoy a party for his 100th birthday on August 29.

“He’s doing pretty good for 100,” says his daughter Bonny Northcott. “He still beats me at crib.”

The secret to his long life?

friends and family celebrating around a table.

Stan Northcott, 3rd from right, celebrates with family members in Vanderhoof. L – R: Bonny Northcott, daughter; Paul Foisy, grandson; Rihya Foisy, great granddaughter; Leonard Foisy, son in law; Art Northcott, son; Ruth Northcott, wife; Stanley Northcott, Birthday Boy; Pierce Northcott, grandson; Margaret Northcott, daughter in law. Not shown: Brian Northcott, son; Marie Foisy, daughter.

“He just stayed really active,” says Bonny. “He never stopped moving around. He had lots of family around and lots of hard work, his whole life.”

Family members and Northern Health staff worked together to arrange the birthday celebration at Stuart Nechako Manor in Vanderhoof, Stan’s temporary home during the wildfires. Northern Health staff stepped up to pull together the celebration on top of coping with an influx of wildfire evacuees.

“Arranging the party was fun,” says Marnie Bell, Recreation Therapist. “Stan was full of smiles!”

Working together, Stan’s family and Northern Health staff coordinated special decorations, balloons, live music, refreshments, and two cakes (‘cause when you turn 100, you deserve two cakes!).

Letter from Prime Minister Trudeau.To help him celebrate, Stan’s family came from Vancouver, Mackenzie, Fort St. James, Norman Lake, and Beaverlodge, Alberta.

“The facility in Vanderhoof is beautiful,” said Bonny. “They’re really nice there. When we arrived for the party, the staff had a big room all set up with decorations and a cake.”

Stan Northcott military photo.“Kudos to Marnie Bell and Halainna Ellis for all their hard work,” said Chona Dick, Clinical Care Coordinator. “Stan had the biggest smile on his face, it was really cute. Then he blew out the candles, and he only had two girlfriends!”

Best wishes to Stan Northcott for many happy returns!

 

Anne Scott

About Anne Scott

Anne is a communications officer at Northern Health; she lives in Prince George with her husband Andrew Watkinson. Her current health goals are to do a pull-up and more than one consecutive “real” push-up. She also dreams of becoming a master’s level competitive sprinter and finding a publisher for her children’s book on colourblindness. Anne enjoys cycling, cross-country skiing, reading, writing, sugar-free chocolate, and napping -- sometimes all on the same day!

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Walk with your Doc: Tumbler Ridge

During the Walk with Your Doc event, Tumbler Ridge was the furthest northern community to participate. With a practicing physician, three nurses, and various other members of the healthcare team, the walk went off with a resounding bang at Flatbed Loops!a woman flexing and smiling while participating.

Community Paramedic Joan Zimmer, who organized the event, was also seen there giving out free pedometers (along with volunteers) and participating herself. Everyone was eager to get out in the beautiful outdoors as the weather had only been getting warmer! It was a rewarding way to support fitness, health, and personal connection to the community.crowd of people participating and waving.

We hope to have many more events like this, and would like to personally thank every person who came out to show their support!

See you next year!

Joan Zimmer

About Joan Zimmer

Joan Zimmer is the 1st Community Paramedic in her area to work with a local health care team bringing free services, health promotion, conducting wellness clinics, and weekly scheduled visits to patients living with chronic disease. Joan works through the British Columbia Emergency Health Service.

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Dr. Knoll’s Recipe for Wellness

How does someone in the world of medicine and healthcare manage their own wellness? I think many people just assume, “Hey, she’s a doctor, she must be healthy – she’s so involved in supporting wellness that it must be just easy!”

The fact is, it’s not that easy.

Yes, doctors help patients with their health every day, from stitches to prescriptions and everything in between, but the reality is often overlooked. They are people too! They’re individuals who, like everyone else, need their own wellness and support systems, inside and outside the busy healthcare system.

This past month, I had a chance to speak with Dr. Susan Knoll, a family practitioner, someone who, among many other wonderful traits, has incorporated wellness throughout her life. Here’s her story.

Dr Knoll cross country skiing with her husband.

What did your road to practicing medicine look like?

Helping people has always been a passion of mine, and when I was in high school I enjoyed biology and physics. Truthfully, my mother suggested medicine and got me thinking it might be possible. If you were pointed in the sciences direction out of grade school when I grew up, the choices were a little more limited than they are now!

I completed my two year pre-medical and my full medical program at the University of Saskatchewan, and then went on to residency for a year each in Saskatoon and Regina. Once my residency finished, I moved to La Ronge, Saskatchewan, a town of 5,000 people, where I spent nine wonderful years!

What inspires your personal wellness?

Wellness for me comes down to what I preach to my patients. Life is a pie, and each piece represents an important component. Each slice needs to be addressed or the pie will have a hole.

These are my life’s seven pie pieces:

Family. My relationship with my husband Garry is key. Having medicine in common, we’ve been able to provide each other with support inside and outside of work. Other common interests allow us to do lots together outside of work too! One of these is our family, and now grandkids, who live down the street from us!

Faith. Before I attended the University of Saskatchewan for pre-med, I attended a year of bible school – my faith has had a large role in my wellness to this day. It’s truly special to be involved in a dedicated community of people who are like-minded, accountable, there for you in the tough times, and celebrate with you in times of achievement. This another thing that Garry and I share.

Friends. I’ve got great colleagues and peers. I’ve always believed that, in many ways, successful office-partner relationships are like a marriage. They take effort to maintain – and don’t get in a relationship you don’t think will work! Even though I have amazing friends inside the world of medicine, I’ll admit sometimes this line of work can be overwhelming. It’s important to have friendships with people outside the medical community so you can take a breath, reset, and keep perspective.

Exercising. I use a Fitbit! Any encouragement to get up and move is good, but I’ve always thought the more outside the better: cross-country skiing, biking, walking, and gardening are some of my favourites! I don’t always achieve my daily goal, but when I do, I feel much better.

Dr Knoll standing on a cliff by the ocean.Finances. Finances are a major stressor for a lot of people and there is a lot of pressure to live beyond our means. I think the better you manage your money, the less stress it is. Simply said, but not always as easily done!

Holidays. We try to always have a holiday planned. It doesn’t necessarily have to be right away, but it gives us something to look forward to! By the time you finish a holiday, I think you should have another one in the works, even if it’s six months away! Change is good.

Fulfilling work. I find much joy in my work. We often think of work as a necessary evil, a kind of drudgery. But I think being able to do meaningful work, making the world a better place, and having some positive impact on those around me is important to my sense of well-being.

If you could pass on one wellness tip to another person, what would you say?

Balance. As I tell my patients, moderation is the key. Not too much of anything, but get enough of everything!

This article was first published in the spring edition of A Healthier You magazine. Check out the full magazine below! 

 

 

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Cycling in the north: a Warrior’s perspective

With the arrival of spring many northerners have geared up and hit the roads for this year’s bike season. What better time to reach out to cyclists across the north and get their take on biking in the region? I connected with Karin Piche, Founder of the Wheelin’ Warriors of the North and a Licensed Practical Nurse in Prince George, about cycling, her team, and why she loves biking.

When did you first get into biking?

I had ridden a bike as a kid but it wasn’t until August of 2012, two months after my dear friend Nola passed away from cancer, that I bought my first road bike. My plan was to start a local team in the BC Ride to Conquer Cancer; I’d had the idea for a while but the first step to forming a team was buying a bike and I knew nothing about bikes! Luckily I was able to find some help at a local bike shop and purchased my first bike for the Ride. This is now my sixth year riding!

Tell me a little bit about the BC Ride to Conquer Cancer.

The Ride is a two-day cycling journey through Canada’s Pacific region that takes place every summer. Each rider must raise a minimum of $2500 individually to participate in the event and all funds raised benefit the BC Cancer Foundation.

What made you keep getting on a bike?

My friend Nola. My first Ride to Conquer Cancer in June 2013 was to honour her but it was bittersweet; I got 33 other riders together to form a team that year and on day two of the event, on Nola’s actual birthday, a 16-year-old boy who was participating as a rider was tragically killed. It was traumatic for me and after going through that experience, I thought I was done with the Ride and cycling. The next year the boy’s mother rode and was a speaker at the 2014 Ride. I thought, if she can do it, I can do it. The other thing that keeps me going is the Ride family. Over the years, I’ve met many dear friends and mentors. At this time of year, I tend to get tired from all the planning of our annual fundraiser, the Free Wheelin’ Dinner and Dance. Friends and other team captains will reach out and ask how they can support me so that helps.

How does biking help you incorporate wellness into your life?

I always enjoy the fresh air when I’m out biking. For me it’s therapeutic, and clears my head, and helps me connect with nature. Being under the sky with the earth under me – it helps me enjoy the little things. When I was 49 I decided to go back to school as a nurse. That summer, I graduated as an LPN at 50 and started recruiting a team for the 2013 Ride! The nice thing about having a team is that we train together so they force me to get out more. There’s days I don’t want to ride, yet I always feel good after I go. My team motivates me that way.

Woman standing in street holding helmet.

Karin holding her coveted golden helmet – a special gift for riders who have reached their 5th Ride milestone.

In your words, what are the health benefits?

I think getting outside and being active is some of the best medicine there is! For me though, it’s the giving back and making a difference that is most beneficial. In the beginning, I was doing it for Nola but now it’s so much more than that. I’ve been blown away by the ideas that the team has come up with for fundraising. They’ve shown me that there are endless ways. Since inception in the fall of 2012, the Wheelin’ Warriors of the North have raised over $740 thousand dollars for cancer research. I think we’re very close to bringing that total to a million dollars.

What advice would you give someone who wants to get into cycling?

To anyone looking for a bike, I recommend you ask yourself what your biking needs are. Go to all the local bike shops in your community and get professional advice. Do some research and talk to people who have biked! The local bike shops in Prince George have been very supportive and I’ve definitely seen the cycling community grow since I started my team in 2013. There have been over 120 people become Wheelin’ Warriors over the years. Like me at the beginning, not many come in with a lot of biking experience.

Are there any local resources or routes you’d recommend?

Some of my favourite routes in Prince George include going out to Miworth, Blackburn (it’s so beautiful!), and out to Salmon Valley. In the north we’re very lucky to have rural riding opportunities. We don’t have as much traffic and pollution like the urban riders do. It’s definitely different.

Do you have anything else you’d like to share?

Looking back, it blows my mind how far the team has come and all the good it’s done. To me, everyone on the team is a hero. No matter what their motivation is, they’re all exceptional. I don’t think of myself that way – I just want to inspire people and make a difference.

To learn more about the Ride or the Wheelin’ Warriors of the North, please visit:

Haylee Seiter

About Haylee Seiter

A Northerner since childhood, Haylee has grown up in Prince George and recently completed her Bachelor of Commerce at the University of Northern British Columbia. During university Haylee found her passion for health promotion while volunteering heavily with the Canadian Cancer Society and was also involved with the UNBC JDC West team, bringing home gold as part of the Marketing team in 2016. Joining the communications team as an advisor for population and public health has been a dream come true for her. When she is not dreaming up marketing and communications strategies, she can be found cycling with the Wheelin Warriors or enjoying a glass of wine with friends. (NH Blog Admin)

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From Prince George to Paris: how I learned to love commuting via bike

Every year around April, I start to get excited about the prospects of the snow melting and digging out my bike. For the last couple of years, I’ve enjoyed biking to work and school so I always associate the spring with bike season.

I love biking for a few reasons: firstly, it’s a fantastic way to get outside and get some vitamin N (nature!), and secondly, it’s a great way to stay active and get in that crucial daily physical activity. The third reason I love biking so much, is because it takes me back to a very special time in my life. For me, the inspiration to bike to work and school started when I was living in Paris, France.

During my undergraduate studies, I was fortunate to participate in a bilateral university exchange through the University of Northern British Columbia and the Paris School of Business for two semesters.

View of city of Paris from Notre-Dame.

Commuting via bike was the best way to see Paris!

Living in the City of Love opened my eyes to big city public transport and the hurried nature of city commuters. For the first time in my life, I didn’t need to rely on a vehicle for transportation and I quickly became accustomed to using the city’s metro system on a daily basis. I was able to get to where I needed to go relatively quickly and reliably without having to worry about driving (yay!), but the downside was that I was missing out on seeing the city with all the time I was spending underground commuting.

I decided to try out the Paris Velib’ system. For those who aren’t familiar, Velib’ (the name is a play on the French words vélo-bike and libre-free) is a public bicycle sharing system with an app and convenient pick up and drop off stations throughout the city. I was too nervous to try and bike to school in the mornings (my school was very strict about being late) so I decided to figure out how to bike home after school. I’m so glad I did!

Biking home after my classes became one of my favourite parts of my day. It made me feel like a local and I was able to see parts of the city that I wouldn’t have seen on the metro. I took in all the details and day-to-day scenes around me, and enjoyed being present. It was also a great way to balance all the French pastries I was indulging in!

When I returned home from Paris, I was inspired to continue commuting via bike. Although Prince George is no Paris, I realized that the north has its own unique kind of beauty. Biking through evergreen trees and being beneath blue northern skies made me fall in love with the northern BC landscape I grew up in, and made me appreciate being back home that much more.

Old red cruiser bike.

My beloved old cruiser bike and basket.

With Bike to Work and School Week approaching on May 28-June 3, 2018, I’ll be getting ready for another season of commuting. Below are some bike commuting tips I’ve learned along the way.

5 tips for a successful bike commute:

  1. Map your route. First time riding to work or school? Ease some of your anxiety about how you’re going to get there and map it out beforehand. Take note of high traffic areas and streets with no cyclist access.
  2. Test it out! Before you make your bike commuting debut, designate some time during your free time to test out your planned route. Be sure to time yourself while doing it so you have an idea of how long it will take you. The more you ride, the more consistent your commute time will become.
  3. Give yourself some extra time. I’d recommend giving yourself an extra 15-20 mins during your first couple rides until you’re comfortable. If you’re planning on changing clothes, make sure to factor in some time to change. There’s nothing worse than starting your day in catch up mode!
  4. Wear the right gear and clothing. Wearing a helmet is a must! If your route includes lots of hills you may want to consider wearing an athletic outfit and then changing into your work or school clothes afterwards. Have a shorter or less tedious route? I’ve been known to bike in dresses – I just make sure to wear shorts underneath. In the fall, I’ll wear biking leggings over top of tights for an added layer of warmth. Make sure that whatever bottoms you wear won’t catch in your gears. Nothing like chain grease to ruin an outfit! Sturdy, closed toed shoes are also a good idea. You can leave a pair of shoes to change into at your destination or toss ‘em in with your change of clothes that you’ll carry with you.
  5. Add a basket. If you’re anything like me, and love the aesthetic of a bike as much as the practicality, I highly recommend adding an accessory that makes you happy. My bike basket brings me joy, holds my lunch bag securely, and lets me incorporate a little piece of Parisienne chic into my everyday life!

Looking for more biking tips? Taylar shared some great tips for schools and families on how to get involved in biking this season, including teaching resources for road safety. Curious about how biking and wellness are connected? Check out Gloria’s blog on the benefits of biking!

To all the seasoned bike commuters in the north, happy bike season! To those who are planning on trying out commuting by bike for the first time: I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. Happy biking everyone! Or as they say in Paris, bon trajet!

Haylee Seiter

About Haylee Seiter

A Northerner since childhood, Haylee has grown up in Prince George and recently completed her Bachelor of Commerce at the University of Northern British Columbia. During university Haylee found her passion for health promotion while volunteering heavily with the Canadian Cancer Society and was also involved with the UNBC JDC West team, bringing home gold as part of the Marketing team in 2016. Joining the communications team as an advisor for population and public health has been a dream come true for her. When she is not dreaming up marketing and communications strategies, she can be found cycling with the Wheelin Warriors or enjoying a glass of wine with friends. (NH Blog Admin)

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