Healthy Living in the North

Bike rodeo preps local kids for back to school

Kids working on bikesI’m starting to hear some “back to school” chatter. Some of it is filled with dread and sadness (“…How is the summer almost over already?”), while some is of another variety (“…How many more days to go?”).

Hopefully, you’ve managed to get out and enjoy the great outdoors this summer in spite of the many wildfires burning around the province. I’m doing my best to take advantage of any day (or portion of the day) without smoke in the air to get outside and be active, and get as much out of our short summer as I can. I’ve cycled more this year than any other year, not only recreationally but also as a form of transportation to work.

Earlier this year, I wrote a post about Bike to Work & School week, but today I want to encourage you to bike to work & school more often (as weather allows). As you prepare for the return to school, why not start the year off right by riding your bike (or walking) to school as much as possible before the inevitable snow flies? You’ll arrive at school feeling more alert and happier from the blast of fresh air, not to mention it’s a great way to fit a little more physical activity into your day.

Parents, does the idea of sending your kids off to school on their bikes make your heart skip a beat? If you are currently in Prince George, you have an excellent opportunity available to you TOMORROW, August 18 at the PG Public Library! The Prince George Brain Injured Society is hosting a FREE Bike Rodeo there from 1-3pm for kids aged 5-9 along with their parents. What is a bike rodeo you ask? It’s an event where participants learn bike safety skills and rules of the road. This is perfect timing to get you and your kids up to speed and ready to fill those bike racks in the school yards! You may even be inspired to be a trendsetter and start your own Bicycle Train/Walking School Bus with other kids in the neighborhood.

If you’re not in Prince George, don’t lose heart! Bike rodeos happen all over the province at different times of the year; just keep your eyes and ears peeled so you can take advantage of one near you! In the meantime, get out there, have fun and ride safe!

For more information on active transportation to school, check out the Active & Safe Routes to School website.

Gloria Fox

About Gloria Fox

Gloria Fox is the Regional Physical Activity Lead for Northern Health’s Population Health team. She is a graduate of the University of Alberta’s faculty of PE & Recreation, and until beginning this role has spent most of her career working as a Recreation Therapist with NH. She has a passion for helping others pursue an optimal leisure lifestyle and quality of life at all stages of their lives. In order to maintain her own health (and sanity), Gloria enjoys many outdoor activities, including hiking, camping, canoeing, and cycling, to name a few. She is a self-proclaimed foodie and her life’s ambition is to see as much of the world as possible.

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Ride into Summer with Bike to Work & School Week

Bike riding on a bike path

Bike paths separated from motor traffic encourage more cycling and improve safety for everyone.

Remember the good old days when your bike was not just your only form of transportation, but your ticket to freedom and independence? The summer would pass in a blink as you racked up countless miles riding anywhere and everywhere on your bike, rolling back home at sunset with “rubber legs” and giddy from all the fun had with friends. I can almost smell the warm summer evening just thinking about it.

Sure, times have changed. We’re adults now. We have jobs, time crunches, deadlines, and commitments. Regardless, we have an excellent opportunity to bring some of that old nostalgia and joy back to the season, as well as set the younger people in our lives on the path to creating their own summer memories: it starts with taking part in Bike to Work (& School) Week from May 29-June 4. I’m guessing once you’ve made a conscious decision to ride rather than drive as much as possible for a week, you will realize so many benefits to cycling that you’ll want to continue this healthy (but fun!) habit for the rest of the summer.

Here are just a few of the benefits:

  • Increased physical activity: Many of us struggle to find the time for physical activity; utilizing active transportation options automatically adds physical activity into our day, which of course brings its own benefits.
  • Increased productivity: The fresh air and adrenaline boost provided by your commute will help you show up at work or school alert, refreshed, and ready to take on the day.
  • Improved mental well-being: Taking the time on your commute home to clear your head and burn off some steam will leave you feeling much fresher mentally when you arrive home than you would be after driving.
  • Increased safety: Increasing the number of people who cycle decreases traffic congestion, increases active transportation user visibility, and makes the roads safer for everyone involved.
  • Financial savings: No fuel or parking fees (or tickets!).
  • Environmental benefits: Reduce your greenhouse gas emissions (Bike to Work BC will let you know exactly what your impact is as you log rides… how cool is that?)
  • Social benefits: Being on your bicycle allows you to connect with other cyclists and pedestrians you meet on your commute; the sight of your grinning face as you sail by may also inspire someone else to park their car and ride instead!

I must confess I have not always been a huge fan of cycling. I loved it as a kid, but as I grew up I became very nervous around traffic. And don’t even get me started on mountain biking! Let’s just say “what goes up must come down,” so I can’t see much mountain biking in my future (insert chicken clucking here). However, over the last year I have been rediscovering my love for cycling on paths and roads while being vigilant to protect my safety, following the rules of the road, keeping my eyes and ears on alert to the traffic around me, and riding accordingly. My confidence continues to grow with practice. I will be participating in Bike to Work Week on a Northern Health team for the first time (officially) this year, but it certainly won’t be my last!

Join a team today; you could be the lucky winner of a cycling trip for two on the Dalmation Coast in Croatia! Register here: https://www.biketowork.ca/ – see you on the road!

Gloria Fox

About Gloria Fox

Gloria Fox is the Regional Physical Activity Lead for Northern Health’s Population Health team. She is a graduate of the University of Alberta’s faculty of PE & Recreation, and until beginning this role has spent most of her career working as a Recreation Therapist with NH. She has a passion for helping others pursue an optimal leisure lifestyle and quality of life at all stages of their lives. In order to maintain her own health (and sanity), Gloria enjoys many outdoor activities, including hiking, camping, canoeing, and cycling, to name a few. She is a self-proclaimed foodie and her life’s ambition is to see as much of the world as possible.

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Biking to save your life

Bike riding

Biking can save your life… in more ways than one. Pictured: Andrew on a course in Whistler, BC.

I never actually saw the bear, but I sure heard it.

It was the end of a good solid ride, and I was pretty tired. I had put in about 10 km on the gorgeous single track trails out at Otway, and my legs were feeling quite Jello-ish. It was early evening, warm, and the golden light of impending night permeated everything with a slow sense of peace and easy satisfaction. And so, lost in my thoughts and a pleasant haze of endorphins, I didn’t think much of the rustle in the trees to my right.

Once I was safely back in the van and coherent thought beyond survival returned, I realized that that small rustle was the cub, and the snarling, crashing chaos that ensued to my left thereafter was the mother I had offended. With the guttural grunting of a grisly death in my ear, however, only one thought was discernible: RIDE FASTER. I’m not sure I have ever pushed a gear that low that hard, before or since, but I am sure about this: my bike saved my life that idyllic summers’ eve.

And, now that I think of it, that was actually the second time that biking saved me. Although the first lacks the drama and explosive adrenaline rush, it is no less valid. Before I found mountain biking, I was committing most every health sin imaginable. Lack of exercise: check. Excessive consumption of alcohol: check. Poor diet: check. Smoking: check. In short I was overweight, out of shape, and on a crash course with a premature heart attack for sure.  Also, I had a daughter on the way.

Not a good look.

So I bought a used mountain bike on eBay for $200. It cost me almost that much again once she arrived to get her ride-able, but she convinced me at the top of my first big climb to change my lifestyle around.  It didn’t happen overnight, but I am now 30 pounds lighter, a non-smoker, and I exercise regularly and eat at least reasonably well. I also no longer feel like I’m going to puke and pass out once I ride uphill for a few minutes.

That bike, by the way, is named Polly. I now have two shiny engineering masterpieces, full of flashy hydraulic bits and nifty feats of geometric wizardry that have made my much quicker on trails, but Polly is still around. I will never get rid of the bike that saved my life (twice), and she now serves as my commuter bike.

This brings me, at last, to the point of this rambling little diatribe: Bike to Work Week. I have organized a team for my work colleagues, the Kilometer Crushers, because I believe everybody can benefit from throwing a leg over a bike. It doesn’t matter whether you ride roads, trails, or both, just riding is the point. So join a team, and get out there: you only live once, and you’ll live better on a bike!

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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