Yeah, we have a lot of bikes. That’s something that people notice about our family right away. There’s actually more to our two-wheeled fleet when you look beneath the surface. For us, cycling is more than a hobby, but less than an obsession. It’s an integral part of our family life, and in a way, part of its very foundation.
Riding a bike ultimately led me to my spouse and soulmate, Jeff. It gave me an outlet for stress management and personal athletic achievement, introduced me to a community of amazing friends, and provides an activity that Jeff and I share with our 10-year old daughter, Isabella. I really do owe a great deal to the bike and how it influences my family life and my role as a mother.
I came to the sport by way of running and sprint triathlon, deciding to give racing a try while in graduate school at the University of Texas. I met Jeff at my first UT cycling club meeting in 1995. Fast forward 20 years (because that’s honestly how it feels), we still make time for cycling dates whenever possible. That’s easier said than done.
Juggling a full-time marketing career; my training/racing schedule; and Isabella’s school, dance, and volleyball activities requires meticulous scheduling. The schedule is an ever-changing, dynamic thing that revolves constantly in my head. For me, getting creative is the secret for squeezing in workouts. It also means sacrifice.
My workday starts at 5 am so I can fit in an hour or two of work before breakfast, lunch-making and school bus pickup. That gives me some flexibility to fit in workouts at lunch time or after work – sometimes both. I typically have two workout bags packed, and often have a bike loaded up in the minivan. During a two-hour dance practice, I can fit in a decent ride, or a run and weight training. Jeff and I take turns dropping off and picking up so we both get in rides.
In the parenting arena, cycling offers a font of teachable moments. Isabella sees me and Jeff both prioritizing physical activity and healthy eating (I prefer ‘fuel’) every day – something that I hope stays with her for a lifetime. Aside from the obvious lessons like always wearing a helmet and practicing good sportsmanship, we’ve seized opportunities to talk about trying something new for the first time, not being afraid to fail and learning from it, working hard to improve at something, and most importantly, doing what you love and having fun while doing it!
As a parent competing in a sport, I’ve become very conscious about what I’m doing and the example I’m setting for the little eyes that are always watching. At races, Isabella has seen me on top of the podium, and she’s seen me finish dead last on multiple occasions. She’s seen me crash hard, and then get up and finish a race. She’s also seen me abandon a race when I didn’t feel well, saving my legs for another day. Each time, I told her that I had fun on my bike and learned something I can use next time.
Last summer, we spent time in Colorado, having loaded up our car with bikes, two weeks’ worth of gear for the three of us, and our dog. One of my favorite memories of the trip is a ride Isabella and I did together, which included a challenging climb up Swan Mountain near the town of Frisco. I let her set the pace and we steadily made our way up. She never asked to stop, making it to the top in one go. I was so proud of her, and amazed at her tenacity. We actually chatted some on the way up, and giggled after a guy who was huffing and puffing really loudly rode by us. I remember looking over at her several times, marveling at how she continued to push hard with each pedal stroke, with her then nine year-old legs. Although the view from the top was amazing, I had an “it’s not the destination, it’s the journey” feeling throughout that experience. To me, it was a poignant reminder that applies to motherhood. As much as we as parents focus on the end game: raising our kids to be kind, hard-working and happy adults; we should also remember to sometimes slow down and enjoy the ride.
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