Project Louise: Going For A Ride — And Going For The Fun

Not only did Louise ride 20 miles, but at the end, she was in a tent with Tom Brady. Oh, and hundreds of other people. Still ... fun! (Best Buddies)

Not only did Louise ride 20 miles, but at the end, she was in a tent with Tom Brady. Oh, and hundreds of other people. Still … fun! (Best Buddies)

By Louise Kennedy
Guest contributor

This whole health thing? It’s like riding a bike.

That’s what I’m thinking this week, anyway. Once you learn how to do it, even if you stop for a really long time, when you get back on the bike, you’re amazed at how simple it is.

And this week, I got back on the bike.

Dedicated readers (I love you, wherever you are) may remember that, way back in March, I decided to sign up for the Best Buddies Challenge bike ride on the Cape. I figured having a goal would encourage me to go to the gym more often, and going to the gym more often would make the ride both easy and fun.

So … it did not make me go to the gym. At all. But it did feel like a firm commitment, and so on Saturday, I went for a bike ride. A 20-mile bike ride.

Now, the really dedicated readers (both of you) will remember that I originally said I was going to do 50 miles. But by last week, when I still somehow had not managed to get my bike out of the garage even once and do a training ride, I decided that it would perhaps be more sensible to go for 20. I’ve ridden 20 miles many times. Fifty? Not so much. OK, a few times as a teenager, but even then, as I dimly recall, it felt daunting.

Naturally my first inclination was to beat myself up for “only” doing 20 miles. But when a couple of friends expressed their admiration, I thought about what I would say to a friend who was doing a 20-mile ride.

“Wow, that’s great!”

So I said that to myself. Several times. And ended up just about believing it.

And you know what? It was great. I got to the 20-mile starting point in Sandwich at the last minute – about 10:29 for a 10:30 start – picked up the hybrid bike I’d rented through Best Buddies, and set off with the other members of Team WBUR. Tom Ashbrook left me in the dust about 10 seconds later, but my colleague Susan Derrico and I had a lovely time together – sometimes right next to each other, sometimes her pulling ahead, sometimes me.

The day was cool and (at least at first) only a little breezy, the trees were leafing out, the flowers were in bloom, and all along the route, little clumps of people cheered and waved and rang cowbells. There was a big hill (big by my standards, at least, though I grant you that the Cape is pretty flat) right at the beginning, but once I made it up that, I felt confident that I’d handle anything else the route threw my way.

As I got into the rhythm of it, I remembered something I’d forgotten: Riding a bike is fun!

Yes! Fun! That’s what I’ve been missing. All this pestering myself to go to the gym, all this fretting about what I should be doing, all this planning and failing and beating myself up for failing and trying to make a better plan – but really, all I need to do is tell myself, “Go have fun!”

I should have known this. Years ago I co-wrote a book about helping your kid learn to read, something I didn’t know much about at the time. (My co-author knew the stuff; I knew the writing part.) And my favorite piece of all the research I pored over was this: Parents who tell their kids that reading is fun are much more likely to raise avid, successful readers than parents who tell them it’s important.

Well, duh. Who wouldn’t rather do something fun than something important? And if it happens to be both fun and important, why not emphasize the fun to get your brain hooked into the idea?

What’s really surprising is what happened the day before the ride, when coach Allison Rimm came into my office for our fortnightly chat. She saw the exercise bike that my esteemed editor, Carey Goldberg, had dragged in a week before – as an intervention, she’d said, along the lines of the Salad in a Bag: “If you’re not getting to the gym, I’m bringing the gym to you!”

The bike had been sitting there, haunting me, as I came up with one excuse after another for not getting on it: I’ll get sweaty, I don’t have the right shoes, people will laugh at me, my hair will be a mess…. Then Allison showed up and said, “OK. While we talk, you’re going to sit on the bike and pedal.”

I objected. She persisted. I got on the bike.

I got sweaty. My hair got messy. But … after the initial shock, I felt good. Great, even. Even an exercise bike, in a fluorescent-lit office, can be fun.

And, before I knew it, I’d ridden for an hour. Not super-hard, not super-fast, but still: an hour. And 20 miles the next day, even after I lost a contact lens around mile 13.

Best of all, I was smiling all the way.

Readers, do you find ways to make exercise fun? Or do you have other tips for getting motivated to get moving?


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  • Hopefulandhappyone

    Good for you Louise! Life can definitely use more fun :) In general, I find that exercising outside is really beneficial to my state of mind. I took a long walk in the Parker River Wildlife Preserve in Newburyport recently and found the combination of exercise and nature to be very powerful. With that in mind, I hiked at Breakheart Reservation in Stoneham yesterday and felt the same results. Feeding the body and the soul — it’s something everyone needs and often goes neglected. Keep up the good work!

  • Di

    I did the 20-mile ride for the first time, also! I felt guilty getting the accolades when so many people did the 50- and 100-mile ride. It was a beautiful day spent with some amazing people. I had such a great time, I registered to do the 50 next year. Are you signed up yet? Congratulations on your accomplishment.

    • Louise Kennedy

      Congratulations to you too! And I’m planning to do the 50 next year too — didn’t know i could sign up already, so thank you for the tip. See you at the starting line!

  • Bella

    When I was working on getting myself to the gym to walk on the treadmill, I had a book I was loving (The Manor by Mac Griswold) so I told myself I could only read it on the treadmill. I realized I could walk quite briskly while reading, and the hour flew by while I was absorbed in the book. When I finished it, I found my stamina improving so I’ve abandoned books and moved on to an up-beat play list and have even started running a little on the treadmill.

    I guess to instead of making things fun, I distract myself while I begin them and then after a while they become something I look forward to and I no longer need the distraction.

    And 20 miles is great! (My bike is sitting in the spare bathroom with 2 flat tires…)

    • Louise Kennedy

      I’m impressed that you can run and read at the same time! I get dizzy if I try. But people have also suggested watching TV while walking on the treadmill, and I keep meaning to try that. Maybe these rainy days are a good time to do it! And then it will feel like a treat to go back outside, too.

  • lindam313

    Fun is why I like to run – even if I do a 10 K, I know I’m not going to win or place and it’s very freeing – I talk to people along the way, enjoy the weather, enjoy being outside, enjoy the sense of accomplishment at the end – that’s it. Running – put one foot in front of the other; biking, push pedals in a circle – zumba too confusing for me, step gets me frustrated, Pilates I like because it’s thoughtful, same with yoga (although I do have to remind myself that it’s a practice and not look at other people and/or focus on what I can’t do and focus on trying to keep whatever balance and flexibility I do have! Weight lifting is hard to get into, but once I get there it reminds me of my Dad and I also feel good about picking things up and putting things down in a visceral sort of way. It’s got to be fun though or else I won’t do it – excellent that you kept in mind what you would say to someone else who’d biked 20 miles – great job on that! Other motivation for running I guess would be feeling strong, like a kid, burning off tension, how awesome I feel when I’ve finished is a biggie! Keep going!

    • Louise Kennedy

      Feeling like a kid! Yes! It’s interesting, when I try to run (which I don’t do much anymore because I wrecked a knee skiing a few years ago), I feel like the fat sweaty little third-grader, and that doesn’t make me happy. But when I ride my bike, I feel like the happy free little third-grader, and that does! I’m interested in how much of this journey is mental/emotional/psychological — I guess I knew that on some level, but I’m really feeling it as I find ways to get myself moving … and realize why some of the ways I’ve tried in the past haven’t worked. And I love the way you describe running — it does sound freeing, and that’s the feeling I loved on Saturday.