I just finished a 5K run, chasing Little Isis on his bike. For those who may not follow me on Twitter, I usually post about my runs using the hashtag #rundouchery and my bike rides with the hashtag #bikedouchery. It makes me really happy that there are now other scientists and science-minded folks that use the hashtags to brag about their workouts. Still, about once every couple of months someone pipes in to ask “Um, why is running [or biking] douchey?”
I thought I would give a bit of history for why I started the hashtags, and maybe encourage some participation from those of you not yet using it.
When I started the hashtag about a year ago I had come to the realization that I had gained about 50 lbs. I’ve written before (Somewhere around here. You all are better at digging in my archives than I am) about the ongoing struggles I’ve had with my weight and how healthy eating and exercise helped me to lose 80 lbs and keep it off for quite a bit. Well, after some struggles getting pregnant and having staph, I gained 20 lbs of it back. Then I finally got pregnant and gained another 20 lbs. Then I had Tiny Diva and, in my overwhelmedness with mothering two children, I gained 10 lbs more. Soon enough, I was firmly in plus sized territory. I can’t disparage anyone for how they look, or their size, but I can tell you that this amount of weight was not healthy for me. My knees hurt and I was short of breath when doing small things.
I knew what I needed to get back to, but it was so hard for me to imagine how I was going to fit fitness into my schedule. I also have the sort of mentality where it is hard for me to be motivated to eat a healthy diet without activity. They seem to be mutually reinforcing. I eat well so that activity feels better and when I feel better I am more motivated to eat well. Still, having the two kids made it so, so, so hard.
The thing is, as an exercise physiologist, I work with athletes. Not casual gym goers. Athletes. These are the sort of folks who train for things and win races. Like me, they have families and I got to thinking about how their lifestyle was different from mine. The biggest difference was that they made their fitness a priority. I was trying to fit it into the nooks and crannies my children left me at the end of the day. Work and children and families are funny little fuckers though. If you let them, they will expand and fill every crevasse of your day and leave you with nothing. Nothing, I tell you.
But some of my colleagues were making fitness and family work for them and I am a believer in learning from others’ examples. We know around my workplace not to look for one of my colleagues between 11 and 2. We know not to schedule meetings during that time. That’s the time that he uses to swim or run when he’s not in clinics. He also rides his bike to and from work every day, ~10 miles each way. I asked him one time how he managed to get everything done when he is spending so much time working out and he looked at me with a puzzled look, as if to say “I just do.”
That attitude boggled my mind and, I will confess, I had always considered those types of athletes to be a little douchey about their fitness. But, I realized that beyond all the gear and inappropriate spandex, these folks were really putting their fitness and well-being first. So, I endeavored to become a little douchey about fitness and thought that I might try to emulate my colleague and bike to work. I also live ~10 miles from work.
I hadn’t ridden a bike in >20 years, but it seemed like a hilarious thing to try. I can’t tell you in retrospect what made me choose biking other than getting back to running at my size was near impossible. I had put on enough weight that I had developed plantar fasciitis in my left foot. I went to Trek because it seemed like the douchiest of the places. I hesitantly rode several bikes around their parking lot, but ultimately bought the middle of the line bike because I was overwhelmed and exhausted and it was within my budget.
A friend helped me plot a map to get to work. The first time I rode to work I did so with my hands clenched so hard on the handle bars, my hands hurt. I also didn’t realize that you were supposed to downshift up a hill and upshift down a hill, doing it backwards, it took me ~2 hours to get to work. At work one of my colleagues chuckled at my cycling mistake, set me straight, and it took me only 45 minutes to get home. I thought I was a stone cold bad ass when I got home that day. That was the day #bikedouchery was born.
Realizing that my bike and car commute took the same amount of time, it was pretty easy to commit to a bike commute while the weather was >40 degrees. As the season moved on I moved into padded shorts and bought proper bike shoes and my douchiness has only escalated exponentially. By the time winter came, I had lost 25lbs and running came much more easily. I ran over the winter to keep my fitness up. Last weekend my friend and I ran 12 miles through a river, through mud, and over ice. We were douchey as hell about it.
Figure 1: That’s me on the trail.
I’ve now lost a little more than 40 of the pounds I gained and I can only credit it to having committed to all of this instead of trying to fit it in. I think my real life friends are tired of hearing about my exploits, and that I can’t go out because I have a date with a run, but that’s now how I roll. The funniest part was that I took my bike down this week for the season and, when I tried to ride it, I realized that it doesn’t feel right any more. It’s fit for a person who is a lot more person. That means a trip to the bike store to get refit and, perhaps, an opportunity to add more spandex to my life.
Douchey as hell.