by Jen McRae
Austin is a community of FIT people. Our gyms and parks are full of everything from CrossFit workouts to Stroller Strides classes. The Roy and Ann Butler Hike and Bike Trail has its own rush hour and is one of the city’s most popular training destinations. I’m a daily commuter along the Shoal Creek corridor. I usually see an assortment of cyclists on my ride (a handful of fellow commuters, recreational riders, and competitive athletes), and I have a challenge to issue to Austin-area athletes: whatever your training destination, consider riding your bike to get there. Replace commute time in a car with warm-up time on your bike. It gets you ON the bike sooner rather than later, OFF MoPac Expressway, and OUT of your car.
Using the Earth Day 2012: A Billion Acts of Green campaign as my inspiration, I propose two green acts each of us can pledge towards meeting the goal of reducing our carbon footprint:
1. Ride or run to your workout (I refer to this as “destination training”)
2. Ensure that your child knows how to ride a bike
With destination training, you are not only reducing your carbon footprint by driving less, you are also logging additional training time. The notion of riding to work and school is a popular one, and this simple green act redefines the concept of travel time to our workouts. Suddenly, instead of having a commute by car, your 45-minute class is enhanced by adding a 15-30 minute bike ride as a warm-up and cool down.
I’ve categorized three logistical approaches to your workouts to support our green act of destination training:
The Park–and-Ride. Sometimes you have to use a car to reach ideal training venues. Getting to the running track or the pool may simply be too far to ride or run. Consider driving close enough so that you can park the car and finish the remaining distance on your bike or feet.
I do this once a week with my daughters so that they can ride to school. The car gets loaded with all the bikes; we drive halfway and then ride halfway. We are seven miles from school and use Shoal Creek’s bike lanes.
The Car Drop. Take your bike to work, school, or other destination, and leave the car there! You can ride or run home at the end of the day, and then ride or run back the next morning.
I drive my daughters to school and leave the car there until I pick them up in the afternoon. This forces me to commute to and from school (as well as all the destinations in between) by bike or foot all day.
The Out-NOT-Back. This is a great approach for your long runs or long rides. Choose a destination and have family or friends meet you there. Running to a restaurant on the other side of town is great motivation for long training sessions. Riding to another town is even better. I’ve ridden from Dallas to Waco on my way to Austin. Being creative with destination training gives you more stories to tell and provides the Earth a little more breathing room.
The future rush hour in our bike lanes depends on whether or not our children can ride bikes. Ensure your children can ride a bike by making it a routine family activity. Have them ride to school weekly, if not daily. Make it a lifestyle choice, so your children realize that riding a bike is a way to get somewhere. Accomplish this by example and by providing them with safe areas to ride.
Here are some car-free zones where your kids can ride bikes:
Running track at your local school (if allowed)
The Veloway in South Austin
The Driveway in East Austin on Thursday nights (March through October)
Roy and Ann Butler Hike and Bike Trail (if you have knobby tires)
The Lance Armstrong bikeway
Your neighborhood park (grass is a great place to learn!)
If your children do not know how to ride a bike, now is the time to make that happen. Take them to a grassy area; make sure their feet can touch the ground, and begin with you walking the bike while your children sit in the seat. You can hold the back of the seat ever so lightly to get them started, but you will have to let go so they can discover how to balance. Lower the seat so their feet touch the ground, even if it looks too low. Raise it when they achieve good balance. If the seat is as low as it will go and they still can’t reach the ground, the bike is too big and this will make learning difficult.
With these two green acts in mind, consider riding your bike the next time you are headed to the Barton Creek greenbelt for a run or hike rather than taking your car (if you don’t have a lock, invest in one so this can happen safely). The next time you are heading to the gym in your car, stop to think whether you can either run or ride there instead. Turn taking the kids out for hot chocolate or ice cream into a family bike ride.
I commute by bike to Pure Austin Fitness to teach cycling classes, and I often pass another Pure Austin instructor riding the opposite direction on Shoal Creek towards the other location every week. It’s fun to share the mindset and the road with other cyclists (and in this case, to see who might be running late for class!). I hope to see you out there…in the traffic in the bike lanes!
Jen is a professional cyclist currently racing with 787 Racing. She's a consistent podium finisher at criteriums on the national circuit, completing her 2011 season with a win in Boston at the TD Bank Mayor’s Cup. Jen teaches cycling classes at Pure Austin Fitness and coaches with Chann McRae Cycling, which she founded with her husband, Chann. See Chann McRae Cycling on Facebook or visit the website, cmcoaching.com, for more information about Jen.