Cycling / Health

The Lightness of Becoming 55

55 equals 2 open hands for happy high-fives!

55 equals 2 open hands for happy high-fives! Photo by J. Becker 2014.

It’s a special age of symmetry for anyone:  it’s 2 open hands that are smacking double high “fives” with hands of other birthday well-wishers.

55 means I’ll just hopefully go for a bike ride  around my birthday. No, it won’t be a 55 km. ride since my birthday falls on a winter work day this month.  Our evenings are still dark early and there may be icy pavements. We’ve had several winter days that have plunged below -31 degrees C. with a howling snowstorm.

Still,  it’s a strange feeling …55.  A friend who is 56, wrote  a letter in which she can barely believe her eldest sister is 70 yrs. old.

Jan. 2014 winter cycling.

Jan. 2014 winter cycling.

It happens:  the years appear suddenly like a breadcrumb trail behind you or a fading comet trail.

In recognition of this double high five birthday, I’ll share a post I recently submitted to a popular blog, Fit, Feminist and (Almost) Fifty:

Lifestyle Cyclist- When It’s No Longer Exercise, No Longer a Chore
I’ve been car-free for over the last 3 decades.  I gave up my driver’s license in my early 20’s, when I realized my discomfort with driving would endanger others.  So I traded a car for active transportation and good health –cycling, walking and transit.

I have consciously chosen to live and invest in walkable and cycleable neighbourhoods in Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary, where it’s close to a bike route or two, public transit and within a 15-min. walk of some shops and services. I haven’t known the cost of gasoline for last 30 years. I’ve saved a ton of money for other stuff.

In 2014, I will be bicycling into my  55th year. I returned to  bicycling 23 years ago. I have 3 hybrids and 1 folding bike in Vancouver and Calgary. There’s even a 4th well-used bike, I gave away to a sister in Toronto. I borrow it whenever I visit my extended family in Toronto.

Bright winter day cycling by the Bow River. Calgary, AB Jan. 2014.

Bright winter day cycling by the Bow River. Calgary, AB Jan. 2014.

Cycling is integrated into my daily lifestyle by cycle-commuting to work, shopping, for fitness and on our self-made bike trips.  I’ve never had an indoor bike nor bike rollers.  In 2010, I started winter cycling with some snow when I relocated to Calgary.  Since dry prairie air and warm chinook winds that sweep from the mountains, suck up melting snow, I’ve been able to cycle at least 70% of winter days on clearer pavements.  Since our winter days are much colder, I learned to bike down to -24 degrees C  (-11F).  Maybe I’ll get studded tires one day.

With a rented bike, a tad too small for me. River Valley area, Edmonton AB. Fall 2013.

With a rented bike, a tad too small for me. River Valley area, Edmonton AB. Fall 2013.

I range from 2,500 to 7,000 km. of cycling annually.  Our bike trips with my packed bike panniers, each cover from 100 km. to over 1,000 km.  Every year, we cycle at least 1 trip or more, at least over several days.  Since my partner is consummate cyclist himself, and local cycling advocate where we’ve lived, I’ve learned  bike routes and how to string together multiple routes so that I can ride on my own or with friends. One can bike 60-100 km. in 1 day, by cycling within the borders in each of these 3 Canadian cities!   I love exploring locally by bike. So “exercise” by bike is so much more psychologically effortless.

So find your favourite daily exercise for life. Then it’s no longer a chore.

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59 thoughts on “The Lightness of Becoming 55

  1. Happy Birthday! 55 is just the beginning of fun!
    I miss the biking- at least you have real winter weather– we’ve had cold, some snow that melts, then warm. Too cold to bike, too warm to do winter sports! ugh!

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    • Hope you dip your toes, er, bike wheel for a wee bit of winter cycling. We get that too –cold, snow melts, ice, dry pavement, then snow again…it’s coming again in the next 12 hrs. as of today.

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  2. Car-free? Good for you! And -31 degrees C? That’s cold! It’s been close to that here in Chattanooga lately. (I’m here visiting my boyfriend for his birthday right now. He just turned 40. I got him a trainer for his birthday!) And 55? Goodness. I thought you were 36. ;)

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    • Hopefully your bf will make good use of the gift. Turning 40 gets people thinking about changes. You know sunglasses do hide stuff. Up to a certain point. I’m sure car-free wasn’t too strange when you lived in Asia.

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      • Yeah, I think it has made him think about changes. Everyone keeps telling him “Welcome to the club!” Haha. He’s spent a lot of his life in the sun, too, so yeah, sunglasses help — up to a point. And you’re definitely right. I was very used to being car-free in Asia, but there things were a lot different because everything was closer together and there was public transportation! In the countryside in California, I’d be lost without my car.

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  3. 31 degrees minus where you are and mid to late thirties plus, all next week where I am. Not sure I like the extremes. A happy birthday to you when it comes around next week.

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    • Well, experiencing some climatic extremes, sometimes might make one more acclimatized when travelling abroad. However I have to say high humid summers (like I used to experience when I lived in southern Ontario), are becoming less bearable –especially after living in fairly frigid winters here.

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    • Happy belated birthday! Time has treated you well so far, jb! Lookin’ good. Maybe it’s being down in Oregon. :) One thing for certain, abit more moisture in the air where you live, unlike the drier prairies means wrinkles don’t show up as quickly. I’m half-serious –it’s something noticeable after I moved from the balmier west coast. One definitely has to use more lotions and moisturizers more often where I live.

      My birthday is towards the end of this month. So maybe you are also an Aquarian? I don’t know the horoscope dates at all, so need to check…

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  4. Happy birthday Jean! Best wishes!
    I’m so impressed by the fact that you have been car free for 30 years! Especially when we know what are the conditions in Canada…
    My parents are now back to Canada and I’m just getting back into the blogging world today and catching up on your blog.
    I’d like to wish you a Happy New Year 2014 filled with everything you want and love. All the best! And, looking forward to follow your blog this year too!

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  5. That is incredible for you to give up driving. I don’t think I can do that. I love driving, that’s why. It’s a stress reliever for me. Well kudos! Your story is remarkable, really amenable. I can hardly imagine doing it myself.

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  6. Funny intro. =) Inspirational. And you most definitely do not look your age. I’ve been meaning to tell you that the last two weeks my son’s been singing off and on a song he learned when he was about 4 in a geography audio book, something about rodeo in Calgary. I smacked my forehead. Oh yeah! That’s right, I had learned it WAS a prairie city.

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    • Wonder what that song would have been to name Calgary. The Calgary Stampede is revving up annually..next month. Over 1 million people join in the festivities. Thanks for the gracious compliment. I do think a lot of those of Asian descent who stay reasonably or even just half healthy, do tend to look younger. My theory is the skin texture is different, less papery-delicate, yaddyaddada. :)

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      • “My theory is the skin texture”
        Add to that the cycling. =)

        Yes, you’re right! The song does mention stampede. Ah! With good reason, I see. Google Wee Bee Tunes for any young nieces/nephews. Great use of car time. My son loved following the audio with the small book.

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  7. Wow! When I grow up, I want to be like you! :)
    In The Netherlands, cycling is practical and popular, but for me, it’s only for great weather days. Something you said resonated, and I’ll be thinking about it for some time to come,
    “So find your favourite daily exercise for life. Then it’s no longer a chore.” I’m on the prowl.
    Happy birthday in arrears.

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    • Yes, I think that’s the secret –finding that likeable exercise for life. That’s good that you at least enjoy your area on bike. It would be strange to live in the Netherlands and many years later, tell others you never tried cycling in that country. North Americans would be interested in hearing experiences from an ex-pat or are you a citizen there?

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  8. I’m a citizen, but I didn’t grow up in The Netherlands. Sometimes, I live like an expat because for many years, I was one. I wrote a post about living in “The Third World” It’s about marrying to cultures to make your own culture as a foreigner.

    Cycling for me is a leisure activity, not a lifestyle or even exercise. Will that change? I don’t know yet. :)

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  9. Happy Birthday, Jean! Never knew you were 55…55. You do not look 55, but much, much, much younger than that and I can’t stress that enough. Maybe it’s cycling and all this exercise that makes you look young. Or maybe it’s because you seem to be always smiling and cheerful.

    Seems like the wild winter elements or any kind of weather elements can’t stop you from cycling. No car but do you often go for public transport? Cycling around so much, I suppose you need to eat quite a bit and eat well so you can cycle for long periods. Best cycling wishes for the rest of the year.

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    • Sure, Mabel I use transit on lousy, icy days. But where I’ve lived, I’ve ensured I’m within a 15 min. walk to a grocery story for food and stuff. Yes, one does need to eat abit more for long cycles but not that much unless I’m cycling 100 km. Most people over-estimate what they need to eat. And cyclists can fall into the bad habit of justifying their food intake because of their cycling. The body adjusts.

      Ah, I haven’t given up close face pics of myself yet. Oh well. I’m not going to worry about it a lot. But realize I haven’t worn make-up on the job for the past 6 years or so. I just haven’t bothered. Not sure if I’ve made a career-limiting move on that.

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  10. Pingback: The Lightness of Being 55 by Jean Chong and Cycle Write Blog | livelytwist

  11. This is great stuff. Years from now, I want to be able to write about running into my 60’s.
    Thanks for the inspiration Jean :)

    P.S Livelytwist sent me your way.

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