It may seem ironic that I love my bike (Amelia) and that I’m also asthmatic and have adrenal insufficiency. So, why do I ride my bike? There are several reasons.
First off, riding my bike is fun. Really. It is! The wind on your face, the thrill of cruising faster than you can on foot with less effort. Yes, it can be tiring, but it definitely is fun.
Second… It’s become part of who I am. I unfortunately am known by a lot of people as The Girl Who Is Allergic To Everything (even though I’m definitely not allergic to every thing)
…and The Girl Who Is Always Sick. I hate those labels. And biking makes them go away, at least for the time I’m riding my bike or wearing my helmet in a store.
People see me wearing my helmet when I’m going places and they see the bike and strength rather than a girl who has almost died over a dozen times in the last year alone. When people see me now they ask if I biked, or how the biking has been or where I’ve biked lately, instead of constantly being asked if I’m still sick or if I’ve been feeling better after being in the hospital yet again.
And lastly, it’s actually saved my life. Sure, I’ve almost gotten run over by drivers who weren’t paying attention, and I’ve nearly fallen off several times because I had to make a crazy sharp turn unexpectedly or brake suddenly, but biking really has saved my life.
Back in May I was intubated because the docs couldn’t get an anaphylactic reaction to stop and things were starting to go downhill really quickly. But since then, I’ve narrowly escaped intubation 4 other times. There seems to be this band of NinjaNuts that follows me places and sneaks out and attacks when I don’t even realize it.
If I didn’t have a higher endurance level and breathing reserve from biking, I probably would’ve ended up intubated all 4 other times. And I can tell you that recovering from intubation is NOT easy nor fun. It sucks. But having the extra physical strength and endurance from regular exercise really helped not only in avoiding intubation and staying alive, but it also really, really helped me to recover from all the allergic reactions I’ve had. 3 weeks after I was hooked up to machines breathing for me, I was back on my bike. I was going slower than before, but I was back on my bike. I had my sanity back too by getting back on my bike. And while I ended up in and out of the hospital every few weeks ever since, it’s the biking that has kept me sane and kept me going, emotionally and physically.
I regularly encounter people who see me wearing my helmet when I’m shopping or at the doctor’s and they tell me that I’m doing a good thing to bike and that they couldn’t ever do it. Funny thing is, even just 2 years ago the idea of biking places was simply just a dream for some day in the distant hopeful future. I didn’t think I could do it. But I am doing it. I don’t have a choice. I don’t have a car. So most places unless someone can give me a ride (which is rare), I bike or use a combination of biking and riding the bus (the busses have racks on the front for bikes) and metro.
My old boss told me that lugging my bike around everywhere is like having to carry around a baby and that it makes it so much harder to go places. Actually not! Half of the time I’m riding my bike I’m coasting… which last time I checked, you can’t coast while walking. So it actually takes less energy to bike places than to walk.
I’ve learned to listen to my body and not push it too far. Some people believe that you need to push yourself beyond your limits in order to get stronger. Sometimes it’s not true. Sometimes getting stronger is a matter of staying within your physical limits so you don’t hurt yourself by overworking your immune system or lack of adrenal function. And by still exercising, but staying within your physical limits, you become stronger and can slowly increase your physical activity level because your muscles are better able to handle it.
Exercising with chronic illness and being prone to injury isn’t easy. But it’s worth it. It’s not a matter of pushing beyond your limits, but of actually exercising. Whether it’s walking, biking, running, swimming, whatever: do it. Yes, you need to listen to your body and not push too much and take rest days when your brain just really wants to go for a run or a long ride.
So, if you think you can’t bike because you’re asthmatic, that’s no excuse. It’s also no excuse that you’re not in shape. Exercise is really beneficial. And it’s fun. So, I’ll end with what I tell people when they tell me a list of excuses for not biking.
I’m asthmatic. I’ve been intubated and had machines breathing for me. I’ve fought for my life more times than I can count. If I can do it, you have no excuse (unless your doctor told you not to… and even then you should go beg them to let you do it anyway). Just remember to wear a helmet and that it’s ok to stop and catch your breath and to walk your bike up hills. I still do that on some hills. If you’re asthmatic, take your meds before and keep your inhaler on you.
And, you don’t have to push yourself till you pass out. If you’re asthmatic, take your meds. Take it one step at a time. You never know if something is going to happen down the road that will require extra physical and mental endurance that biking will help you prepare for.
Just put one foot in front of the other and keep pedaling. And it’s totally ok to realize you’re too wiped out partway through and catch a bus or take your bike on the metro. I do it all the time.
Oh, and if you’re a driver, please leave 3 feet when passing a bike on the road! Bikes are allowed use of the full lane.