Two friends got me into mountain biking about four years ago.  Before that, it’d been almost 20 years since I’d owned a bike and almost that long since I’d ridden one.  In February of this year I bought a used road bike and started riding more seriously.  I completed the Lance Armstrong Ride for the Roses (100 miles) in April.  Suffice it to say that I enjoy cycling.

I’ve fought a mostly losing battle with my weight for the last 10 years or so.  At 180 lbs, I consider myself 10 to 15 lbs overweight.  Not seriously overweight by any means, but heavier than I’d like.  It’d sure be nice to have 15 fewer pounds to haul up the hills.  Most of the problem is that I don’t especially like spending my time eating and as a result I pick my food based on how fast I can get it.  The faster the better.  I’m practically on a first-name basis with the counter girls at McDonald’s.  I’m working on that by taking my lunch to the office, but I have to exercise too.  Mostly my exercise consists of riding to work or back (28 miles one way) three or four times a week.  It’s probably more exercise than I need, but it’s convenient.  I get my exercise and my commute at the same time, and I get to talk to my friend Robbie who works at the same place and rides with me most of the time.  Plus, exercise is about the only thing that’ll increase my low HDL cholesterol.

Today at lunch we were discussing our weekend plans.  I mentioned that I planned to ride 56 miles on Saturday in an organized event to support the Down Home Ranch, an organization that provides services for adults with mental retardation.  The reaction of the entire group wasn’t unexpected—they all looked at me like I have a screw loose, and one person even said as much.  It’s supposedly good-natured kidding, but I think there’s more to it.  Many people, especially those who are not physically active,  tend to put down anybody who is more physically active.  “Why,” they say, “would you do something like that?”  When I say that I enjoy cycling, they just give me a sideways look and shake their heads.

What I find most disturbing (or humorous, depending on my mood) is that the people who give me the most grief about my cycling are the people who obviously get no exercise.  So far I’ve been tactful enough not to mention that little detail to them, but it’s been close once or twice.  I don’t expect people to exercise as much as I do, but it wouldn’t hurt most people to eat a little less and walk around the block a few times a week.  Obesity is a serious problem in this country today, and obesity among children is growing at an alarming rate.  The negative effects of obesity (heart disease, coronary artery disease, etc.) are well documented, and almost entirely preventable.   It’s criminal that our health care system is overburdened with people who are sick because they kill themselves with cigarettes, or they eat too much and won’t exercise.   That these people insult me because I enjoy exercising is unreal.