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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Cycling can be addictive, but can have a positive effect on your life

Cycling can be addictive, but can have a positive effect on your life
By:  Michael Lander

After returning to cycling in 2007, I found that it can be tough and challenging, but it
can also can be fun and exhilarating, and even addictive.  It can also take me to places
that I have never been before and it helps me to achieve things that I never thought
were possible, and it always leaves me with the desire to do even more of it.
(Photo Credit:  Steve Dodd)

My heart is pounding.  I'm breathing hard and fast and I feel like I'm sweating bullets.  I'm tired and sore and I thought, long before this, that I wouldn't be able to keep going.

Even with all this, I could not feel any better because I am a cyclist and this is what I live for.

While the experience may sound a lot like torture, or some sort of medical emergency, rather than anything that might be even remotely fun, cycling for me is something that I truly enjoy and have found to be extremely addictive. 

It is a lot like most things that any of us might crave, but it's better and safer for you than many things we might overindulge in, especially any drug. 

People often talk of a "runner's high," but I am convinced that there is also a "cyclist's high."

This sensation doesn't come very easily, however.  You'll probably never experience this, for instance, on a slow, leisurely bike ride, but if you push yourself to your limit, and to a high enough intensity level, and sustain that for a long enough period of time, a cycling "high" is something that, I happen to believe, can be achieved.    

In a Scientific American article by Bethany Brookshire (Scicurious), she says that this "high" or feeling of euphoria may come from the endorphins and endogenous opiods that are naturally released by the body during stress and an intense work-out.  This can set up a series of reactions in the brain that can diminish the sense of pain and help make strenuous physical exercise a lot more pleasurable.

In addition to this, according to a study by Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of California, Irvine, among others, the body may also produce something known as an anandamide.  This cannabinoid, or lipid molecule, is known to create sensations that are similar to those of THC, the psychoactive element in marijuana.

As the body seems to have a way of minimizing the effects of what you may be putting it through, it is never enough to alleviate every ache and pain that you might feel.  Some pain is to be expected.  It would not be normal for your body not to react or to respond in some way as a defense mechanism. 

For those who ride long and hard, they know that this is something that will happen and eventually it is something that you just become accustomed to and can overcome.

Even though pain can be a consequence of riding a bike, it helps to remember that it is almost always only temporary and that there is a lot of truth in the adage of "no pain, no gain."

It might be easy for some non-cyclists to assume that this has anything to do with someone wanting to intentionally inflict discomfort on themselves, but there really is nothing sadomasochistic about any of this. 

For me, it actually has more to do with not letting the pain or discomfort control or deny me of the enjoyment and freedom that I routinely experience on a bike ride.  It is this, and how reinvigorated that I feel after I finish a ride that keeps me, and others like me, going back for more. 

Aside from the physiological and psychological gratification that comes with cycling, what makes it so great is that it seems to offer something for just about everyone.  

Whether you ride just for fun, for a purpose, (commuting to and from places around Memphis), for your health, or to fill a need for speed, or to compete, there are few other sports or activities that can provide so much to so many and to be so good for you.


There are some who might look at those who are really into cycling and see them as being obsessed.  Others might say it's more like an addiction or a compulsion, but whatever label that you want to put on it, I, for one, simply can't imagine a life without it. 

There are certainly worse things that someone could be hooked on and it just so happens that cycling is my drug of choice.  It is an addiction that comes without all the bad side effects that accompany most any drug that you might take.

I have often joked with friends and family that I hate when life gets in the way of my cycling, but in truth, I realize that there is so much more to life than just riding a bike.  For me, though, life can always be enhanced, and made so much better by riding, even if it can leave you tired and sore, and drenched in sweat.

I can tolerate just about anything that happens to me on a ride because, like anyone else who works out, any pain or discomfort that I encounter, in a strange way, is a lot like the title of the John Mellencamp song, (it) "Hurts so good."

The only downside to this is that it doesn't seem to last long and after a couple of days of not riding, I seem to experience withdrawals and need to get my fix and get in a good, long bike ride.  Only this seems to restore any imbalance or lack of equilibrium that I might have in my life.

For those who are like me, cycling is not really the only thing that we have in our lives, but it is something that we are happy to have as a part of it.  It enriches us and keeps us healthy and in touch with the world around us.  There are no drugs, that I know of, that can do all that.  I have no need for them since I have a bicycle. 

With my bike, everything is right in the world.


If you would like to read more about runner's high, which other athletes and cyclists can experience, you may want to read an article entitled, "Yes, Running Can Make You High by Gina Kolata."  For additional information, you can also visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Runner%27s_high.

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