Gretchen Schauffler

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What No One Tells You About Training Wheels

What No One Tells You About Training Wheels

Wheels coming off

My first bike arrived into my life on Christmas Day. It was a sparkling dark purple color with matching training wheels and long rainbow streamers coming out of the white rubber handles. It came with big flower stickers in pinks and purples, which I promptly stuck all over the white banana seat.

I remember my first ride around the block so clearly. On the sidewalk, on my own. I must have rode around the T-shaped cul-de-sac fifty times, passing the townhouses, sweet pepper and palm bushes. It was my first bite of freedom.

No other ride was as memorable until the day the wheels had to come off, literally and figuratively. My training wheels were slowing me down. The training wheels, which had been tightly secured to the back wheels, were now wobbly and bent as I gained more and more balance on my bike.

My father said it was time to let the training wheels go. They no longer served me.

On a Sunday afternoon, I watched him unscrew the beat up training wheels and toss them aside. Then we took to the middle of the street. I had never been allowed to ride my bike in the middle of the street before. It felt like a big deal. He said, “Don’t worry, I will hang on to the back of your seat until you get the hang of it.”

Knowing he had my back, I began to ride, slow and wobbly at first while he walked beside me. Then I began to pick up speed. The faster I went, the better my balance. By now he was running beside me.

Then suddenly I was in the zone. You know, “the zone”, a place that has not boundaries, beginning or end, past or future, because thought and movement become one and you lose yourself in the energy of life.

In my rapturous moment, I turned to my father to share my joy but instead I saw him standing several houses back. I realized I was alone, riding my bike — full speed.

I lost my balance, fell down and started crying.

Of course, I learned how to ride a bike and never forgot. No one ever forgets how to ride a bike, but people often forget about the training wheels.

Fast-forward to August of 2014 and my most memorable bike ride ever.

I had been working on my creative writing skills for 6 years. While my writing was creative, the things I wrote didn’t really sound like me. I could write, but not in my voice.

One day, my daughter said to me, “MOM, you have to come with me to a new place called BurnCycle in Portland. I’ve already signed you up and we are going this afternoon.”

The thought of burning and cycling sounded awful. It turns out that the reason I don’t remember bike rides is because I ended up not enjoying them very much.

I went because my daughter asked. I didn’t expect what happened to me next.

As I was clipped in to a bike in a dark room filled with candles, my heart began to pound and I hadn’t even started cycling. The instructor asked us to begin to ride as the music began. I started to pedal, already mentally exhausted and my body fighting me all the way. Some of the riders’ legs looked like they were flying while mine were sinking deeper in quicksand. I could hear the instructor asking, “What are you riding for? Who are you riding for? What do you need to let go of?” as she led us to the top of an imaginary hill. I wanted to scream back, “I DON’T KNOW!” But the questions beckoned answers. Just when I thought my body and mind couldn’t take it any longer, she yelled, “Isolate!” and the world seemed to come to a stop.

I×so×late (verb): identify (something) and examine or deal with it separately.

Just like that, I was in “the zone”. My body and mind were one. There was nothing around me, but me. I realized that I had brought along a pair of emotional training wheels that were beat up, bent, and slowing me down. It was time to let go of that which no longer served me. My body and mind were strong and so was I. I remembered what I’d learned on my first bike ride. The faster I went, the better my balance. By the time I finished the ride, I had visions of myself as a child, riding my bike all over my old neighborhood as fast as I could go.

Most of all, I felt I was flying but I wasn’t alone.

Four months after I started cycling I took to journaling. It's how I began to hear my voice in my writing and I began to finally write in my own voice.

It is no surprise that exercise helps us remember and improves our cognitive thinking. This is why I am so thankful that this Saturday, August 20th 2016, BurnCycle in Lake Oswego, Oregon will be doing two charity rides with all proceeds going to the local chapter of The Alzheimer’s Association. Almost two years to the date since that memorable bike ride.

At our last Alzheimer’s Association board meeting, one of our members shared some new research that shows great promise in Alzheimer’s disease prevention. It concluded by saying that “aerobic exercise as an efficacious therapeutic intervention in adults with mild cognitive impairment appears to outweigh that provided by pharma trials to date. Aerobic exercise ‘therapy’ to prevent or slow progression may be − worth the sweat.”— Laura D Baker, PhD, Wake Forest University Health Sciences, Winston Salem, NC, USA

I am officially inviting you to come down and ride for yourself while benefitting others.

Let's #endALZ

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