On your bike!
Mental Health Awareness week has just started, and this is a great opportunity to stop and reflect on the past year and the challenges we have faced, both on a personal and collective level. Life in the pandemic has been for all of us a unique experience, but together we have come to realise that looking after our mental health is now more important than ever before.
Looking for ways to balance our emotional self, there are several avenues to explore, but today I want to take you to mine – with a bike in tow, for the benefit of your mental and physical health!
I bought my first bike 8 years ago. Everything about it was so great that shortly after the purchase someone else thought it was great too, and so I never saw it again. It took a while to accept the loss, but with grief gone, I felt ready to buy another bike. This time I decided to go for a second-hand one, and for only £70 it was love at first sight. With the feeling in my heart, I purchased two chains, and I have since cycled hundreds of miles in the sun and rain, with a few punctures and maintenance costs all worth the joy cycling keeps bringing into my life.
When I think of cycling, I think of freedom and adventure. As a Londoner, not being dependent on public transport or a car is a good enough reason to buy a bike, especially when cycling helps to protect the environment. The network of cycleways makes it easier and safer to cycle to work virtually anywhere in London, and exercising in the fresh air helps to balance mental health in a truly amazing way.
With a bike being a wonderful companion on any trip, good weather is a great start to plan a whole day out. Scenic trails, paths in parks, wetlands, along rivers, canals and lakes are all safe and excellent options for both professional and amateur cyclists, and if you wonder when to start, spring is just the best time.
As the theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness week is nature, spending some time on a bike is a great way to celebrate this time. To start the week, I recommend exploring the beauty of Haringey with a ride to Tottenham Marshes (external link), and, if you fancy more, to nearby Walthamstow Wetlands (external link). For a shared experience of cycling, you can join one of Haringey’s cycling clubs (external link) and meet other people to partake in a social ride.
Still not sure if cycling is for you? ‘Try before you Bike’ is a scheme in Haringey offering a range of new or almost new bikes for a small monthly fee, with the option of buying the bike at a discounted price or paying in monthly instalments. If, however, you need training to cycle with confidence, sign up for a cycle skills training session – to book, visit CycleConfident (external link) or phone 020 3031 6730.
There are training options for the youngest ones too. Wheely Tots (external link) runs toddler balance bike sessions for toddlers aged 14 months and over with whole families invited to join. And finally, before any solo or group bike trip, do not forget to take your helmet with you. You are now ready for a ride, so jump on a bike and have a great time!
By Ewelina Gawrys
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