Girls, it’s time to try cycling, you might just love it!
We all want to be healthy, and part of that means doing a bit of cardio here and there. However, thinking about doing cardio probably fills a lot of you with dread because if the first thing that comes to mind is running, you might want to try cycling instead.
Although running is one of the purest, simplest forms of cardio that you can do, the problem is that it can be awful. I ran cross country and track for three years of high school and although I loved my time on the teams, I probably enjoyed a total of two runs. Many other runners I knew would talk about getting into an enjoyable rhythm of running, and, as much as I ran, that never happened for me. I’m sure I’m not the only one.
Running is great for some, but it’s definitely not for everyone, and that’s okay. You can still get a good cardio session by doing something much more enjoyable: cycling.
Why girls should ride try cycling
1. It’s easy on the body
Running, jumping, and other kinds of cardio can be hard on your joints, especially your knees. There were even a number of young highschoolers on my running teams who experienced joint pain. I had months of arch pains myself from all the running I was doing.
Cycling, on the other hand, is low-impact and barely puts any pressure on your joints. If you’re someone who has pre-existing joint problems or is slightly older, this is especially valuable.
If you’re big-breasted, the low-impact is also particularly helpful. I’ve known women who had to wear multiple sports bras to go on a run and experienced a great amount of discomfort from jumping exercises. Being able to stay seated while doing your cardio should do a lot to help alleviate these issues.
2. You get to be outside, but in a nice way
Part of the appeal of running outdoors is the outdoors. However, most people are not running all that fast and in the summer, this can mean you don’t have a breeze going and can end up suffocating in the heat and sweat. Even without the heat, you won’t get very far unless you plan on taking driving to different routes, running fast, or running far.
With cycling, you’re moving at speeds much faster than running which means you’ll get a nice breeze to keep you cool, will get to see a whole lot more, and travel much farther distances than on foot.
I’ll admit that taking a fall from a bike can be pretty painful, even dangerous, and that if you choose to take your bike on the road, you run the risk of getting hit by cars. However, one benefit that gets neglected is the protection from individual attackers.
Unfortunately, there are plenty of cases where women have been attacked while running or even just walking outdoors. The fact that women need to accommodate for the ill behaviour of predatory men isn’t fair, but unfortunately, often necessary. A woman cycling is much less of a target than one who’s running, and that could mean the difference between being attacked and brutalized or getting left alone to your exercise.
4. Effective exercise
Along with all of these perks and advantages over running and other forms of cardio, cycling is actually very effective exercise. The high calorie burn is good for weight loss and the emphasis on your legs can help grow your legs, glutes, and calves.
Many women nowadays are looking to build up their lower body. If you don’t have access to a gym or weights, cycling is a great way to do that. Even if you do regularly go to the gym to lift weights, having a day of your routine that focuses on cardio and pumper style exercises helps diversify your routine and give you better results.
At the same time, just as many women are worried about bulking up their legs. Like most forms of exercise, things come down to preference and application. Women who are looking to lose weight and slim down should be reflecting those goals in how they choose to cycle; their routine will look very different from a woman who wants to build her legs and glutes.
Although cycling requires a bicycle and potentially other gear if you want to take it more seriously, it is still hugely convenient.
One of the best low-impact cardio activities you can do is swimming. However, to swim, you need access to a pool and all the necessary swimming equipment. However, as long as you have a bike, a helmet, and somewhere to go, you’re all set. In today’s climate, where gyms are not always open, this is especially valuable.
Cycling also doubles as an effective means of transportation. You’d have to be a little crazy to run to work every day or attempt all your errands on foot, but you can go a long way in a short amount of time on a bike and even carry things with you. In some cases, taking a bike down a few blocks or to the other side of town might actually be better than taking a car because you can leave it almost anywhere you want, all while still getting a good leg pump in for the day.
6. General health benefits
Like any regular exercise, cycling on a regular basis will help boost your well-being and maintain good health.
Even the most basic google search will yield dozens of articles about the link between cycling and lower rates of cancer, heart disease, other illnesses as well as improved immune systems, better mental function, lung health, social life, and even sex life! Of course, these things are not directly causative, but the association is there and worthwhile.
Try cycling, conclusion
All in all, women who cycle are likely to see a multitude of benefits for their efforts. It’s convenient, effective, enjoyable, and, most importantly, way better than running. Cardio is important, but you shouldn’t feel like you need to stick to something as traditional as running if you don’t enjoy it.
A while ago, over a call, one of my friends was feeling shitty, he called me to tell me about his nightly routine. The conversation started light-heartedly, but midway through I noticed something odd about his habits and, in all seriousness, told him that what he was doing suspiciously mirrored patterns of behavior in people with OCD. He brushed me off, but I took a few minutes to look up common symptoms of OCD, asked him a few more questions, and became increasingly concerned about the well-being of my friend.
I’m no psychiatrist, but as I continued to ask him about other parts of his life I realized that this guy was in serious need of a therapist. I sat there for a long time trying to convince him that the things he was experiencing were serious and that he should go talk to someone professional, but he sat there and batted away everything I had to say quickly and unforgivingly. After a long conversation with absolutely no progress, I found myself frustrated, and not just at my friend. I couldn’t stop asking myself: why do men have such a hard time talking about their feelings?
This is a sentiment I’ve thought many times but often felt bad for; It felt overgeneralized, unfair, and a tad offensive. However, after doing some more research, I’ve realized that this is not just the nonsensical ramblings of extremist feminists or even that much of an overgeneralization.
As it turns out, there’s actually a good amount of research and agreement amongst the academic community to suggest that many men’s emotional intelligence, emotional literacy, or simply their ability to sort through and manage their emotions is dangerously low and responsible for a lot of problems for themselves and society.
Is this a problem that all men have? Of course not. Does the lack of emotional literacy in women also create problems? Of course it does. However, it’s the male aspect of this issue that does not get enough discussion and should be talked about bluntly.
Depression, suicide, and alcohol: the facts
Before I lose you or make you angry, I’ll bring in a couple facts. According to the National Institute of Mental Health in America, the rate of suicide amongst men is notably higher than that of women. However, the prevalence of diagnosed mental illness amongst men is, strangely, much lower than women. These two statistics considered together could mean two things: there are far more men than we know who are feeling shitty, or have mental illnesses and do not come forward to get diagnosis and treatment and/or there is a very high number of men who don’t have a mental illness but are so emotionally unequipped to deal with their emotions that it becomes enough to destroy them. Either way, there is an issue.
What’s more, is that according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the CDC, men are two to three times more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol than women, men die as a result of alcohol-related accidents almost twice as much as women, and depression and suicide are ranked amongst the top causes of death for men in many first-world countries. The link between alcoholism and depression is widely accepted.
How do men’s problems cause society’s problems?
Obviously, the tendency to avoid emotional problems and let depression manifest is enough to ruin someone’s life and has proven time and time again to lead to the end of one, and this is an issue that individuals and societies both have to deal with. However that tendency is bound to affect people other than the one suffering from it.
Studies from the University of Rochester and many others have found that men, more so than women, will express aggressive behavior as a symptom of their depression, taking form in anything from verbal abuse to physical force. It is also widely accepted that depression and mental illness is strongly linked to violent crime. The National Health Society in the UK estimates that someone suffering from depression is three times more likely to commit violent crime than someone who is not depressed. With this in mind, it’s worth noting that in almost every country/society to date, men make up the large majority of criminals.
In short, many men are suffering from poor mental health and are not able to manage their emotions properly or do not get the help to do so and, as a result, are killing themselves at significantly high rates, often severely harming those around them, and if not one of those two, are finding themselves living unhappily.
Everything considered, it seems like we can attribute some of society’s biggest problems like alcoholism, general crime, domestic violence, and rape — all things that will take a serious toll on someone else — to unresolved emotional issues. At least to an extent.
To make matters worse, when depression does take form in aggression and crime, the justice system usually does more harm than good. The prison environment in many countries focuses on punishment rather than rehabilitation, leaving many men who find themselves in prison as a result of their depression/mental illness induced bouts of aggression and crime depressingly likely to find their mental health deteriorating at rates quicker than ever and end up back in a cell or under six feet of dirt.
Obviously, not all men who are depressed will commit a crime. To make the general claim that a depressed or mentally ill man will inevitably end up as a violent, harmful criminal would simply be inaccurate. However, it’s hard to deny the significance of the association between the two.
Personal thoughts: insecurity
At this point, it’s understood that depression is a big part of the problem. However, depression is a broad term that can be caused by a number of factors. The tendency for men to succumb to heavy substance abuse is indicative of a need to distract themselves from problems rather than solve them, which easily leads to depression. However, it is my personal belief that male insecurity is a plague for men’s mental health everywhere that often goes unnoticed and undiscussed.
Insecurity, body image issues, and appearance insecurity are typically associated with women, and for good reason. Women suffer from eating disorders at a rate much higher than men and there is no doubt that there is and has been a strong societal pressure for women to look a certain way; matters are made worse by how often a woman’s worth is decided according to how she looks. These are still serious, relevant issues, but luckily, there has been good progress in appreciating the beauty, talent, and worth in all kinds of women. For the most part, men have not received the same attention.
Many companies have shifted their branding and advertisements to include plus size women and different beauty standards, but the story is not the same for men who are plus size or who are not traditionally handsome. How many ads have you seen with a man who isn’t square-jawed, tall, and fit?
Hollywood is also guilty of objectifying men almost as much as women. Although actors who do not fit the part of the handsome protagonist can often bank on playing the funny guy or eccentric nerd, the actors who do take those hot lead roles often face difficulties. Actors who film shirtless or intimate scenes are often asked to dehydrate themselves before shoots in order to get the most ripped look possible. This is unarguably unhealthy and sets unrealistic expectations even for men who are fit.
Where there are issues within industries, there are also issues within male groups. Women have done a great job of creating a culture of support amongst themselves. For women, it is a very easy and normal thing to tell a friend that they look good or to put a few nice comments under an instagram post. It is even commonplace for compliments to be thrown around in conversations with complete strangers. For most women, the same network of support extends to emotional problems, whether it be insecurity, depression, relationships, or anything in between. To my understanding, this culture is almost nonexistent within groups of men.
I’ve had guy friends tell me that they hold on to compliments they got years in the past because getting one is so rare, and I’ve seen posts on instagram, Tik Tok, and Twitter expressing the same thoughts that gathered millions of likes, reshares, and comments agreeing. Think about how normalized telling your wife or girlfriend she’s beautiful every day is, or how common hyperbolic compliments like “You’re the most beautiful girl in the world” are. Clearly, there is a disparity.
Insecurity about appearance or self-worth is a problem on it’s own, but what happens with some men is an ugly overcompensation for such insecurities with fragile ego-fueled arrogance, lashing out, and flaunting. It sounds a bit contradictory, but give it a thought.
In the words of psychologist Michael J. Formica, “The bully is the weakest one on the playground.”
Feeling shitty. Why are things like this?
Whether they admit it or not, most men who are feeling shitty also feel a pressure to present themselves as tough, ‘macho,’ and manly, which, for whatever reason, also means not feeling or succumbing to strong emotions. In the words of an article from the American Psychological Association:
“The socialization of masculine ideals starts at a young age and defines ideal masculinity as related to toughness, stoicism, heterosexism, self-sufficient attitudes and lack of emotional sensitivity (Wall & Kristjanson, 2005), and of connectedness.”
This is what you would call a gender role, and it has been perpetuated by media, society, and men and women alike for decades. These traits are not inherently dangerous, but when they are prioritized over mental health, well-being, and emotional stability (as they have been), they most certainly are.
As the previously mentioned article from APA explains, “The possibility of negative effects of harmful masculinity occurs when negative masculine ideals are upheld.”
I could take the time to explain how these mediums convey this message, but frankly, you are probably already aware of it. TV shows, movies, magazine, music, books, and now platforms like Instagram often have these ‘macho men’ at the center of attention. These ideals are so withstanding that they’ve also been passed down through generations of parenting, coaching, teaching, and more.
A recent trend in media that has also helped perpetuate this negative male gender role is making a joke out of male depression. Those my age will know what I’m talking about (think Will Smith), but for those who are not familiar, it is very common to see images of real men experiencing real pain used as a punchline for a joke. In most cases the depression itself is the punchline.
One could argue that there isn’t much harm in something many people find funny or that those jokes could pass as dark humor. However, from my interaction with these jokes I can confidently say they do not fall into the realm of dark humor. They are very popular and common-place. Of course making jokes online in and of itself isn’t a bad thing, but they undoubtedly play into the normalization of the idea that male depression is something to laugh about rather than be taken seriously.
This idea of masculinity is heavily ingrained into society, but the sad reality is that it hasn’t done much good for anyone.
What can we do about it?
Although calling this a men’s issue might imply this is a male problem that men need to fix on their own, that is definitely not the case. As much as individual men need to look within themselves, realize the faulty ideas they’ve been conditioned to follow, come to terms with their emotions, and get help, women and the rest of society/media need to create an environment where that is okay.
That said, I do feel that there has been progress. I am definitely not the first to spread this message and my interactions with mainstream media has shown me that modern platforms like Tik Tok, Twitter, and Youtube are slowly making men and mental health a much more normalized idea. Even large franchises like Avengers have done their part in having many of their strong male leads showcasing healthy emotion. The Joker movie is all about a man suffering from his mental illness and it was one of the highest grossing movies of 2019.
If truth be told, the recognition of poor male mental health is probably more normalized now then ever. On any given day you might see a high-profile celebrity coming forward to speak about their struggles with mental health, popular movies depicting the struggles men face, or a number of songs about the same topics. I could list 100 male-sung songs off the top of my head that are about their pain and struggles. A man’s willingness to be vulnerable has also become a key component for what the modern woman asks for in her partner, but even with all that, men are still struggling.
There is definitely much room for progress for everyone in taking male issues seriously; feeling shitty is not the norm, but It seems to me that men themselves are the last ones to really consider the idea that being strong means dealing with your emotions rather than not feeling any.
Do clicks matter, or are you wasting your time on social media?
If you’re around my age (18) then you’ve probably heard someone older than you criticize our generation’s addiction to social media, obsession over online trends, refusal to put our phones down, and tell us to do something actually productive. Maybe, like me, you’ve had teachers who routinely denounce the notion that people can actually do things worthwhile by liking posts, retweeting, sharing, and re-posting. Maybe you are one of those people who don’t see the point behind our generation’s obsession with our online presence. Are they right, or do clicks matter?
For a while, upon hearing someone say these things I would begrudgingly stay quiet because, on the surface, it sounds like a fair judgment. After all, likes and retweets aren’t physical, they don’t actually correlate to any specific, direct action, and there is a fair criticism of spending hours upon hours each day scrolling through different apps. However, what a lot of those critics don’t have, and something I do, is a grasp of the popular culture of the youth and an understanding of the apps we use to express ourselves. My teachers who make fun of kids who think they can do something by sharing online don’t even have the apps they’re so critical of, and recently, this so-called clicktivism, i.e. that clicks matter, has really begun to prove itself.
Can social media bring about social justice?
The first case where I really noticed how much a difference online communities can make is Ahmed Aubrey’s. By now everyone knows the story. Aubrey was an innocent man out for an afternoon jog and was shot dead by a group of civilians under the false assumption that he was a robbery suspect. The story came to light in late May, but, shockingly, the incident happened in February. The only reason it was given any attention by the media and judicial system was because it went viral on twitter. As of right now, the perpetrators are in prison on felony murder charges, and all because thousands and thousands of people retweeted the original post.
After noticing it the first time, I started seeing the same thing happen again and again. Twitter is unforgiving and hashtags like #justiceforbreannataylor and #blacklivesmatter were trending for days on end and continue to bring necessary attention to a wide range of issues. Already, there have been petitions circulated on Twitter and other apps that got millions of signatures and actually created legal reform.
Looking back, the #metoo movement, that gave thousands of women the safe space to come forward about their sexual assault experiences, was also the direct result of retweets, shares, and likes.
Twitter isn’t the only place where online communities come together. TikTok, the recent social media giant, is the site of many similar occurrences. Most recently, TikTok users quite literally pranked the president of the United States by reserving tickets for his rally in Tulsa with no intention of going. Before the rally, President Trump was boasting of a record-high number of attendees on a number of platforms, with supposedly a million tickets reserved; the rally only sported a crowd of 15,000 people. Whatever your opinions on Trump, there’s no denying how impressive it was that such a large crowd of like-minded people on TikTok were able to insert themselves and their opinions into the political world and make themselves be heard. Like Twitter, TikTok is the frequent site of other political content that has pushed people to sign petitions, spread awareness, and fight for what they believe in.
It has also been increasingly common for individuals sharing their stories of abuse or misfortunes on TikTok to see the good side of clicktivism. Mia Khalifa, the infamous ex-porn star, recently joined the app and shared her story of being manipulated into a less than ideal porn contract at one of the lowest points of her life and making a mere $12,000 profit from the 800+ million views on her videos. The response from the TikTok community was one of support, understanding, and recognition that created awareness about the ethical issues of big porn companies and gave Khalifa a break from the ostracization and ill-directed hate that has been so prevalent in her life.
Each day I scroll through TikTok I see similar stories. I’ve seen thousands of supportive comments on posts about struggles with cancer, issues with significant others, health journeys, insecurities, financial issues, political problems, educational questions, and more. The response to these comments from the original posters is always one of gratitude that shows clicks matter.
Is social media just mindless entertainment?
All that said, I won’t deny that there are still fair criticisms of my generation’s online addiction. The thing with TikTok, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube are that their main purpose is to entertain. Each of those platforms have a never-ending stream of mindless and unimportant posts and videos which are only there to give someone a laugh or to evade boredom, and spending hours of your day enveloped in those things is admittedly problematic. Even among the clicktivism these sites do have, there are meaningless and performative attempts at activism that don’t accomplish anything other than a false sense of involvement and achievement (the posting of black squares on Instagram as one example). It’s also hard to ignore how mean large groups of people online can be and the severity of the hate they can deliver.
Despite all that and the long screen time it creates, I still maintain that there is and can be true value in spending time online, being involved in the current trends, and staying up to date on what’s being circulated. On the surface, scrolling through TikTok or Twitter doesn’t sound like anything important, but while there you might help make someone’s day, say the thing someone really needed to hear, stay informed, be part of a movement, or learn something new and, to me, those sound pretty productive; and that’s why clicks matter.
It’s become a well-accepted concept that practicing gratitude, whether it’s internalized or externalized, can have a number of positive psychological effects. Multiple studies found that people who express gratitude experience overall better well-being and higher levels of positivity whether they started out with mental health issues or not.
A heavily discussed facet of gratitude is exactly what it means to have gratitude in the first place. There are many definitions of gratitude offered by a variety of experts, but they all center around an appreciation of the things you receive, tangible or intangible. As it turns out, there is actually quite a lot of professional literature about gratitude, what it means, the benefits of practicing, and how we can practice it. However, by comparison, the articles that describe exactly what we should be grateful for are nowhere near as professional or studied.
Looking up things to be grateful for will result in a great number of articles and lists ranging in length from 5 to 1000 things, but unlike the other aspects of gratitude, what you won’t find are studies. There’s nothing bad about the articles you’ll find, but compared to the other texts about gratitude, they seem to lack substance. Many of them remind me of the lists that teachers made students write for Thanksgiving. Teachers would ask their students to write a list of things to be grateful for and almost without fail, each student would return a half-hearted response starting with things like life, water, and family before making its way down to the everyday trivialities like desks, pencils, erasers.
No one takes those Thanksgiving lists very seriously, and similarly, those articles don’t get much credit. In a way, this is understandable. Gratitude is usually associated with generous acts of charity, meaningful gestures, or acts of tolerance and mercy; is it really fair to extend the same feeling of deep appreciation to the trivial? Perhaps not to the same extent, but in every other sense, absolutely. Half of those articles and student lists may seem to be made up of silly trivial things, but when you give it a moment of thought, you realize that you can’t call any of those things completely wrong. The little things may be little, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t deserving of gratitude. After all, what’s wrong with appreciating a cup of coffee or a humble pencil?
It’s the Little Things
Part of the reason we should be grateful for the little things that make our lives just that little bit better is that it’s exactly those little things that truly make a big difference. On the flip-side, there is actually professional research that shows how small, every-day annoyances will affect us.
Research done by Daniel Gilbert describes the Region-b Paradox. Essentially, when people have truly distressing experiences such as the death of a loved one, betrayal, or something else of the sort, their rationalization skills kick in and effort is put into recovering from it. However, when someone experiences only slightly distressing experiences, like not getting the right cup of coffee in the morning, your mind doesn’t feel the need to kickstart those rationalization skills and you get angry.
Although not as broad, there is also research to support the positive side of the little things. Studies and data analysis carried out by relationship experts writing for Psychology Today discuss how husbands who kiss their wives goodbye each morning are likely to earn more money, have better health, have better marriages, and overall, are much happier. The relationship is not causative, but the fact remains that something as small as a kiss can make a significant difference for the better. The same concept can be applied to many other small actions. It’s not uncommon for something small and nice to make someone’s entire day.
“It’s a funny thing about life, once you begin to take note of the things you are grateful for, you begin to lose sight of the things that you lack.” ― Germany Kent
Thanks a Thousand
The idea that the little things in our lives oftentimes aren’t so little is the subject of an entire book by. A.J. Jacobs. Thanks A Thousand tells the story of Jacobs’ mission to thank everyone who was involved in making a small, but important part of his life: his morning cup of coffee. His quest took him months to complete and had him flying across the entire globe to thank delivery drivers, factory workers, bean farmers, and everyone in between. His story is an inspiring one and becomes another great example of how beneficial showing gratitude can be, but what we also have to take away is that the intricate and detailed process it took to make Jacobs’ cup of coffee is the same one used to make yours and similar for every other little luxury of modern-day life.
Altogether, there’s a strong case for why we need to show gratitude for the little things in life as well as the big ones. But for some, that might not be a satisfactory answer to the question what can we show gratitude for? We’ve established that almost everything that doesn’t directly make your life worse (small or large) is worth giving gratitude to and also that showing gratitude in one form another brings tangible benefits.
Everything considered, the best answer I can suggest is to show gratitude for as much as you can, even, being alive or for the things that make you feel alive.
How Can We Be Grateful?
Now understanding that things deserving of gratitude are almost ubiquitous, how can we actually show or practice gratitude?
Once again, there is actually a good deal of expert opinion on this. Many studies conducted to find the benefits of showing gratitude relied on showing gratitude through writing. Writing a simple list of what you’re grateful for or even a letter going into detail or directed at someone has shown to be an effective method of showcasing gratitude. According to research, these thank-you notes don’t even need to be delivered for the benefits to work.
Even if telling someone about your feelings of gratitude is not necessary for you to feel better, it’s better perhaps to share those feelings whenever you can. This could be as simple as giving someone a nice thank-you note, a heartfelt smile, or even a quick and simple ‘thank-you’ as you pass them by.
These two forms of gratitude, writing and directly communicating, can be incredibly meaningful, but are also largely common sense. If we want a full answer to the question How can we be grateful? I want to extend the answer to include doing something as simple as noticing all those delightful little things to be grateful for. It’s not much, but it just might be enough.