Name: Jessica Baldwin
Hometown: Columbus, Ohio
Occupation: Medical Claims
Time Cycling: About 2 years
Reason for Cycling: It feels so freeing to be on the bike, and it’s excellent cross-training for running.
I was actually afraid to get on a bike as an adult. I was afraid that I was too big, and I thought I would break the bike or fall and hurt myself. When the pandemic hit, my running was feeling pretty strong (at that time I was running about 60 to 70 miles per month). But, my relationship with running was a bit on again off again, and I decided I wanted to try riding.
My best friend had just gotten a bike, and I was envious, so I asked if I could try. He knew how scared I was, but was willing to let me put on his helmet, lower his seat, and stabilize the bike for me to hop on. He held the bike until I told him I was comfortable enough to let it go. It was just like when a kid is first learning how to ride a bike—you have to be right there next to them. He let me borrow his bike a few times until I borrowed a mountain bike from my dad from the 1990s. We went on longer rides and I realized I loved riding.
I quickly gained enough confidence to ride a mile, and it progressed from there. Then I realized how much I loved it, and I started riding longer distances by myself, and then bought a new bike. I am currently using a hybrid bike (Roll A:1 Adventure step-through). I have been looking into getting a road bike, as I would like to do faster and longer rides.
In nice weather, I like to get around in eight miles a day, and 20 miles on the weekend if I can. I do have a bicycle trainer, but I don’t have the wonderful tools to be able to measure the ride distance, so I will get on it for 20 to 30 minutes per ride and try for three to five days a week.
Cycling has given me a big feeling of freedom. I can go so much farther and faster when riding. I found an online community of fat cyclists called XL Biking that is an incredibly supportive community and they give me the confidence to go outside of my neighborhood and ride the trails. It also provides a significant amount of motivation and energy. The community virtually cheers me on and guides me to try more, and crave more cycling abilities.
I tend to jump ‘all in’ when I like something. I started cycling five days a week during my hour lunch break from work. It gets me away from the computer and social media, and out of living in my head during that hour. I find cycling an incredible stress reliever and it helps significantly with my running journey too. I also started adding some evening rides in before my evening runs, and then cycling Saturdays after my long group runs. I’m hooked.
I have not yet had the chance to participate in a cycling race, but it is something that I would love to do. Adding cycling on top of running has significantly boosted both my mental and physical health. I can see both the physical and mental benefits of it.
Throughout my young adulthood, I have also lived with borderline personality disorder (BPD). Thankfully, cycling and running help me get out of my head and manage my BPD. When I am on my bike, I enjoy being alone. I don’t feel empty and it gives me purpose. I am doing something physical that makes me feel proud and empowered. It gives me time to think, but not overthink. When I am riding, I think about the beauty that surrounds me and all the nature that I wouldn’t see if I didn’t start this journey. And one of the best things about bike rides is that I get to do them with my daughters.
Cycling has also shown me to not let my body size make me afraid of what I can do with it. I want people to look at me and see that fat people can and should be active, too. Cycling has boosted my confidence in running, work, and my personal life. It gives me solace and happiness.
These four tips have made my running journey a success:
1. Call out when you are passing another pedestrian/cyclist
It’s important to share the pathway/roadway with other pedestrians. Be courteous and call out when you are going to pass someone to give warning. This way you don’t scare the pants off someone—and trust me, it’s scary when someone speeds by, or even creeps up on you.
2. Be visible
3. Believe in yourself
Stay consistent and you will see the reward. It is okay if you don’t have time or energy to ride long distances. But stay consistent in the short distances and you will see improvement. I suggest making a schedule to be certain you get those rides in.
Don’t be afraid to get on a bike and start riding! You don’t have to have the best bike. You don’t have to compete with others. Just get out there and ride. It has been the most freeing part of my fitness journey. You don’t have to be skinny or fit into a box that others expect. You will show yourself that you are worth it.
4. Find a group
I also strongly suggest joining a supportive local and online community. Again, I cannot express to you how helpful XL Biking has been. Once you start cycling, and getting those endorphins going, it helps with positive thinking, getting good rest, and battling depression and anxiety. I have even gone out for a 15-minute ride just to get myself into a better headspace and it always does the trick.
Jessica’s Must-Have Gear
→ Machines For Freedom Cycling Jerseys: This material is so silky and breathable. It is incredibly comfortable, and I love the hidden pocket.
→ Machines For Freedom Endurance Bib: These bibs are very comfortable. They are easy to get on and off. And best of all, they are made up to a size XXXL.
→Nunn Hydration Tablets: Great flavors to add in the electrolytes.
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