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Bike To mActivity, Then Bike Through Italy

Stephanie Held
June 29, 2019
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Our “Bike Friendly Business” award through the League of American Bicyclists is one of our proudest achievements to date. It recognizes our leadership for wellness, sustainability, and our commitment to creating a more welcoming atmosphere for bicycling employees and members. From our outdoor and indoor bike racks, our neighborhood location, and lockers… we’re passionate about making biking for transportation and recreation an easy choice.

Photo Courtesy of Augustine Filomena

And how timely to share a story about three New Haven couples in their late 50s and early 70s, Augustine and Joan, Jim and Ann, and Katie and Bill, who have been cycling together for nearly ten years. They met through a mActivity sponsored organization, the New Haven Bike Club, and spent this past winter training at mActivity to travel 430-miles across Sicily, Italy by bike. 

Photo Courtesy of Augustine Filomena

We spoke to each of them about their lives as cyclists and what it was like to bike Italy, and it deepened our belief that the more people ride bikes, the better life gets for everyone. 

Q: When did the six of you start biking together? 

Bill: “I started riding in my early 50s because I wanted to be outside and I wanted to do something different. Once I got on the bike, I had this great big smile on my face. I have been hooked ever since then. 

Five years ago, I was diagnosed with a rare, aggressive form of cancer, Multiple Myeloma. Cycling with friends has made my life more meaningful and keeps me feeling good, even during treatment. The doctors are just scratching their heads because the cancer hasn’t progressed. I think riding with my friends has helped slow down the disease. 

Having something that I can continue to do makes me feel like I am running my life and the disease isn’t running me. I asked Jim to start riding with me a few years back after my diagnosis, and since then our group has grown to include other friends and life partners. On a ride together, we found mActivity and figured, “if we can bike to mActivity from home, we can bike through Italy.”

Q: How did you train for the biking tour through Italy?

Jim: “We took at least two spin classes a week together at the gym this winter. Lisa’s noon spin class was a good place to work at our own pace on building strength and endurance. We learned to trust ourselves and working out among other people our age gave us the sense that age isn't always a limitation and biking Italy is something we could all train to do together safely.” 

Katie: “I don’t think I could have pulled off riding ~30-miles every day and 10-miles uphill if I hadn’t been training at mActivity. I’ve never been athletic. When I was in grade school, other kids didn’t want me on their sports team, but I like to be active and outside. My whole goal when it comes to biking it to just do my best. Training for the trip helped me realize that I don’t have to be perfectly fit or young go on big adventures.” 

Q: Tell us about your trip!

Augustine: “We successfully rode through twisting and quiet roads among olive trees, wildflowers and wheat fields, along the coasts and over rugged mountains until we reached Mount Etna, approximately a 10,000-foot climb. No one got hurt, everyone got along the whole time, and it seemed like any physical challenges we faced were met with self-compassion. We weren’t in a hurry; we just wanted to take it all in together.”

Ann: “I had the hardest time in the group. I’ve been biking probably the least amount of time and couldn’t make it up all the hills. I told myself that as long as I feel better because I bike, it doesn’t matter how well I perform. I just did the best I could and biked every day.”

Katie: “We saw things we would never be able to see on a bus or a car or even just walking around. I loved climbing the mountains and being up above the clouds. On a bike, you’re moving fast enough to stay engaged and slow enough that you can take in your surroundings. We enjoyed mid-morning coffees, had lunch, and then would head to another café each day that we rode. It was almost like traveling back in time, just living day-to-day, riding along and enjoying one another.”

The #mActivityPeople interview series focuses on the mindful lives and health routines of mActivity’s inspiring community. Submit your own on Instagram—post your mindful mActivity (tag us @mactivitynh!) and include the hashtag #mActivityPeople for a chance to be featured on our blog.

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