It’s all about ONE word…………… BELIEVE
This is a blog about my journey to ride a 2 wheel bike again despite having the chronic debilitating neurological disease Multiple Sclerosis.
This blog is dedicated to those who for whatever reason have lost hope of ever being able to ride a bicycle.
Virginia “Gin” Oman, MA, LCMHC, NCPT
Therapist | Counselor | Life Coach
Gin is a Personal Fitness Trainer, Wellness Coach, instructor for the YMCA, Licensed Mental Health Therapist and Life Coach. Chosen by the MS Association of America as their Ambassador, her passion is sharing her knowledge and proven principles with others to help them transform their lives into a brighter and healthier state of mind-body-emotions-spirit.
It began with a dream. I decided one day that I was sick and tired of relying on a walker for the past decade of my life due to balance and leg lifting issues which M.S. brought to me. Such a lovely gift. So I began to work on walking with hiking poles which brought my whole body upright for the first time in 12 years. I had to work on this in baby steps as my back was totally frozen hunched over from the walker and I had lost any residual sense of balance from relying on the walker. I first worked on my back and getting that to lift my torso up for more than 20 sec without tiring. Worked on that every day for weeks. Then…started…slowly..taking steps with the poles. Wasn’t a pretty sight but I kept at it every day. I eventually got to where I could walk with poles up and down my steep driveway. (Then would come home and collapse in exhaustion.) Kept at it. Slowly….got a bit stronger..and stronger. Many days my progress would stop or go backwards…but refusing to give up is key.
After finally feeling successful (and very surprised) that I actually accomplished that, I asked myself…”well..if I can do that, what else do I want to be able to do?!” It was springtime in the mountains of North Carolina and absolutely everything outside was blooming colors. I had been a long distance runner before M.S. stepped into my reality……but for that goal I felt that the foot speed turnover time might be too much of a leap in faith for now. SO…then the thought came to me immediately..”I want to be able to ride a 2 wheel bike again!” As soon as I said it to myself I was thrilled inside but my head went to….but what about your balance problem? You know you need great balance to ride a bike! I guess I ignored that voice because the feeling that came with the idea of riding again…was just TOO lovely. And I wanted THAT reality. Balance be damned.
SOooooo I brainstormed. I thought about all the physical movements necessary for biking and started to invent specific exercises that might help my body to mimic those movements.
Ah-Oh….Houston…we have a problem…..I forgot to mention….I don’t own a bike and don’t have the money to buy one. Again….my head flew right past that fact and put it to the side. Kept brainstorming.
I decided that if I could possibly enlist the help of a good bike store to take an interest in this endeavor and loan me a bike to learn on…..I’d offer them any and all publicity I could muster up for their store…using my “bike quest” story. Fair trade.
Then I researched which bike store I wanted to approach. Like Goldilocks, I tried one…no didn’t like…then number 2…..it was just “okay” and then the third one? Ah….Loved their energy and atmosphere of the shop. Yep. This is the one. Motion Makers bike store in Asheville. And they were a dealer of Specialized bikes….the best. I went in to pitch this idea to their boss,.. but he was busy. So a very nice employee asked if it might be something he could help with. I decided I might as well take a risk and I pitched the idea to him. He LOVED it and seemed totally enthralled with the idea. He even said he could help me to see if I could learn to ride a bike. He was a Dad and knew how to teach his young daughters how to ride. Perfect. WONDERFUL angel sent in my path. Thank you up above.
I’m going to fast forward now…..to start with the process.The store was nice enough to loan me a wonderful brand new Specialized kids size bike. Due to balance issues I needed to be on a very small bike so my feet would be flat on the floor while I’m in the saddle. Less chance of falling over. Discovery number one….didn’t have the leg strength to lift my feet to the pedals. Bummer. So Rich, this wonderful man, said…”we’ll take the pedals off.”….and just see if I could even walk the bike seated in the saddle. That was very hard. Spent 3 weeks of doing that everyday. Then I tried to lift my legs up one inch, hold and glide for 2 seconds to find out IF I had any balance left in my body after 29 years with M.S. Turns out 2 seconds was the total amount of time I could hold my legs 1 inch off the ground. So I started THERE. That was …ground zero.
The process continued. I’d get up everyday at 4 am so I could fit in my 2 hours of specific bike exercises, and then work with the bike before I had to leave for work. Then did the same when I got home. I will be very happy to share and list the step after step after step process that I worked on. (Feel free to contact me). It required 64 specific steps which took a total of 11 months to complete. A long journey but worth every effort I made since now I am riding a 2 wheel bike (with pedals, yes!). After mastering the Specialized kids size bike, I needed to move up in size to an adult size bike so the process started again. But here I am 11 months later with colorful spring approaching in these wonderful mountains and I get to live my dream of riding a bike. Truly a precious gift and one that I am mindfully grateful for every single day.
I found a perfect token of this journey and have worn it around my neck to always remind me of the key to making this dream a reality. (Note…circle is hanging from piece of bicycle chain!)
The power of believing is like no other. I’ve learned that it is not about “wishing” or “hoping”. It is KNOWING that this will happen. Even taking it a step further and say it is knowing that this IS happening now. Wishing and hoping have no power in back of them. And they both imply the concept of waiting for something to happen. But knowing…implies it is happening, it is real now, I’ve always felt and lived these principles even as a kid but…hadn’t described them or put words to it. When I started reading books on “new thought” (which is really ancient wisdom, nothing “new” about it) and seeing the words that FIT so perfectly, it helped me tremendously to back up what I had been feeling inside.
When I first started on this quest, people thought I was absolutely NUTS. How can a person with a progressive neurological disease who can’t lift her leg to even walk and a person who uses a walker because she has very limited balance……ride a 2 wheel bicycle?. Impossible. I decided to tell just a few close friends. Most were hesitant to encourage me as they were lovingly concerned for my safety and not wanting me to be disappointed. One said to me…..”are you SURE you want to try this???? ” and when I kept sticking to my goal, finally said “well I know you’ll be careful”. I remember that statement so vividly because when they said it to me… inside my head responded ” Babe, if any of me was focused on being safe, I wouldn’t even attempt this project”.
When you think about the odds, and the hard facts of what secondary progressive M.S. does….the idea of a person trying to ride a 2 wheel bike is very very dangerous (and a tad ridiculous). The entire first 6 months of this project had many many moments of being terrified. Like the first time I lifted both legs off the ground as the bike was moving. Like the first time I lifted my legs high to the pedals and was totally out of contact with the ground. Purely relying on balance to stay upright. Rich smartly suggested I wear hip pads to attempt this in case I fell. I have osteoporosis from all the prior steroid infusions I had early on to combat debilitating M.S. symptoms. So falling for me?… not a good scenario at all.
I am sharing links to SHORT videos of this journey as seeing this in action will greatly enhance and complete the picture for you. The newspaper where I live did a feature article on me and my bike quest… which you can read and also see their brief video of me doing all this. It will take you to an article about me and show their video. Viewing that will make this blog much more real to you and illustrate what I’ve mentioned so far. The link shows me with my walker in the beginning stages of this bike quest when I could not lift feet up off the ground and could only ride a tiny bike without pedals.
I want to end this section by saying this: All you need is a dream of something you really really want. Something that will bring total joy to your life forever. For me..the root of it was FREEDOM. That’s what cycling makes me feel. Free and joyfilled. Then….DON’T ask anyone what they think, or their opinion of what your dream is. That is inconsequential and might only make you doubt your inclination and desire. Instead, brainstorm and keep brainstorming. Think of every possible thing you can DO to start your dream journey. Think OUTSIDE the box..no matter how crazy or far afield it seems. List everything. Then immediately start taking steps every single day. No huge step is required. Just consistent progressive little steps Along the way, visualize your dream. Feel it. See it. Make a dream board or vision board. Immerse yourself in positive insightful readings and quotes. I’ll be sharing some of my favorites in a bit.
The main thing is to always “keep your eyes (and heart) on the prize” and never ever ever give up. Surround yourself with positive people. Find a community of positive thinkers and doers. I found much of that for myself with the Center for Spiritual Living here in Asheville. Sign up for Mike Dooley’s Notes from The Universe. Free wonderful quotes of inspiration. There are lots of free resources of inspiration that are easily found on line. But mostly…….. take a small simple action every day, and BELIEVE.
(ABOVE link is a quick video of me finally riding FULL size bike)
The photo below is just a pic of me with my borrowed bike in the wonderful bike carrier low enough so I can lift the heavy bike to the carrier. Carrier made by OneUp USA.
It came full circle…thanks to the power of BELIEF!
The Specialized Bike Company heard about my bike quest and generously made a brand new carbon fiber bike available for me for practically nothing. Then a very kind and supportive person in Asheville purchased the remainder for me with his thanks to me for inspiring others. What an amazing journey this has been.
I have a framed photo of this incredible bike up on my wall and look at it every day. I continue my daily fitness routine every day, now working on walking unassisted! Since the bike quest was so successful, I KNOW I can continue to accomplish anything and will assist others to realize their dreams.
I’m going to end by sharing a favorite quote by one of my all time most admired masters; the amazing Bruce Lee.
“There are no limits. The are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.”
Encouraging you all to go for your dreams.!
Thanks for reading my blog and feel free to contact me if you have questions 🙂
If you want to send the address of this site to help someone in need of hope or encouragement, the address is: thefighttorideabike.com