© 2013 jen

Fit-tastic Update: Just Like Learning to Ride a Bike & Other New Skills

You know that expression,  just like learning to ride a bike?  We all know it as a reference to learning a skill and retaining the knowledge.

I’ve always thought of it as a funny expression because it makes riding a bike sound like such an easy, simple thing to do.  I remember learning to ride a bike and although I have retained the knowledge, it wasn’t easy.

Just like learning to ride a bike

When I learned to ride a bike I was 5 years old.  I remember I’d received a new bike – a little red one that had training wheels, but we couldn’t get the training wheels on right and the whole thing leaned sideways and I couldn’t balance on it, so we removed the training wheels.  Actually, I removed the training wheels with my little 5 year old hands.

My mom, even when she was around, really wasn’t very physically capable.  She had weak hands and arms and would get confused easily by anything that required mechanical knowledge.  A few years later, she would be working on her PhD.  She was just this big brain – very smart academically – with almost no knowledge of the physical world.  For my mom, even the question of which way to turn a screwdriver was really too much for her.  I, on the other hand, was the opposite type of thinker, so if you gave me a butter knife I could fix most things even when I was 5.

I remember removing my training wheels, and I remember my mom being very impressed by my tool skills.  Then she said, “I’ll hold the back of the bike and run along with you.”  I was nervous about this.  The chances of my mom falling over or bumping the bike and sending me flying were high.  I knew this at 5.  I told her I wanted to do it by myself.

She said, “But you might fall!”  I told her I’d be OK.

I got on my bike and pushed the pedal then wobbled and fell down.

I did it again and fell down again.

Then after a few more failed attempts I could push the pedals a few more times before I fell and on and on like this.

My mom recalls this story as one of sheer willpower and determination.  She said she knew in that moment that I was a seriously strong, willful person – nothing like her.  She didn’t learn to ride a bike until she was close to adulthood, and the reason for the delay was that it scared her to ride a bike.  She said watching me on a bike was even scarier.

My mom recalls that I started crying after the first time I fell and that I had a cut on my knee, which was bleeding.  She said I was like a determined little wild animal, crying, bleeding, with lots of snot, but not giving up.

She said it was so intense watching me learn to ride my bike that she had to go inside.  It was just too stressful for her.  She said she knew I’d figure it out and she had no doubt that I’d be great at it, but that watching me get hurt over and over again, and then get back on the bike only to fall again, was more than she could take.

She went inside to wash some dishes and when she happened to look up, I was tearing up and down the street on my bike, waving and showing off (look Mom, no hands!).


This is me with my second bike.  I was maybe 6 or 7 here.  Banana seat bike with spider handlebars.

Learning to ride a bike was seriously hard workI remember, but I do have that muscle memory now.  Even if I don’t ride a bike again until I’m 60, I’ll still know how.

Gardening – just like learning to ride a bike

I’m building new habits/muscle memory in other ways these days: through exercise, gardening, new foods, and recipes.

Yep, you heard me right, I’m gardening.

Hell hath frozen over and the fat lady has sung.

I have never wanted a garden until this last year.  I don’t desire digging in the yard.  I don’t love plants, generally.  I don’t love watering a garden.  There’s nothing about a garden I love except fresh food.  I’m determined to eat fresh, healthy food and if it takes some tears, blood, snot and gardening to get there, then so be it.  I won’t be discouraged.

After a lot of thinking on this I decided that I’d put the effort in the front end of the garden: tilling, planting, etc., and then set up a watering system.  I bought one of those timer systems to make this whole thing foolproof.

Stretch yourself & change your world

Because I’m dabbling in new territory and expanding my interests, I have more to share with my son who has been really getting into gardening with me.  In turn, he is beginning to share his interests and passions with me.


My son has a huge passion for tap dance.  He has been taking tap for some time at his school and he absolutely LOVES it.  He dances around the house all the time.  Yesterday I signed us up for a tap class at our nearby community center and then we went shopping for tap shoes.  He’s just been using tap shoes from his school; he hasn’t been able to fully “tap” at home until yesterday.

All I can say is, “WOW!”  He’s such a natural tapper and I never would have guessed it.  This is a kid who has never liked any sport and hasn’t stuck with any music lessons we’ve ever signed him up for, but tap?  He loves it.  So, now it’s my turn to follow his lead.

I’m learning something new, again.  And it’s just like learning to ride . . . well you know.


Oliver drawing up the plans for our garden with my help.

Exercise – just like learning to ride a bike


Rocking the shirtless look for the sake of showing all the body changes.  I think I’m still losing inches and I must say human skin is amazing!  I’ve lost 10″ in my waist and that magical stuff just shrunk to meet my new body type.  Totally magical.
If you want to see what I used to look like in a jog bra go here.

I’ve already made exercise changes in my life.  I wouldn’t have believed that it was possible for me to love exercise as much as I do.  I don’t have to convince myself to exercise most of the time.  It’s something I want to do.  Even on a weekend, even when I’m feeling lazy, I still want to get outside and move around, even if it’s just a short walk.

I don’t necessarily exercise everyday, but I do most days – probably 5-6 days a week and not because I think I have to, but because I want to.  I feel so much better once I’ve moved my body.  Exercise is fully cemented into my muscle memory, so much so that if I go more than one day without exercise my muscles ache and yearn for it.

Just like learning to ride a bike.




This week I’ve been working out like crazy, some days taking two exercise classes.  I weigh 190 lbs and I seem to be holding strong there.  Speaking of strong, I feel stronger than I ever have in my life.  At 42.  Life is so good.


So what is all of this bike riding comparison all about?  What am I driving (or biking) at here?  My point is that you’re never too old or too young to try something new.

Don’t let a little discouragement get in your way of the things you want to do, because whatever the obstacle is, it’s temporary.

The more you move in the direction that you’d like to be living – even if you’re not an expert, even if you’re not that good at it, even if you fall down and bleed and cry, with lots of snot – the more you can live your most authentic life.

Getting back on the proverbial bike also helps with skill building and general confidence.

So how about you?  What do you want to learn to do?  What new skills are you trying to master?  Are you sticking with it or do you find yourself too discouraged?  Who can you share your talents and skills with?  Share your story.





  1. Nicole
    Posted March 31, 2013 at 12:23 am | #

    Jen- this has been incredible and inspiring to follow you on this journey. Thank you so much for sharing all this! XOXO!

    • Posted April 3, 2013 at 1:57 pm | #

      Thank you, Nicole! Thanks for keeping up with my journey. It’s been a trip from the inside and also totally awesome. Glad to hear it’s interesting from the outside too! xoxo