A letter from a trail and bike lane user…
I write today to share my expanded notion of who trail users are. We know we are outdoor exercise enthusiasts. Not everyone is. We know we are motivated variously, some to save money on petrol, some to save petrol ergo lessening our carbon footprint, some to maintain a healthily active lifestyle. Not everyone does. We know that we enjoy riding/walking/running/strolling on the trails because it gets us out among people, to experience a sense of community. This also gives others that feeling of being embroidered into the human community. It is well-studied and well-documented that this is a significant factor in a person’s physical AND emotional health. It is also known that maintaining social cognition through using our social skills is beneficial for overall brain health. Exercise is clearly important for brain health, especially when it involves non-stereotypic movement while moving through a landscape (thus engaging the hippocampus structure in the brain). Not everyone wants this.
Last May my Achilles tendon was severed. Bicycling (stationary) was an early part of the rehab protocol. I needed to stretch the repaired tendon, move the limb that had been immobilized for three weeks, increase circulation to heal the injured area, and rebuild strength, as the calf muscles had atrophied while the limb was immobilized. I trust that I have conveyed something of the importance of bicycling to me at this time. Per my surgeon and physical therapist, bicycling is the best therapy for regaining function, strength, and healthy connective tissues in the lower limb.
When I was first approved to go on a regular bicycle instead of a stationary one, my confidence was diminished, my balance was off, my lower limb lacked both the strength and neural functioning to successfully do what it has always done without thinking. Moreover, I had an amplified nervousness about collision (since the thing that severed my tendon was a collision), so I was overly cautious and not keen on riding in traffic. During this time, I used Billings’ trail system a lot. I felt safe. My confidence returned, I’m riding in traffic again, but still riding trails, too.
My friend who is in a wheelchair wanted to go on the trail. She wheeled a segment of Swords Park, while I jogged behind her (now a part of my rehab protocol). She, both exhausted and exhilarated, was proud of herself (and I of her) for her accomplishment. She stated that that was the most cardio she has done since the spinal cord injury over a decade ago. She enjoyed the terrain, the view, feeling safe, and interfacing with other friendly people (always therapeutic for anyone).
For whatever the reason, we all have the potential to benefit from and use the trails.
Thanks for all your hard work for Billings TrailNet!
All the Best,