Cycling and running offers good mix

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By Paul Oppenheim

Running Columnist

How many bikes do you need? I'm told the correct answer is, "One more than you have now." And I recently took delivery of a flashy, custom-made Gunnar bike from my "close personal friends" at Barnard's Schwinn in Oak Park. In truth, I've been a more regular customer there than I might otherwise have been, as a result of two stolen bikes in Downtown Chicago. But owners Jeff and Greg Hajduk are good guys, and I prefer to patronize a local business.

About ten years ago when my bad knee began to flare up, I realized I could no longer maintain the same running mileage, so I asked a fellow member of the Oak Park Runners Club about his bike commuting each day to the University of Illinois-Chicago campus. Soon I bought a new bike and joined him, commuting to my West Loop job on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, with running relegated to Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

One of my neighbors, a retiree and an avid cyclist, heard that I was biking to work asked if he and a couple more old guys could ride along, so the small group began to expand. We had two groups, the workers and the retirees. And now we are all retired, but the same Monday-Wednesday-Friday routine remains. Instead of downtown, our destinations now vary, and we meet at 7:00am instead of the former 6:30.

A couple of my fellow riders have very nifty bikes, and I got a bit curious about what would perhaps be the next step up the bike ladder. The Barnard's guys are fans of steel bike frames, and I had a perfectly-fine, steel-frame Jamis, so I certainly didn't need a bike -- it was more out of curiosity. Of course, after pondering it for awhile, I eventually decided to splurge. And, hey, I have to start drawing down those IRA retirement funds.

And a funny thing happened on the day I picked up the new bike. I bumped into Jose Sosa, the long-time boys cross-country coach at Oak Park and River Forest High School, who was having his bike repaired at Barnard's. He, too, has a gimpy knee and is now only running about three days a week. So like me, the bicycle is a primary means of exercise and an alternate to running. It was interesting to compare notes.

For those who are reading this and thinking, "See, running ruins your knees!" my answer is still a firm NO! My knee problem is very likely the long-term result of knee surgery when I was a kid (I remember the surgeon saying I might have arthritis in "later life"), and I've seen articles describing a number of well-documented studies showing that running is beneficial for knees. I've been running for over 35 years, and I'm still doing it.

Currently, the combination of cycling and running has been a good mix, but now I'm worried about getting my new bike dirty. Maybe I'll just save it for special occasions on days when it's about 65 degrees and sunny.


Paul Oppenheim is a member of the Oak Park Runners Club.

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Jim Ihrig from RF  

Posted: September 10th, 2014 12:51 PM

Paul, as usual, understates his primacy in the MWF Cycling Group; as a leader of our group he always has researched our trips in concert with other riders as well as good eats places along the way. He is a vital spoke in our wheel. JI


Posted: September 9th, 2014 8:59 PM

Yep, a month after probably messing up my ACL (no I didn't see a doctor) I switched to a bike and for the last year I've put in a combined 100+ miles a week between commuting and "exercycling". The knee feels a lot better. While I am all for buying American I don't have much in the IRA to afford either a Gunnar or Jannis. But, I did pick up a single speed steel-frame WalMart POS that does everything those do, so anyone reading this should know you can afford a bike to keep in shape.

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