Screen and Media Program Coordinator, Darren Steffen has been reaping the benefits of cycling to and from work every day. His story has been captured in an article in this week’s Diamond Valley Leader as things are gearing up for a summer of cycling with Bicycle Network Victoria’s Ride 2 Work on Wednesday, 12 October.
Darren will also be presenting, Simple Subtle Sustained – an immersive interactive sound installation at Yarra Edge Theatre at NMIT’s Fairfield campus this Saturday, 8 October – click links for details – this event is open to everyone!
In between all of this healthy activity, we took a moment to find out more about Darren Steffen.
1) When deciding which form of exercise to start with to improve your health, why did you choose cycling?
For me cycling offers fantastic financial, health and environmental bonuses. Once you pay for a bike and a bit of gear, it’s essentially FREE – occasional maintenance is required, but there’s virtually no ongoing costs like gym or club membership. It’s the cheapest way I can get to work. I save more than $50 a week on public transport costs. I save hundreds of dollars a week compared to driving to work.
Being fitter also means I eat less which saves heaps of money. I no longer buy lunch, but take in frozen left overs from home, now that i don’t polish of every morsel at dinner! So that’s at least another $50-$80 a week. It’s also saved heaps of time. Replacing cycling with other forms of commuting means I don’t have to put other time aside to exercise, which is more time with family or for study or other pursuits.
Health wise I find cycling a great high-aerobic low-impact sport. I’m a big guy – I don’t like running! Through riding to work I’ve lost heaps of lose weight which is crucial now that I’m a diagnosed Type II diabetic. When the doctor handed my the diabetes management plan, at the top of every heading was Diet and Exercise. By eating well and losing weight I have been able to avoid using medication to manage my diabetes. I’m entirely drug free, and hope to stay that way for many years.
Cycling reduces stress. Apparently the process of cycling stimulates the production of cortisol, a hormone that helps reduce stress.
Through cycling I have increased levels of energy. So I’m happier and healthier, which not only makes me feel better about myself, but makes me a better father and husband. My family have noticed it, and this pleases me no end. I’m more active and able to engage more energetically with the kids.
Cycling has significant environmental advantages. We are a committed single car family and have been for 10 years. I don’t have any stats on how much fossil fuel and carbon pollution I’ve saved, but it must me massive. In the last 12 months alone I’ve cycled around 6000kms without using a drop of petrol and without producing any pollution. That feels great!
So many reasons ….. Cycling takes you to places few people see (I often see wallabies, kangaroos, masses of different bird life almost every day), it’s something you can do alone without rely on others (not into team sports), you can go at your own pace (I’m certainly not the fastest thing on the road), and you can cover significant distances in good time (I average 23kms/hr).
Because I enjoy the many benefits of cycling, it’s easy to do on a regular basis. It’s not an effort, I actually love doing it, and if I can do it, ANYONE can!
2) You ride 18kms each way to work and back – how long does that take you?
Approx. 50 minutes each way, depending on wind direction.
3) Other than looking out for cars and traffic signals, what else do you get done in that time?
You really do need full attention what’s happening around you. Half of my trip is on bike paths along rivers which is lovely, but instead of cars it’s dogs, their owners, other people on foot, low hanging branches, and other cyclists. Unlike public transport where you can read or write, cycling requires both feet and hands. To be honest, I actually like singing while I cycle – fortunately not too many people are listening!
4) What advice do you have for students riding to the NMIT Collingwood Campus?
Make sure you have a good solid lock. It’s too dodgy around Collingwood to risk a cheap lock that is easily cut and you’re bike will be in Cashies on Smith St. before you know it.
Take extra care riding down Wellington Street. During peak hour traffic along there is often stationary, and cars, pedestrians and other cyclists coming out of side streets often fail to check the bike lane. They see stationary cars and don’t look for moving bikes before cutting across.
5) As part of your health plan, what would you have for lunch on an average day?
I’ve done away with buying lunch, even though Smith St offers a huge variety of affordable excellent cuisine. I was particularly partial to a large plate of creamy pasta from Pasta Classica. No more. I normally pack frozen left-overs. I’ve reduced my carbohydrate intake in order to manage diabetes, so it’s mostly veggies, some protein and wholemeal carbs like wholegrain pasta or brown rice. It might be a sandwich.
I’d also include a muesli bar, and two or three pieces of organic fruit – i like apples, pears, bananas and kiwi fruit. Water to drink, occasionally diet soda. Fair trade coffee throughout the day. So nothing particularly special, just smaller serves to help lose weight and manage my diabetes.
Photo by Takver / Flickr – Creative Commons CC-by-SA 2.0