Nurses Commuting by Bike

I got this comment on my Scrubs are My Uniform post and thought it needed a full post to reply:

Hi!

I found your blog when I was searching for nurses who commute to work via bicycle. I am considering giving this a try. I live 2.5 miles from the hospital that I work at, but I am concerned about riding in my scrubs. (I guess this post is somewhat on topic of your blog entry). I don’t think it would be very smart to ride in scrubs seeing as how they are my professional attire and I don’t want to damage them. What would be best to ride in? I don’t want to show up at the hospital in tight spandex… but I need something that will help me sweat less.

Thanks for your help!
Elizabeth

I’ve never felt qualified to give advice on my blog, it’s an aversion to taking a stand maybe.  But on this topic I have more than a little experience.  I’ve been commuting by bike for the last 4 years.  While it hasn’t been full time for the last year, it’s been rather frequent.  A caveat here though:  I do not bike the entire ride to work.  I’m not going to ride 13+ miles then work a 12-hour shift on the floor, just not that fit.  Yet.  I ride anywhere from 1-3 miles (depending on weather, how I feel etc.) to catch a light rail train then a mile or so on the other end.  But I’ve done it in every kind of weather.  Rain, snow, howling winds, >100 degrees <10 degrees, have suffered through it all, and loved it.  Enough of my cred though…

Yes, riding in scrubs is a bad idea.  They are not built for athletic excursions and depending on weather conditions, not very versatile either.  This doesn’t mean you have to go full on spandex kit either.

Full kit and Hardcore.

There is nothing wrong with plain old shorts and a t-shirt.  During the summer months it’s what I ride in.  I do wear bike shorts underneath the regular shorts to alleviate chafing and add a little extra padding which is especially nice when I decide to go for a ride on the way home.  I stay cool enough in that and don’t end up looking like a superhero.  Winter/Fall commuting is a whole other can of worms which deserves a full post as well.

There are complications though.  First, sweat.  Starting the shift sweaty isn’t the best, in fact it really sucks.  In the depth of the Summer when it is 80+ I sweat heavily.  Let’s face it:  I’m a big sweaty guy.  There are wipes out there that some folks use, but I use water and paper towels in the restroom at work.  And I carry deodorant in my bag.  Second issues is hauling your stuff.  I started using a backpack, graduated to a messenger bag, back to a back pack and now use panniers.  Besides a sweat issue where the bag meets the back, the bags did a number on my back that went away when I started using a pannier.  I abused the Banjo Brothers Waterproof Pannier into submission and ended up replacing it with ones from Ortlieb.  There is enough room to carry my scrubs, wallet, keys, cell phone, afore-mentioned deodorant, lunch with room to spare.  I use the restroom to change on arrival, so I have to build in extra time for the commute to allow for this.  With clean scrubs, a quick towel off and a swipe of deodorant you will smell better than 99% of your patients and maybe some of your co-workers.

The benefits of commuting by bike outweigh the complications.  I get exercise.  I get some alone time before and after my shift.  Sure you get that in a car, but you’re dealing with traffic, right?  I have had absolutely heinous shifts where I’m ready to quit nursing and by the end of my ride home, I’m decompressed and OK with the world and my job again.  I highly recommend it.

Here are some other links about bicycle commuting:

Commute by Bike.  Great site, has a Commuting 101 series which is a great read for those starting out.

Bike Commuters.com.  Another site dedicated to those giving up the car commute.

Both of these sites have extensive sets of links for even more information and community building.

Yehuda Moon and the Kickstand Cyclery.  A funny webcomic to keep things light.

Lastly, just go for it.  Try it and see how it goes as that is the only surefire way to know.  Have fun!

The Couch That Nearly Killed Me

Look at it.  So comfortable.  It’s just sitting there beckoning you into its well worn cushions.  “Come, sit with me.  Be a lazy bum.”

Well that’s what I did.  I listened to it.  I plopped my ever-expanding ass right on it.  Remote control or game controller in hand I spent more time here than just about anywhere in the last 7 months.  Sure, I went to work, did household chores and lived life, but always ended up back here.  I knew that it wasn’t the best choice, but it was the easiest.

We get our post-open heart patients up and moving about on post-op day 1 and many times they are dangling at the bedside 18 hours post-surgery.  We get total hips up in the same manner.  Why?  It has been shown that muscles lose mass within 7 days in a hospital setting.  And we all know that the typical sedentary lifestyle of the American public causes obesity, fecal incontinence, diabetes, heart disease, loss of value on one’s house, cancer, impotence, heart attacks and all sorts of other bad things.

Prior to January of this year, I commuted by bike and train everyday.  It wasn’t a lot of riding, but enough to help me feel better and lose some weight.  I had been doing it for almost three years and was feeling better than I had felt in years.  Then I got sick with a nasty winter cold and worse, got a new car.

I felt like crap and I could drive to work.  How was this a bad thing?  And at the worst part of the year.  No riding in pouring cold windy weather.  Getting home and being in bed by when I used to only get home.  This was a good thing.  I dismissed the idea that this might not be best for me physically, that the riding had kept me somewhat fit.  And as the scale rose with each successive doctor visit, I played it off as something else.  It was the steroids, or the anti-depressants, or the buffet I had gone to the night before not realizing the lack of true physical activity as I drove  everyday.

Today I threw a leg over the old steed to take back a movie.  It was a short easy ride, something I would have done before without any stress.  Not today.  Legs and arms were burning, short of breath, side-ache and plain old miserable.  I could hardly walk upstairs to the main floor when I got back.  And it’s not like I was riding balls-out trying to set records.  I was way out of shape.  Call it an eye-opening moment of realization, self-awareness.

Now I know I need to get back on the bike.  Continuing to live like this will turn me into my father (who looks like Santa) and in the long run, kill me.  I can’t let that happen.  I’m not going to let the couch win this time.

Ahhh…Spring

After the long gray winter, it is nice to see the sun once again.  Yes, according to the Weather Widget on my desktop, it is a balmy 72 degrees outside.  Part of me wants to go out for a ride to enjoy the weather, the other says, “Ahh, I don’t have to work until tomorrow, gonna’ enjoy being lazy.”

With spring though, the cyclists start coming out of the woodwork.  They’re greasing up the chains, dusting off the bad habits, shaking the mothballs out of the Lycra and heading out.  I’m all for it, some days.  The other day though, epitomized the kind of cyclist that makes the average Joe Public see red.  Hell, I’m a dedicated cyclist and bike commuter and they pissed me off.

After enjoying a nice brunch at a cafe downtown, the wife and I are walking back to our car.  She turns to say something to me and as she does so there’s a “whoosh” of air as a cyclist zips past her, less than an arms breadth away.  In the classic Portland hipster cyclist fashion, no helmet, rolled jeans, day-glo colored fixed gear, she blows the stop sign at the intersection, weaves through the moving traffic on the wrong side of street and continues on her way.  Had my wife gestured wrong, slightly wobbled out of step she would have ended up a road jam underneath the turning wheels.

What makes me mad though is the blantant disregard she displayed towards everyone one but herself.  I’ve been known to run stop signs (usually with a California stop) and go fast in crowded areas, but usually I’m looking out for those around me.  She wasn’t.  For a second as she skated through the intersection I thought she was going to end up as road kill.  Cyclists have image issues in Portland already, mostly a mild form of “us vs. them”, but many regular folks plain hate cyclists due to actions of a small group of folks.  Small groups of folks who act this way tend to sour the opinion of normal everyday folks, which is really the last thing we (normal cyclists) need.

Oh well, karma’s a bitch…

And for all you folks who stayed inside all winter, the real cyclists rode all winter, not just in the fair weather.

Weather Wimps

For a place with such relatively mild weather, we here in Oregon tend to complain a little too much about the weather. I mean really, it rarely snows, it rarely gets over 100 degrees, no tornadoes, no hurricanes, but let me tell you, when something happens it’s like the Apocalypse.

Last month, we had a snowstorm.  Actually several snowstorms, that left at most 16″ of snow over the course of several days.  Of course leave it to the news to label this phenomenon of the *cue dramatic music* Arctic Blast 2008.  Yes, it was a mess.  Icy roads, bitter cold with a biting wind and the town acted like we were transported to the Arctic Circle.  What made things worse was the hysteria stoked by the news media and the inability of our local governments to effectively manage the roads and related infrastructure.  I lived in Flagstaff for 3 years and had several times where we  got over a foot of snow in less than 12 hours, but the town shut down only once and that was because we got 3 feet of snow in a 24 hour period.  That really is near cause for hysteria.  But the only people in hysterics were the tourists from the Valley of the Sun.

But it’s always the same.  Whether it is “Fall Floods ’07”, or “Heat Wave 2008”, “Arctic Blast” or the soon to come “Floods of 2009” on the news media whips us into a frenzy.  For days on end the local channels had nothing on but news, relating the same stories ad nauseam and bringing the dire reports of more nasty weather to come. All it takes a little change from the normal for them to start the dire warnings.  One anchor in particular is never happy with the weather.  When it rains a lot she complains about the lack of sun, but when it has been sunny for a long time she complains about the lack of rain.  She always has a snarky comment about the weather.

But I love it.  I was out in the weather on my bike nearly everyday of it.  I rode to work all but 2 days of the storm that I did work.  My co-workers looked at me in disbelief when I walked in head-to-toe in my foul weather gear.  But really, it was just another day.  No weather wimp here!

Yes, I’m Crazy

Like I’ve been saying the weather has stunk.  Ice, snow, black ice, wind, the works.  While compared to other spots, not quite so bad all things considered.  However I’ve been out on my bike riding to work.  Yes, I’m a little crazy.

The first night was nice.  Traffic was really mild, it was slick and slushy and I arrived with soaked shoes and a little chilled, but overall good.  The second night had less slush and ice, but it started snowing when I got into downtown.  In the morning was very, very slick, lots of ice with a dusting of snow over the top of old ice.  Not fun.  The best thing though?  I stayed vertical on all the rides.  I can’t afford a broken bone right now, so this was a good thing.

Here’s me dressed to the nines to deal with the weather.

Headshot

And with the trusty steed:

on bike

It’s like ice skating out there.  I may look goofy, but I was warm and dry.