Pictured Above: John von Heyking (left) and Sebastian von Heyking (right)
Our March Wellness Champion is mountain biking enthusiast, John von Heyking from the Political Science Department. John enjoys mountain biking, along with hiking and skiing. John explained that in the summer months, he would typically take a 2-hour ride and relish in the motion and physical exertion. He feels that this allows him to be more productive, once he is back at work, as he has burnt off excess energy, anxiety, and stress.
John says he has been participating in mountain biking since he was in his twenties when he started biking in Calgary in the Nose Hill area. He continued biking through his graduate studies in Indiana, and then once he moved to Lethbridge, he discovered the coulees. He currently finds the coulees an excellent and accessible place to mountain bike. He explains that he can follow the trails easily for 2 hours or so. He likes the closeness of the coulees and the wilderness they provide, right within the city. There are enough hills and trails to make the ride challenging for him.
John says he is attracted by the fun factor of mountain biking – he enjoys the motion, the fresh air, the wind and the rhythm of biking. He also likes the fact that it is a great cardiovascular challenge. There is one trail starting from the College going down to the river which, he described as a ‘flowy’ trail (mountain bike speak), which allows him to get into a smooth rhythm and a meditative frame of mind. He also enjoys the beautiful scenery.
John says he belongs to a local mountain biking club called the Headwinds Biking Club and would join a lot of rides that way. John mentioned that his son, Sebastian, and himself ride together a lot in the coulees. Sebastian even competed and earned a medal in the mountain bike race, Coulee Cruiser, Headwinds organized last May. John also started a Facebook group called Coulee Mountain Bikers and this is a great way to find out if someone is going on a bike ride that one can join.
John admits that the equipment can be expensive and explained that he has a carbon framed bike, which is lighter and shock absorbent. Although the initial cost of a bike can be pricey, John did share that his last bike was purchased in 2009 and explained that purchasing a bike is an investment that will last a number of years. Bike maintenance and repair is a factor, and of course, a helmet is mandatory and bike shoes (with clips into the pedals) can be helpful as well. John explained that when they ride in a group, they look out for one another and make sure everyone’s wearing a proper helmet because the risk just isn’t worth it.
John described that many of the local bike shops have been very helpful over the years regarding purchasing appropriate equipment. John advises new mountain bikers to find people who know the trails, join a mountain biking group such as the ones mentioned above and start easy. Go out on gravel roads and just explore!
John shared that maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle is important to him and his family. He explained that this year, his family decided to ‘embrace winter’ and bought skis, as well as passes for the ski hill, and made sure their kids had lessons. As a result, his family has been out skiing numerous weekends this winter already. This has definitely been the year for it!
John feels that there is a definite cost benefit to participating in activities such as skiing and mountain biking. He is able to maintain strength and cardiovascular fitness, and the overall health benefits are worth the cost.
Please help us to congratulate John on his exemplary lifestyle and willingness to help others find their passion of mountain biking as well!