Posted by: William | March 18, 2008

Bicycling & the Plague of Vanity

When I was a youngster, I broke my femur. I know, it’s weird. It’s like the biggest bone in the body and it broke. It didn’t really heal right and they had to keep giving me these awful cortisone injections directly into the bone. It was pretty traumatic for a ten year old. In any case, the bone eventually healed (I think anyway), but the cortisone caused the broken leg to grow way faster than the other one and so now that leg is about an inch and a half longer than the other.

After the injury, I wasn’t allowed to play sports because they were afraid I’d break my leg again. So, I didn’t play sports. I did other things like mess with computers and slowly digress into a general physical unfitness. Later in life, when I could have more feasibly played sports, I didn’t really have the daring spirit to do it and certainly hadn’t been honing any skills growing up; which is all the better because the one long leg made it hard to run (it’s really less like running and more like lumbering). To this day I have, for my gender, an odd disinterest in sporting events, whether it be watching them or participating in them.

I’m not an old man or anything, but It’s becoming clear that I’m not growing any younger (the hair-loss process reminds me daily). So what about this physical unfitness? Well, in truth I hide it well underneath my height and general lankiness, but the reality is that I’m simply out of shape; ever been out of breath from running up the steps? Yeah. However, a problem faces me: it seems that I find a rock on one side of me and a hard place on the other.

We hear a lot of talk in our culture about the popular image and it’s affects on kids. Little girls see the women on magazine covers and they become bulimic. Little boys learn, almost through osmosis, that their manhood is affirmed in their losing their virginity (or in taking someone else’s). Growing up I found myself in a kind of unique place. Socially, I wasn’t inept. Physically, I looked pretty much like everyone else. But medically, I was just slightly set aside. What seems to have been ingrained in my brain is the idea that my value is found in being a “man” and according to pop-culture that would  seem to involve athletics or generally good physique (or power, I suppose, but I was just a kid here so we’ll ignore that one). So as a kid and an unbeliever, I learned to be vain, probably because it seemed to be a means to personal worth.

Today, at any ordinary time, the thought is no longer an issue. My hope has been placed in Christ and in Him and only in Him is my value found. However, still deeply ingrained in the thinking of my flesh is a close link between physical fitness and vanity; I see it, and loath it.

Now, I’m recognizing that starting soon, my health will deteriorate quickly if I do not begin to become physically fit, however, to intentionally pursue it leads me into a death trap of vanity and eventually sin carried out. I cannot get a gym membership and go there three days a week; I’m practically pulling the switch on my own electric chair. As far as athletics are concerned, I’m so bad at them by now that forcing myself to do it wouldn’t really be too much better than the local fitness club. On one hand, there’s something I need to do for the sake of my health and on the other hand there is imminent sin waiting in the way. It’s almost a Catch-22.

I haven’t found a solution to this problem yet. I’m praying, waiting and attempting to walk in a direction—slowly. What I’ve begun doing is replacing my short car rides with a bicycle ride. It’s been about a week now and my stamina is way up and what’s more is that the connection between fitness and necessity isn’t particularly obvious. God willing, in this I will find a solution to a problem that seems irreconcilable in my mind.

On another note, it would be thrilling if any of you, the readers, wanted to join me for some casual cycling; could be pretty fun. We could stop somewhere along the way for some good old mid-cycling bible study. Also, if you don’t ever ride a bike, but have some old gear (i.e., helmets, backpacks, bikes) I would love to take the stuff off your hands.



  1. I’m a little confused with where the “sin” comes into play here. Is it that working out will lead you down a path of activity idolotry…the drive to work out will consume you? Or do you fear that you will start working out, catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror and think, “wow, [I’m] ridiculously goodlooking” and ultimately become preoccupied with yourself and not God (self idolotry)?

    It’s a little bit of a drive for you, but there are some great trails on Kent Island. Very casual. There’s one that will take you on paved paths, through the woods, and then out along the bay/beach. It’s prettu nice…especially if you like outdoorsy-nature stuff as opposed to just riding along the road.

    Also, I hear there are trails near Annapolis High School, but I think they may be more aggressive runs.

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