Swim, Bike, Run (Even with Asthma)

By Scott Fraser

I am not a triathlete; those people are animals! But each year I “compete” in one or two Olympic distance triathlons. A friend recently asked me the same question I continually ask myself during the race, “Why do you want to do this?” Good question.

Well, for me, it’s a fitness goal to work towards and a great way to enjoy the outdoors while training. Quite often it’s tough to fit into a busy schedule, but just 30 minutes of exercise each day can really help. I like to swim in the mornings, fair weather commute to work on my bike and run through Rock Creek Park, a wonderful resource close to where I live. I’ve been signing up for triathlons for several years now and just completed my 10th overall (first for 2012) on Siesta Key, Florida – voted the #1 Beach in America in 2011. But while training this year, I learned something new: I have asthma.

How uncanny that I should learn about this condition in May, which is Asthma Awareness Month. My new, super-awesome doctor explained to me that I have exercise induced asthma. “Uh, you mean coughing after working out isn’t normal?” Whoa, I’ve experienced that my whole life! She further explained it’s one of several types of asthma and prescribed an albuterol inhaler to use before exercise. It’s important to know that you can still remain active despite having asthma. By talking to my doctor I was able to create an asthma action plan that has helped reduce the all too familiar coughing after strenuous workouts. And it’s good to know that professional athletes like NFL legend (and former Notre Dame dormmate – go Dawgs!) Jerome Bettis are able to manage their asthma symptoms while competing at the highest level of physical activity. We are not alone, as almost 13 million Americans reported having an asthma attack in the past year.

So as we transition to Great Outdoors Month in June, think about ways where you can get outside and safely enjoy your favorite activities. How will you be enjoying our environment? I’ll be checking for air quality and the UV Index with helpful apps to plan my outdoor training for my next triathlon. Hmmm… I really liked swimming along Siesta Key Beach, so I’ll see which triathlon has a similar open water swim for later in the summer. I’ll also be sure to slop on some sunscreen and check the beach advisory site before the swim, bike, run fun.

About the author: Scott is the Deputy Director of EPA’s Office of Public Engagement and works with stakeholders such as outdoor sporting groups. He enjoys getting outdoors whenever he can!

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Active Aging Depends on Community Design

By Kevin Nelson

My grandfather lived to 97. He was a dynamic orator, frozen-food pioneer, and avid golfer. While he believed that professional success required mastery of a typewriter, he would attribute his long and prosperous life to a good brisk walk each morning. Wherever he lived, on the south side of Chicago or in a suburb on the fringe of the city, he sought out places to live that had ample sidewalks and walking paths to travel on foot to various destinations.

People, like my grandfather, had the desire to walk, run, or ride to keep active, but just as important is the ability to do each of things – that is, whether sidewalks or paths exist to provide safe places for activity. In other words, the infrastructure needs to exist—and be maintained—to give older Americans opportunities to stay active as they age.

Thankfully, there are many programs and national initiatives, such as the Walkable and Livable Communities Institute, the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center, the National Complete Streets Coalition, among others, that promote walking and biking for all people and in all parts of the country. These organizations provide resources and tools to communities to help them assess the design and layout of their communities to learn whether their sidewalks and streets safe, convenient, and pleasant for all their residents to use.

It is crucial to build and design communities that accommodate a variety of users. Walkable neighborhoods have many environmental and health benefits such as improved air quality and reduction of physical injury and disease. These places can improve residents’ health by giving them opportunities to walk and bike to their destinations instead of driving. Not only does being active improve the health of the walkers and bikers, but the reduced driving reduces air pollution and traffic congestion, which benefits everyone in the community.

A new publication, “Making Healthy Places: Design and Building for Health, Well-being and Sustainability” (2011, Island Press), and website provide research about the connections between public health and community design that includes opportunities for people to stay active as they age. Our neighborhoods need to be designed with all users in mind, and this book provides information that can help communities build places that help seniors and everyone else to stay active.

Although my grandfather is no longer walking with us, he would be pleased to see that there are efforts nationwide to ensure that Americans of all ages have opportunities for that brisk walk each and every day.

About the author: Kevin Nelson, AICP is a Senior Policy Analyst at the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Sustainable Communities. He can be reached at nelson.kevin@epa.gov.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

From Bike Path to Career Path – Passing Through EPA’s Office of Sustainable Communities

By Jennifer Woods

Growing up in the small university and bike- friendly town of Davis, California, I had the joy of biking or walking to school, sports practice and work almost every day — from my first day of kindergarten until I graduated from high school. To be honest, my mom and dad didn’t give me an option. Despite my attempts at begging for a ride some mornings, my mom always told me that we lived in a safe town with plenty of parks, trails, sidewalks and schools close by, so there was no reason to drive. Over time, my complaints ceased and I became accustomed to riding my bike everywhere. Then, when I went off to college, eager to use my bike, I was surprised to find that my new home for the next four years wasn’t exactly bike-friendly… I had to use the car much more than I would have liked.

During my second year of college, I took a planning class and learned about this thing called “Smart Growth.” It all made so much sense to me….and I’ve been hooked ever since. At school I took as many sustainable planning classes as possible, and interned during the summers at an organization in California that works to promote sustainable communities.

As I finish up my time in school, I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to intern here at EPA in the Office of Sustainable Communities. It has been an amazingly fun, interesting and rewarding experience being surrounded by knowledgeable people, all working hard to help create more sustainable communities across the country. My work experience at EPA helped me realize that this is the career for me. I want others to have the same opportunity to grow up in a community that encourages people to bike and walk to school safely, just like I did.

For now, I’m eager to head back to Davis, park my car and put my bike to use every day. I’ll also thank my mom and dad for instilling in me the habits that put me on the path to appreciating the livable and sustainable aspects of my community.

About the author: Jennifer Woods just completed her internship in EPA’s Office of Sustainable Communities. She’ll soon be graduating from college with honors with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and a minor in Urban Studies and Planning.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Biking to Work and Reducing Climate Change

About the author: Henry Ferland is Co-Director of the Methane to Markets Partnership Secretariat (methanetomarkets.org)

I work in EPA’s Climate Change Division on an international methane reduction program that seeks to reduce climate change by encouraging developing countries to capture and use methane.  While there are costs associated with developing methane projects, there are multiple local co-benefits including revenue from the gas,  increased air and water quality, improved worker safety (in coal mines) and reduced dependence on fossil fuels.

How does this relate to biking to work?  I bike commute down to EPA’s office at 1310 L Street –from Tenleytown, DC – about 20 to 25 minutes to work and about 25 to 30 minutes home depending on lights, traffic, how hard I push it.  This bike commute provides a small personal contribution to reducing climate change but, like methane reduction, has significant co-benefits:

Here’s my personal co-benefit list:

  1. May be fastest way to get to work (especially if you live in the city or in nearby suburbs).
  2. Reverses the traffic stress paradigm — instead of getting stressed at the sight of traffic — I get happy   as I zip past gridlocked cars on my bike lane.
  3. Excellent work-out.  Get a free hour of exercise each day without taking other time out of my schedule.
  4. Stress release — grinding up the hill on Massachusetts Avenue is a great way to unwind and decompress after a long day at the office.
  5. No fossil fuels equal zero emissions!
  6. Great way to wake up and greet the day!

All this said – there are some important barriers to consider:

  1. Occasional run-ins with bad or angry drivers.
  2. Lack of clear bike lanes on most streets in DC — one must learn to be an assertive bike rider and also learn to pick good routes.
  3. Proper gear — expensive outfits not needed — but a good wind layer is important for cold days in the winter and nice raincoat is good for rainy days.
  4. Showers and Office Clothes.  If your office is not set up for biking you may need to figure out a system (nearby gym?) for showering and dressing appropriately.  I’ve found it helpful to carry my clothes in a square plastic box in panniers.   It’s also worth investigating using a locker or extra filing cabinet as in-office storage for office clothes.

The bottom-line on bike commuting:  give it a try, and you may find that you arrive home happier and less stressed then before and that’s before considering all the other co-benefits!

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Question of the Week: Why are you or aren’t you biking to work?

Each week we ask a question related to the environment. Please let us know your thoughts as comments. Feel free to respond to earlier comments or post new ideas. Previous questions.

To bike or not to bike – that is the question… It’s National Bike Week! Biking is healthy, it prevents air pollution, and it can even save you money (filled your tank recently?). So why aren’t you biking to work? Need more bike paths? Different policies from your employer? Government sponsorship or policies? Or are you just a couch potato?

Why are you or aren’t you biking to work?

If you ARE biking, tell us about your route and experiences!


Follow-up:
Summary of the comments submitted for this blog entry.
Related:
How far do you live from where you work or play? Why?

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.