Discovering that he was half-Finnish began a string of serendipitous events for Peter Hendrickson, culminating in a newfound love of bike commuting.
Updated: January 25, 2013 - 2:45 PM
How I Got This Body: Peter Hendrickson, 58, St. Paul, music professor and director of choral activities at Augsburg College, cyclist
Discovering that he was half-Finnish began a string of serendipitous events for Peter Hendrickson, culminating in a newfound love of bike commuting. When Hendrickson looked at his class schedule for the 2012-13 school year, there was one problem: He only had 25 minutes to get from the University of Minnesota’s East Bank, where he wanted to take a Finnish language class, back to Augsburg in time to lead choir rehearsal. Driving and parking would take too long, as would walking. So, Hendrickson dusted off his 35-year-old road bike and hopped on. His total daily commute adds up to about 14 miles. He’s grown to love it so much that he usually hits the road — just for fun — on Saturdays and Sundays. He’s lost about 20 pounds, eats better, feels happier and hasn’t been late to rehearsal yet.
Flag flying finn “I grew up with the idea that I was 100 percent Swedish. But then my aunts gave me a little piece of paper with the names of some towns in Finland where my father’s family was from. When I took my choir to Finland in 2002 and asked around, people told me, ‘Well, they’re Finns, of course!’ I started flying a Finnish flag at our cabin … but some of my siblings were not pleased. Then I met my wife, Mindy. She’s half Finnish and had lived in Finland for two years and speaks Finnish very well. I took a sabbatical to go to Finland for the summer of 2011. I visited Finnish composer and friend Kari Tikka, visited my father’s family’s hometowns, went to a folk music festival and danced in the midnight sun.”
ENTER CYCLING “A former classmate said I should look into taking a course in Finnish, but it’s right in the middle of my work day. I realized I could jog/walk it in 21 minutes, but it only takes nine minutes to bike. I get back at 3:30 p.m., and I have 10 minutes to get ready for rehearsal. When I walk into rehearsal, I feel great from the ride.”
GEARED UP “I ride an old racing bike I’ve had for 35 years with a big basket, nubby tires and flashing lights. I’ve become one with my bike. I know exactly how it will operate and maneuver and what the brakes are going to be like, etc. It’s a very calming influence. What’s so nice is I used to get to work some days thinking, ‘I don’t want to be here.’ [But when you bike] the endorphins start running at you and you can’t help but feel better. I see myself being more patient. It has a very calming influence. It’s a godsend.”
BIKE THERAPY “I broke my ankle in the summer of 2011. It was a really bad break — the doctor said 9.5 on a scale of 1 to 10. He said I was going to have arthritis feelings in that ankle forever. But biking has minimized that. It keeps it flexed. I think it’s the best thing for my ankle.”
GOOD GENES ... “I used to be a jock in high school. I played football, baseball, basketball and ran track. I swim a lot at the cabin. I also used to work in Washington as a cook at a retreat center and we used to ski out our front door from October to May. I skied 745 miles in a winter. I was a mountain climber [in Washington] too, so temperature doesn’t bother me at all. I can bike down to about 3 degrees. Just one more layer makes the ride just fine. I didn’t drive a car to work all fall until Nov. 29. I’ve bought so little gas. I think I spent $40 in all of November and December. I do have to get the car out once in a while. I tried to open the doors after not driving it for a while and they were frozen shut.”
... AND JEANS “I’ve lost 20 pounds. My waist is down to a size I haven’t had since [I was] 25. I bought some really nice Gap jeans that look great — not baggy. I didn’t even think about the weight loss. It was totally unintentional.”
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