Wednesday September 2nd 2015

Get healthy and celebrate!

It’s as easy as riding a bike

Hollie Shaner-McRae

Hollie Shaner-McRae, DNP, RN, FAAN, is not an Olympian-caliber cyclist; she simply bikes for fun.

But once again, the Vermont State Nurses Association (VSNA) member is putting a different spin on celebrating National Nurses Week and the summer by participating in her state’s bike challenge, which is part of a nationwide effort. And she is encouraging other nurses to do the same.

This year’s National Bike Challenge officially begins May 1 and goes through Sept. 3. The League of American Bicyclists, which is organizing this free health initiative, has set a goal of having 50,000 riders nationwide pedaling for some 20 million miles for transportation and recreation. Riders achieve various levels based on the points they accumulate and are eligible for prizes.

“This is a really fun way to integrate some physical activity into your lifestyle,” said Shaner-McRae. “There’s no need to have a fancy bike or a Spandex outfit. You can participate in the National Bike Challenge with friends, family or coworkers, or you can cycle solo. And because the bike challenge lasts several months, if you get busy at work or take a vacation, you can always make it up the next week. It’s just important to have fun and set an achievable goal that will work for you. I set the goal last year to cycle at least 100 miles over the course of the challenge.

“This also is a great opportunity to expand your usual ‘nursing practice’ beyond your regular job and be a model of wellness in your community, church, workplace or neighborhood.”

As part of last year’s challenge, Vermont had at least six nurse-led teams with 10 members each. They logged 13,423 miles and burned just shy of 233,750 calories in 1,862 separate trips. As an extra benefit, they saved $1,923 on gas, and decreased the carbon footprint by more than 12,000 pounds, according to Shaner-McRae, who was the captain of the VTNurse Curly Girls team. (Participants’ progress is easily tracked by using a phone app or at the national challenge website.)

“I did most of my biking to and from work each day, which was 0.3 miles one way, and also cycled home for lunch mid-day,” said Shaner-McRae, coordinator, Professional Nursing Practice, at Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington, VT. “I was more intentional about biking to do errands, such as going to the farmers market and the greenhouse.

“We have a lovely, lakefront bike path, so on some weekdays I would hitch up my bike trailer and take my dog for a 12-mile roundtrip ride before work. This was fun and very inspiring. It helped me pay more attention to my own physical activity level and helped encourage colleagues to be more active.”

Add “RN” prefix to team name for tracking

Beyond the six nurse-led teams, Shaner-McRae heard that more RNs were biking their way through the challenge in her state and nationwide.

“Nurse-specific efforts were not identified, because we hadn’t had a process in place to do so,” Shaner-McRae said. “This year, the National Bike Challenge registration process has been set up so that nurses wishing to be ‘counted’ in the community of nurses participating, simply need to name their team with the prefix of ‘RN.’ As a participant in the bike challenge, your cycling efforts count toward totals for your community [zip code], employer, yourself and your state.”

This year, Shaner-McRae hopes more nurses will participate in the challenge and encourages state associations, employers and universities to spread the word about the National Bike Challenge. Colorful, downloadable materials are available from the website and can be used to help get the message out. Nurses also might consider getting together for a short bike ride in honor of National Nurses Week.

“This year, Vermont State Nurses Association leaders have already begun to recruit nurse-led teams in all Vermont hospitals and health care settings,” Shaner-McRae said. “We’ve posted bike challenge information on the association’s Facebook page, and are reaching out to nurse colleagues through the nursing honor society, Kappa Tau, and the Vermont Organization of Nurse Leaders.”

With that extra outreach, she is hoping for at least a 20 percent increase in the number of Vermont nurses participating.

As for her personal goal, she is hoping to bike double her mileage of last year and have the VTNurseCurlyGirls team finish among the top 10 percent of teams in Vermont.

Go to for more information, including how to register as an individual or as a nurse team.

— Susan Trossman is the senior reporter for The American Nurse.

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