Off the Clock: Prof Is Changing Her World, One Commute at a Time

Posted: June 15, 2005 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Laura Jeffrey

When it comes to physical fitness, some people just talk the talk. They say they will move more, but then find so many reasons not to. Then there are those who walk the walk—or in the case of Karen Schlauch, they bike.

Karen Schlauch
Karen Schlauch

Schlauch, a research assistant professor in Life Sciences, rides a bike almost every day from her Manassas home to the Prince William Campus, an eight-mile roundtrip commute. She feels so passionately about commuting by bicycle that she entered an essay contest for National Bike to Work Week in mid-May—and won a shiny new Schwinn Voyageur for her daily commute.

Schlauch says it was a timely win; her old bike “was so worn out that even Goodwill wouldn’t take it.” Her winning essay was short, yet conveyed her passion:

All I wanna do is ride. To work.

I’ve been doing this for years, through Illinois, New Mexico, Virginia.

D.C. burbs are the worst: drivers are stressed, intolerant, mean.

Yet every day, rain or shine, my beat-up bike and I head out.

Changing my world, one commute at a time.

Biking is not the only way Schlauch stays active. She teaches classes in spinning, Pilates, and yoga at the Freedom Aquatic and Fitness Center about three hours a week, and is also an evening instructor at World’s Gym. “Physical fitness has always been a part of my life,” she explains. “I feel that it helps keep me in balance.”

Photos by Evan Cantwell

Schlauch says she is enjoying her new ride and is “starting to load it up with doodads,” including a speedometer, an odometer, clipless pedals, a water bottle holder, a lock, and a fender, which “keeps your backside clean.” The bike “feels great,” she adds. “It’s ergonomically designed so that it looks very dorky, but it feels very nice on my Pilates-teaching-seven-times-this-week back.”

National Bike to Work Week is sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists and various cycling organizations. The league’s web site offers reasons for commuting by bike other than to get exercise, such as to save money and help the environment. The web site suggests bike riders can find a safer and less congested commute to the office by seeking directions from and clicking on the “avoid highways” link.

Schlauch knows commuting by bike may not be feasible for everyone, but she hopes people will at least give it a try, if not now, then during next year’s Bike to Work Week. After all, “once you learn how to ride a bike, you never really forget,” Schlauch says. “Get a good helmet, grab a map, and plot out a nice path.”

Schlauch, originally from central Illinois, holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; a master’s degree in applied mathematics from Eastern Illinois University; and master’s and doctoral degrees in mathematics from New Mexico State University. She joined the Mason faculty in 2002.

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