WORKOUT-SIDE THE BOX: Biking Through the Snow

amy chiltonCyclist Amy Chilton is bundled up and ready to ride. Photos by Jess Benjamin.

This winter, the perfect antidote to cabin fever could just be mixing up your workout—whether that means putting on your dancing shoes, practicing your swordsmanship or braving frigid temps on your bike.

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Every weekday morning, Amy Chilton wakes up in her Somerville apartment, throws on a pair of jeans, stuffs her work clothes into a no-frills, waterproof backpack and is out the door by 8:30 a.m. On an indigo road bike she’s lovingly named “Blue Seagrass,” she pedals through Union Square towards Kendall, where she works as an internal medicine triage nurse at MIT Medical.

Chilton began bike commuting through Cambridge and Somerville when she moved to the area in 2002, and she’s been cycling the 2.3 miles to MIT Medical almost every day since she started working there five years ago. “It gets really busy in my office,” says Chilton. “So it’s always nice to have some alone time on the bike.”

For Chilton, biking is just a part of life. She grew up riding with her brothers and sisters, two-wheeling to school together and building trails in the woods outside her childhood home in Auburn, Mass. She covered her first long-distance trip of 24 miles when she was just 12 years old, and eight years later she went on an 11-day biking adventure with her older brother. They trekked the 700 miles from Auburn all the way up to Pugwash, Nova Scotia, with just backpacks and bicycles, camping and eating pizza and veggie subs along the way.

“Biking is so fun and refreshing and graceful. I’ll go for a run and it feels like an old truck bumping down the road,” she jokes.

All that time spent spinning gears has helped her expertly navigate city streets, even through the icy winter months. And it’s not too hard to avoid freezing in those frosty early-morning temps, according to Chilton. All it really takes is a little extra layering—a balaklava, a bandana and maybe a pair of ski goggles. “In the winter, I just look crazier and crazier as it gets colder,” she laughs. If temperatures drop below 10 degrees, she’ll walk.

amy chilton

Chilton says she’s lucky to live so close to her workplace. Traveling on two wheels—or even just two feet—feels like a “no-brainer” when the distance is short and the alternative is an unpleasant bus ride. To her, a bus is the opposite of a bike. On two wheels, she’s speedy and self-reliant. But on a bus, she’s at the whim of the MBTA’s fickle schedule. And when Chilton does need to use the MBTA, she’s able to ride the subway and local buses for free thanks to the the Access MIT passes the school rolled out in 2016.

The new commuter benefits for faculty and staff include subsidies for commuter rail tickets and parking at MBTA stations. According to Chilton, employees and students—and even the patients she sees at MIT Medical—all seem to be growing increasingly dissatisfied with the construction around Kendall Square and the impact it’s had on their driving commute. Israel Ruiz, the university’s executive vice president and treasurer, has explained that the new initiative is one of the ways in which the school is making a “visible demonstration” to lowering MIT’s commuter-related emissions.

But while Chilton can ride the bus to work for free, she still chooses to cycle. When pedaling through the city streets—even in frigid temps— she feels optimistic and connected to the community.

“It really helps me wake up in the morning, and then also decompress at the end of the day,” she says. “It’s such a good set of parenthesis around the workday.”

This story originally appeared in the January/February issue of Scout Cambridge, which is available for free at more than 250 locations throughout the city or by subscription. If you’re looking for more outside-the-box workouts, you can read about Olympia Fencing Center here and check back later this week for a profile on The Dance Complex!

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