June 3 is World Bicycle Day, and it is a chance to showcase the many benefits of bicycling — and encourage more people to try it! Blue Yonder associate Dr. Christian Haag shares his story of how he picked up the activity and has never turned back.

My role has always centered around Data Science Consulting in Pre-Sales, initially focusing on retail and later expanding to manufacturing. My work involves diving deep into artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), leading proof of concepts (POCs) and offering advice throughout the sales cycles.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it drastically changed my life, as it did for many others worldwide. The transition to working from home, coupled with the restrictions on social gatherings and outdoor activities, left me feeling quite isolated. My daily routine was reduced to working from my home office and taking my dog for a walk once a day. The lack of social interaction and physical activity began to take a toll on my overall well-being.

Amidst this challenging time, Blue Yonder presented an opportunity that would turn things around for me. They organized a Cycling Challenge for a social cause: Cycle for Smart Works, a UK-based charity that gives women the confidence they need to reach their full potential, secure employment, and change the trajectory of their lives. This challenge came as a much-needed breath of fresh air. The goal was simple yet ambitious: a group of five colleagues needed to cycle a collective total of at least 500 miles over the course of eight days.

I eagerly joined a team, excited about the prospect of breaking the monotony and doing something beneficial for both my physical and mental health. Each morning, before starting my workday, I’d grab my bike and set off on a 35-kilometer (~22 miles) route along the Rhein River, which is conveniently close to where I live. These early morning rides, lasting between one to two hours, became the highlight of my day.

What made this experience truly special was the sense of camaraderie it fostered. Although we were physically apart, my colleagues and I shared our cycling journeys through Microsoft Teams, often exchanging photos and words of encouragement. This virtual connection created a strong sense of community and made the experience feel collaborative rather than solitary.

The physical benefits were immediately noticeable. Regular cycling helped improve my fitness level and overall well-being. The fresh air and exercise became a powerful antidote to the sedentary lifestyle that had become the norm during the pandemic. I found myself feeling more energetic and motivated, both in my personal life and professional responsibilities.

One of the most unexpected yet delightful outcomes of this challenge was the positive impact it had on my relationship with my son. Like many young people, he had been significantly affected by the pandemic restrictions, which limited his social interactions and activities. Seeing me take up cycling piqued his interest, and he expressed a desire to join me.

For several weeks following the challenge, cycling became our Sunday ritual. We would pack drinks, hop on our bikes, and embark on a 32 kilometer (~20 mile) journey to Karlsruhe, Germany. There, we’d relax in the park, enjoy our drinks, and then cycle back home to have a barbecue. These outings were more than just a physical activity; they were quality bonding moments that brought us closer together.

These Sunday rides quickly became something we both looked forward to. They provided a much-needed break from the routine and a chance to spend time together in a meaningful way. The simple pleasure of cycling, combined with the shared experience of exploring new routes and enjoying nature, helped us create lasting memories during an otherwise challenging period.

Reflecting on this experience, I am grateful for the unexpected positives that emerged from such a difficult time. The Cycling Challenge not only helped me stay fit and mentally balanced but also strengthened my connection with my colleagues and my son. It was a reminder of the importance of staying active and connected, even when circumstances are less than ideal.

Despite its many challenges, the pandemic provided me with an opportunity to rediscover the joy of cycling and the value of shared experiences. The Cycling Challenge organized by Blue Yonder was a catalyst for positive change in my life, helping me maintain physical health, mental well-being, and deepening my relationships. As we move forward, I hope to continue embracing such activities that bring both personal fulfillment and a sense of community.