Registered Dietitian Thrives On A Steady Diet of BMX Riding

By Jody Record, Media Relations

Rochelle L’Italien knows there’s more to keeping fit than eating right although, as a registered dietitian with UNH dining, she spends her days trying to help folks do just that.

She also talks up exercise. The important thing, she says, is to get your body moving.

And she follows her own advice with a sport she discovered through her young sons: BMX bike riding.

L’Italien came to freestyle biking three years ago when she was 37. She and the boys, then 6 and 10, were kicking around ideas for a new activity to pursue when they happened by an extreme sports park in Rye and stopped in.

The kids wanted to try skateboarding and ended up taking a few lessons. After a while, L’Italien decided to go to Rye Airfield by herself and do a little rollerblading. When she got sidelined by a wrist injury, a friend at the park suggested she try BMX biking.

“I started going by myself at night and found I really enjoyed it,” L’Italien says. “All the kids were fascinated that a lady could ride a bike. I started showing the little ones how to do things.”

After a while, she discovered the park’s outdoor racetrack and, with her sons, gave racing a go. They all loved it.

“Here’s me and my two boys, out there racing,” L’Italien says. “It was great.”

After she’d been riding for about nine months, L’Italien took her first lesson. She set three goals: to learn how to do a 180-turn, a peg stall and a “drop in”—a move she describes as throwing yourself down the side from the top of a big ramp.

There were lots of falls, she says. Learning to “drop in” took about a year. But L’Italien believed she could do it and wasn’t about to give up.

“It was so scary. It’s totally in your head. But you just have to spend time with your bike. If you want to learn how to write with a pen, you have to write,” L’Italien says. “We could do such great things if we could just get past what’s in our heads.”

During the summer of 2004, L’Italien went to a camp in Pennsylvania through Girls Learn to Ride, a club that promotes female-only action sports camps and clinics. She was the only camper who wasn’t a teenager or younger.

“Here I am, in a cabin with these 13 and 14-year-old girls, calling me `mom,’” she says. “It was a great experience but when I got home, I didn’t want to see my bike or another kid for a while.”

But her time at camp stayed with her and soon she began pushing for a Girls Learn to Ride clinic at Rye Airfield. L’Italien was surprised when organizers asked her to be an instructor--many of the students were girls and women she had met riding.

Turns out, she loved teaching and ended up doing clinics the following year. And she mentors kids whenever the opportunity arises, even if it’s just telling them that she’d never ride without a helmet—hoping they will follow her lead.

L’Italien says being able to do what she loves is “almost like being on the playground.” She can clear a box jump landing on the other side instead of just on the top; ride over a spine ramp, do a double peg stall, carve high in the half pipe ramps and more.

But for her, it’s not just about the thrill and excitement (although she did have her 40th birthday party at Rye Airfield). She says riding has taught her to live in the present; to slow down.

“Riding has also taught me more about the principles of patience, self-trust, time, risk-taking, achievements and hard work,” L’Italien says. “A lot of people who ride do it because it’s fun. I look at what I can get out of it. It’s so important to keep your body moving, if you are able. It keeps the spirit of who you are energized.”

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