Cross-country bicyclist models healthy living for local students

Chris Figureida stopped in CR, Marion to raise awareness for the American Heart Association

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Standing next to the bike he rode from San Francisco to their school, Chris Figureida unfolded a map and showed the students at Summit Schools all the routes he’s ridden through the United States.

Red lines streaked across the map, showing about 30,000 miles of biking trips.

Figureida stopped at the private school, 1010 Regent St. NE, on Thursday on Day 34 of his cross-country bike ride from San Francisco to New York. The trip, and Figureida’s organization, Cycle for Heart, aims to raise awareness of the American Heart Association and healthy hearts.

“Childhood obesity in the U.S. is at 30 percent. By 2030, it’s projected 44 percent of Americans will be overweight,” Figureida said. “That projection is these kids. I really wanted to fight that and encourage them to be healthy and active.”

Figureida talked to the K-6 students for about a half-hour, showing them his camping gear — all of which squeezes onto his bike — and explaining how he stays healthy during monthslong bike rides.

He asked students to flex their biceps and showed them how to check their pulse as he explained the importance of heart health.

“Your heart and your biceps work the same way,” he said. “They’re both muscles, and they both need to be flexed.”

Figureida also talked about safety precautions he takes on the road — reflective garments and a helmet — and about eating a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables.

“But how do you peel a banana when you’re still pedaling?” one girl asked.

“With a lot of practice,” he answered.

Kim Kuda, a physical education teacher at Summit Schools, said after the presentation it’s helpful to give students models of healthy living.

“It gives them an opportunity to see someone who is a lifelong physically active person,” Kuda said. “That says, ‘You can do it too.’”

Figureida also visited Francis Marion Intermediate School and Vernon Middle, both in Marion, before continuing on his 100-day, 5,100-mile ride.

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