"Do you remember how to do that puffing thing we learned last time in prenatal classes?" I asked S. last night.
"Yes", he said confidently. I eyed him a bit suspiciously. "Really? Because I've completely forgotten."
"Take a deep breath in, and then release in four short bursts - like this", S. demonstrated. "It's a technique for getting more oxygen into your blood and it makes you feel a bit of a high", he went on. "By emptying the lungs forcefully, the intake of breath gets deeper, until you're left with a surplus of oxygen."
"How do you know all this?" I asked him. I may have pregnancy dementia and I may not quite remember every single minute of E.'s birth, but I was fairly sure this bit had not been covered during the prenatal classes, of which S. had only attended the obligatory partner-class anyway.
"It's a well-known technique for cyclists going uphill", he explained.
S. loves cycling. And he's fairly good at it as well, good enough to have spent time in racing teams during his youth and first years at university and even at one glorious moment beating Lance Armstrong in an uphill battle during a training camp. (This happened during the time Armstrong was, according to the USADA, probably artificially strengthened.) Then one day S. looked at the odds of becoming a professional cyclist and decided to become a professional psychologist instead.
But his cycling experience keeps popping up at the most unexpected moments. Such as the stormy winter's day we drove from the Netherlands to Switzerland, normally an eight hour drive which took us eighteen hours instead through blizzards and over German highways covered in snow. It was scary and slippery when I or my uncle was behind the wheel, but when S. was driving I could close my eyes and not notice the difference from a sunny summer's day. He is an amazingly good and steady driver.
This too is due to his road racing past. In the peloton, which propels itself forward at speeds between 30 (leisurely) and 70 (downhill) km per hour, the distance between the unprotected cyclists (well, they've grudgingly acquiesced to wearing helmets) is at most a couple of centimeters. So anticipation and steady handling are not just admirable skills, but necessary for survival. (If you don't have them, you'll get kicked out of the peloton because you're just too dangerous.)
Driving a big, sturdy car is a breeze compared to that environment.
There are other side benefits. Such as S.'s love for pasta and his understanding of nutritional values, although in that respect we are unfortunately on opposing sides of the spectrum, me wanting to slim down and him trying to beef up. But either way we eat and enjoy mostly healthy stuff.
There is S.'s pigeon-like homing instinct and intuitive grasp of logistics, carefully honed during his years as a bike messenger and eventually giving him the subject for his bachelor's thesis: how to train operators to best deploy a finite number of ambulances during peak hours.
There is the utterly practical benefit of him being able to fix our bikes, because when he was a teenager he couldn't always afford to run off to the mechanic and has taught himself how to fix and tune the bikes instead. And his accompanying horror when I don't clean my bike properly, which he will then do for me, sighing in frustration that I just don't notice the dirt (interestingly, in all other household matters this is reversed).
He even helps me out with stretching exercises and understands how certain parts of the body connect to each other, so when my back started to do its familiar aching thing due to a growing belly-buttock imbalance, he was the one pointing me towards yoga and pilates.
But that his cycling experience would mean that he is actually better at labour than me, the pregnant, class-taking, well-preparing one - that I hadn't seen coming.