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On-the-job workout

Honolulu Advertiser, May 3, 2007  

By Paula Rath

Mikelanjelo Conrad, a 30-year-old bike messenger who says he’s addicted to getting high on endorphins, zips along Bethel Street in downtown Honolulu.

As a bike messenger, it's not unusual for Mikelanjelo Conrad to start downtown and ride to Aloha Air Cargo on the 'ewa side of the airport, to travel from Chinatown to Kahala Mall, and from Bethel Street to the upper reaches of Nu'uanu, all in a single day's work.

It takes a tremendous level of fitness to power all that motion, day after day.

Conrad wouldn't have it any other way. "I'm freer than I would be in most jobs. I'm always by myself and don't have a boss looking over my shoulder. It's a high from the wind blowing in your face, the sun, the rain," he said.

He found a lifestyle that suits his free spirit just fine. It's outdoors. It's healthy. It's environmentally sound. And it supports his passion for keeping fit. Part of the year he is a migrant farmer. In fact, he leaves Saturday to work in the cornfields of Illinois. Then he will move on to Maine to pick blueberries, followed by Massachusetts for the cranberry harvest.

Several years ago, Conrad spent six months on the Big Island, picking organic coffee and harvesting taro and ginger while living on the beach. This year, he wintered in Honolulu because he has a brother who is letting him bunk in his Manoa home.

Biking is a passion and profession for Conrad: "I feel like I'm helping with the environment," he said. "My goal is to be lighter on the Earth. More people should get on bikes. And society should make it easier for people to get on bikes."

The downside of being a bike messenger, of course, is that it can be dangerous. Conrad has had several minor accidents, in San Francisco and Honolulu, when motorists opened doors unexpectedly and caused him to go flying.

His next challenge is to ride a bike around the world. He plans to start in California, ride to New York, fly to Europe and ride from France to Greece, fly to Israel and bike as much as possible in the Middle East, followed by India and Malaysia. He'll fly to Australia and bike across that continent, followed by New Zealand, then back to Hawai'i.

"I guess it's in my blood to travel," he said. "My parents were hippies and total free spirits."

He attributes much of his wanderlust to his grandfather, Max Conrad, a renowned pilot and adventurer.


My good foods/bad foods: "I eat oatmeal every morning and mix coconut or apples or bananas into it. It gives me a lot of energy. Otherwise, I'll eat anything in front of me. I try to eat as healthy as possible, but if I'm hungry and trying to save a buck, I'll go to McDonald's. I use dark chocolate and coffee for a quick pick-me-up."

What would we find in your messenger bag? "Probably seeds and nuts. I eat a lot of them. And maybe an apple or banana. I like to make myself sprouted bread with peanut butter as a snack when riding."

On your iPod? "Music is really important when I'm working. If I'm not listening to it, I'm playing it in my head. I like an eclectic mix, from techno and heavy metal to Indian spiritual music, folk and classical, if I'm in no hurry to go anywhere."

My biggest motivator: "My favorite motto is: 'True wealth is health.' That includes spiritual, mental and physical health. If I had millions of dollars but was unhealthy, what's the point? When I'm healthy, I'm happy. Exercise keeps me feeling good."


Age: 30

Profession: Bike messenger; itinerant farmer

Height: 6-feet-1

Weight: 170 pounds

Workout habits: "I try to break a sweat at least once a day — hiking, biking, snowboarding or skateboarding. I use either a bike or skateboard for transportation; it gets me breathing well and exercising. I guess I could say I'm addicted to getting high on endorphins."

When and why I started working out: "As a child, I imagined I was an American Indian and would hike in the forests in Pennsylvania where I grew up. I once read a story about runners who were messengers running through the woods for hundreds of miles, and I would do that sort of thing when I was a kid. I got addicted to that active lifestyle."




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