Sometimes when you start trying to keep up with someone, you eventually
begin leading them. This was the case when three years ago, I made the
decision to make significant changes in my lifestyle in order to keep up
with my then 8 year old son. At the time I was sedentary and obese. I knew
if I continued down this path, at minimum I was setting an unhealthy example
for my child.
So I changed. My diet, my activity level. Began working out, losing weight.
Pushed through a half marathon, and then another, and another. Discovered
biking – initially on roads and multi-use trails. Then as a form of
transportation, bike commuting to work. And finally last fall, ventured off
the road to the trails in southeast Wisconsin.
My first outing on a mountain bike was at the Fall Color Festival in
Wisconsin’s South Kettle Moraine State Park. It was the women’s skills
clinic at the event that pushed me over the edge from wanting to try
mountain biking, to actually going and doing it. Something about learning
amongst a group of women felt less threatening. Gave me the courage to try.
Over the winter another women’s clinic pushed me to try indoor riding at
Ray’s Mountain Bike Park. After each event, I wrote about them on my blog,
and have been surprised by the interest in those two articles.
Yet maybe I shouldn’t be surprised.
Mountain biking brings such different aspects to riding. On my blog I wrote:
“On the road, there’s a rhythm to riding that becomes almost hypnotic,
mindless; while mountain biking requires a constant connection with the
bike. Getting off your saddle, shifting weight forward and back, holding
pedals in a position to not hit rocks or roots, finding lines. All provide a
challenge, a change. “
A challenge different than the half marathons I’ve done, where I proved that
my body had the endurance necessary to complete them. Mountain biking
pushes my limits in other ways. Forces me to choose my line, trust my
instincts and commit to that line. Keeps me looking forward, at where I want
to go, not where I am. At the same time mountain biking brings in a
connection to mind-body awareness, a key aspect also in the yoga practice
which has become another important piece of my life. Combining the mental
and the physical inspires confidence in me. I know I will be able to use the
lessons learned and confidence gained on the trails in my daily life.
My son did not learn to ride a bike until he was nearly 8 years old, a
somewhat late age. I can blame that on all kinds of reasons…we lived in a
suburban area where folks dropped their children off from house to house for
play dates. But if I’m honest with myself, I know one of the reasons was
that I was not fit enough to run along the bike, teaching him to ride. Now
4 years later, family bike rides are a part of our routine. They could be as
simple as riding to the farmer’s market or to school, or venturing to the
local trails. We relish the time together exploring our world on our bikes.
Yet there is still a way I can use this sport to inspire him, to lead him
forward. While he was still a beginning rider, he was going down a hill a
bit too fast, a bit out of control when he overreacted to seeing a car
coming and crashed into a mailbox. It was a hard, painful crash. Thankfully,
it was a crash that did not require medical attention, but one that shook
his confidence. To this day, he has a fear of riding down hills, a fear of
going too fast. We have talked about how he thinks mountain biking will
help him face and overcome this fear. How he will learn to trust his
instincts, choose a line, and go for it. On the mountain. And in life.
Myself. My son. Inspiring each other while being inspired by this sport.