Thursday, December 06, 2012

Life Lessons from the Mountain Bike (Part 1)

The world of sports is a great source of lessons and metaphors on life.

I am no athlete. Even so, I have serendipitously found myself engaged in running and biking -two athletic activities that make my muscles cry, but ultimately, my heart sing.

Today I'd like to talk about mountain biking.

Mountain biking is a sport wherein a specially adapted bicyle traverses an off-road trail or path. It is an individual sport which requires endurance, strength, bike handling skills, balance and self-reliance. And as with any sport - a participant must have a high threshold for pain, as well as emotional and mental fitness.

Two years of riding on and off would qualify me as a novice. My Significant Other G., an avid biker, built my first bike and introduced me to the sport. To his delight and mine, I liked it. Many weekends have been spent riding together.  Not all rides are blissful from start to finish, but in the end, we're always happy we had some saddle time.

I like it not only because it  keeps G. and I connected, but because to me, it's a very soulful sport. It has more of a "play" than "porma"  vibe. When a ride starts to get hard and seemingly endless, it forces me to dig deep and find some source of strength within that goes beyond the physical.  And it's a sport that gets you Out There with the trees, the dirt, the sky and the wind. A playdate with Momma Nature, if I may.

Aside from these lovely benefits, I have also learned some things ON the bike that apply to life OFF it. Here are the Life Lessons from the Mountain Bike:

Life Lesson # 1) Build Your Strength. Fuel Your Body.

Mountain biking is not an easy sport. Before hitting the trails,(especially for newbies like me), I need to make sure that my energy reserves can sustain me all throughout the ride. I need to eat enough and eat well. I need to be well-rested. I need to build endurance and lung strength by running when not on the saddle. Being sufficiently conditioned and fueled will prepare me for the motion of pedaling over, up and down uneven terrain for sustained periods. Otherwise, I will most definitely bonk and the ride will be ruined.

How does this apply off the bike? Life can be tough. Life is an uneven terrain and as much as it can roll along smoothly, it can also get rough. To handle life's tough and trying moments, I  must be physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually fit. I must take care of my body by eating and sleeping well (I'm currently struggling with this one!). I must nourish by heart by doing things that make it sing, by nurturing healthy relationships, by forgiving. I must keep challenging my mind by learning new things or seeing things from a different perspective. I must allow some time for solitude and worship to connect with the Source of All Life. Having this balance will make me sturdy through life's unexpected ruts and deep crevasses. On the other hand, neglecting to maintain this balance will result to poor health and a sense of confusion and hopelessness when trouble hits.

Life Lesson # 2) Ride at My Own Pace

My very first off-road ride was with G. and his circle of friends, who have been riding for years.  I naively thought that I was fit enough to ride at their pace. I was so very wrong. I went too fast. Speed + poor handling skills = disaster/bloody knees. I learned the hard and painful way that it's okay to go slow, to be at the back of the pack. Speed, endurance and bike handling skills do not come overnight. I must ride my own pace, and slowly but steadily improve my skills and level up as I see fit. In time, I will be as good a rider as them.

Sometimes, I see life as if it were a competition. Consciously or subconsciously, I'm always sizing myself up against my peers. Am I smarter/prettier/richer? Everyone seems to be getting married and having babies, should I be too? Shouldn't I be earning this much by now? And this always ends in either self-pity or pride, for there will always be greater and lesser persons than myself. Obviously, this is a very unhealthy and unhappy way of looking at life. The truth is each one has a unique history and timeline, and that life unfolds differently for everyone. To see someone else's life as peg for one's own  is a total dishonor to one's uniqueness. Wherever I am in my life, I am in a good place. I will allow life to unfold even as I take deliberate steps to pursue my dreams. In time, I will realize them.

 (To be continued)

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