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Mountain Biking for Fitness

My first mountain biking trip taught me respect for the hills.

As a marathon runner, I figured I’d accomplished my share of tough workouts and sustained a full resume of grueling injuries and that a little trail trek on my bike would be a piece o' cake. Wrong…

3 minutes was all it took to change my mind.

When the pavement under my knobby tires dissolved into a dirt incline at the trailhead, my pep lagged and sapped the rhythm from my legs.

The challenge was more than just physical. Proving myself (and returning to civilization with a respectable report) soon became my reason to dig into uncharted depths of my own will.

Panic set in a few minutes later. The guy I was with said we had 7 miles (up) to go…and that we had only just begun. He wasn’t even breathing hard. Bound and determined, I dug on.

The sun beat down. The dry dirt blew.

Sweat poured down my back. The power in my legs drained crank by crank, until the pain reached a constant -- further agony was just not possible. The muscles in my thighs were nothing but rusty clumps.

My arms, back and shoulders tightened their clamp on my neck.

I glanced up the trail to my friend. He finally had a steady stream of sweat pouring down his face, yet he remained agile. His legs pumped steady like pistons...except when he had to stop (frequently) and wait for me.

That's when I learned my first lesson. "Relax," he said. That's it. And then he was gone.

At first I was annoyed. Relax? In something so intense, it didn't make sense.

Relax...ok. The first downhill was at my front tire. I gazed doubtfully at the descent. Relax.

I could feel his cocky-headed "let's get a move on" stare from a football field away. I hopped on, lightly gripped the handlebars, took a deeeeeeep breath...and relaxed down the hill.

My wheels glided over the rutted and rocky terrain -- the same surface that, before the "relax" suggestion, would have had me riding the breaks and jamming into each rough glitch ... maybe even tossing me over the bike.

But just like snow skiing, the downhill was much smoother than expected. My heart raced. Adrenaline saturated my veins.

I stood up on my pedals, relaxed a bit more and soared down the mountain.

Addicted.

The next climb, a bit steeper this time was a whole different animal now. Faster, relaxed in the upper body - balanced in the legs. The peak's invitation pulled me.

The payoff? A great big screaming downhill pat-on-the-back!

When we got back down to the trailhead, I was ga-ga, in love with the ride.

Focus on the challenge and not the punishment. It changes everything. Not only on the trail, but at work, in relationships, at play, in creativity.

Every chance I get, I'm back up there. Different reasons summon me: the need for adventure, exercise, solitude, companionship, challenge, beauty.

A reason for every day of the week, plus a day of rest!


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