Just over a year ago, I started mountain biking. I’ve always been vaguely interested in mountain biking, but with my partner having previously been a professional rider and still being seriously into the sport, I knew this was my chance. When I first asked him to teach me, I thought I’d putter around on a bike and just get comfortable enough to go out occasionally. But in the past year, my first year of riding, I’ve done over 90 rides, clocking over 1000km of riding and 30-40,000 meters of climbing.
Here’s what I’ve learned from my first year of mountain biking:
1. I am not defined by the stories I’ve told about myself.
I grew up not being the athletic one. This label has stuck with me my whole life. From being a kid who was almost always picked last for team sports, to an adult who decided it was easier to neglect this part of me – I’ve never been “athletic”. Throughout my twenties I did begin to find avenues for physical activity that I actually enjoyed – yoga and running have been components of this off and on. But I still certainly didn’t see myself as someone who was capable of accomplishing much in this regard.
In learning to mountain bike, I’ve flipped this on it’s head. I originally believed I couldn’t possibly take up this sport because I wasn’t “athletic enough”, but I realized that’s actually just a story I have been telling myself. I truly never thought I would see myself as an athletic person, and now I know that is possible for me.
2. I am stronger and more capable than I think I am.
I never imagined I would accomplish as much riding as I have in the first year out on the bike. I remember hiking some of the trails my partner used to ride and telling him I would never be able to climb that particular mountain on a bike, and fully believing it.
And yet, here I am. I’m doing it. I’ve done it. And I’m so much more capable than I ever imagined I would be.
3. It is important to trust the limits of my mind and body.
There have been days when I have pushed myself to go out mountain biking that I should not have. There have been days when I have been tired, grumpy, or emotional and I have still made myself ride. I might have been able to get away with this with a different sport, but mountain biking takes so much control, attention and precision that usually on these days it’s resulted in my flying over the handlebars or winding up in a bad crash on the side of the trail crying.
While there may have been more gentle ways to learn this lesson, it’s certainly proved it’s point. I need to listen to my mind and body. When I don’t want to ride, or when I’m too tired to ride, I need to give myself that break and not ride. Pushing through doesn’t get me anywhere. I need to listen to myself and prioritize caring for my body and mind above all else.
4. I don’t have to love one activity all the time, forever.
Will mountain biking be my forever sport? I don’t know. To be honest, this summer I’ve felt a bit tired of it and so over the coming months I’m going to allow myself to take a break. I’ve also fallen in love with HIIT workouts and strength training so I’m allowing myself to dive into that more fully, because it’s what brings me joy and makes me feel the most energized and strong right now.
I know I’ve had this tendency to believe I need to commit to something forever, otherwise it’s not worth doing. But I’m learning to let that go. I’ll mountain bike when I want to. I’ll take a break when I want to. I’ll start again when I want to. I’ll quit when I want to.
I get to choose. And it’s okay if it’s not forever.
5. Oh yeah, and of course I learned to mountain bike as well.