On Wednesday, I finally got Trusty Steed out of his shed and made my first wheeled foray of the season into the woods. Hooray!
Soon thereafter, though, I had my first flat tire, broken spokes, and embarrassing slow-motion fall of the season. D’oh! But that was okay, as I just replaced the tube, wiped off most of the dirt and blood, pulled the dangling spokes off the rear wheel, put the bike back into the creek I was following, and kept on riding.Vroom!
One of the reasons that I enjoy bike riding in the woods so much is that it forces me to concentrate completely on what I’m doing at all times, lest I end up poleaxed by a branch, or ass-over-elbows-over-handlebars down a scree, or flayed by brambles and stickers as I roar through a bush, not realizing that it is armed and dangerous. I am getting great exercise, while focusing on nothing beyond the act of exercise and how it fits within the dangerous (but beautiful, in its own way) environment around me.
Compare and contrast this to the ways that most of us exercise when we are at the gym, where we use books, magazines, iPods and televisions to distract us from the act of exercise and the environment around us. We recognize that exercise is important, but we partake of it in such less-than-optimal surroundings that it only becomes tolerable if we are able to project ourselves, at least mentally, into other, more pleasant spaces.
I’m always particularly aware of this dichotomy around this time of year, after six months of heavy gym work through the winter and mud seasons. Biking (or hiking) in the woods feels liberating, and I don’t have to distract myself from the drudgery of maintaining cardiovascular health.
Golf is similarly good for me at this time of year, even though I am as bad at that game as I am good at Creek Riding. But no matter how poorly I play, what’s not to like about a sport where I ride around in a little cart with an attractive blond lady wearing cute outfits, while drinking beer and hitting things with sticks? That’s like 14-year-old boy heaven, right?
As with all things, though, these feelings will eventually succumb to the cycles of the seasons. Come November, after a month’s worth of golfing under cold, gray skies, or a few weeks’ worth of slogging through wet, fallen leaves in the middle of a brown and barren wood, I’ll actually reach a point where I will enjoy putting the iPod back on and picking up the Kindle and hitting the indoor track, or the weight machines, or the elliptical, or the heavy bag, as the spirit moves me.
It will be warm and dry, and I’ll be able to work up a good sweat while things freeze outside, and I’ll be able to turn off my brain and not worry about hitting trees or slicing balls, and that will be enough . . . for awhile.