Today was a good day. Especially this morning when I rolled out to head to Enterprise South Nature Park for a bike ride.
I hit the trail and started up. It’s a slight climb up a hill before you get to the trail intersection. I locked into a middle gear, put my legs into it and powered my way up. I hit a few downhill sections and made sure I powered on those to keep my momentum going to get up the next small rise. In just a few minutes, I got to the intersection, rode straight through and got on the main trail. It was a nice little climb and I enjoyed it. Why do I bring that up?
Three months ago I hit that same connector trail. And I walked my bike a quarter of it and struggled the rest. By the time I got to the top, I was already gassed and I could barely hit the rest of the trail. Three months ago, I did the easiest loop at the park, hit the middle loop and had to turn back, get on the road and ride in because I couldn’t go any farther. Two weeks ago, I rode all three loops at Enterprise South Nature Park. It’s 10 miles for all of it.
Three months ago, I could barely do four.
So, why do I exercise? It started last year. I was 220 pounds and wanted to get back into one hobby I know I loved – backpacking. Some friends at work and I planned a trip to the Smokies and I started training. Did the eliptical trainer about five times a week. Lost about 15 pounds and got down to 205. Went on the backpacking trip and enjoyed some of the best scenery I’ve seen in my life. Enjoyed pushing myself and eating some pancakes afterward not caring because I had just burned several thousand calories over the last two days.
But with a wife, a child and, at that time, another one on the way, I had to find something to get out in the woods for a short period of time. So, I bought a mountain bike. The only problem is, I’d eat like a pig after I biked. Would find myself starving and I didn’t know that much about nutrition. I ate like a horse, and I lost nothing. That went on for months. Winter rolled around and so did all the good food. I did the eliptical some weeks, some weeks I didnt. I gained every pound back I had lost.
Then February came around. I went out on a day hike with some friends. I made it, but the whole time I kept feeling like I was weighing them down. I thought about mountain biking and how that past November I had went on a ride and struggled the whole time while the rider I was with kept waiting on me.
It dawned on me that I needed to change. I couldn’t get past 205 and it was for a reason. I had to up my game and work out harder. I had to increase my intensity. The first weeks I did the eliptical. I went on a trail run for the first time. Every week I kept making my workouts harder and harder. I added in weights. Since February, workouts are harder, but at the same time getting easier.
So, why do I do this? First and number one is for my kids. When I’m older in my 40s I want to be able to play with them and not be out of breath. I want to take them backpacking. If they want to mountain bike, I’ll take them on that too.
The second reason is selfish. It’s to hike farther and faster. It’s to get deeper into the backcounty and see more of the outdoors. It’s to get on that bike and ride until I get to a place where I see the mountains and the rivers spread out in front of me. I do it because being outdoors and in nature is my passion. It has been since I was 7-years-old and found some woods down the road from my house where I spent countless number of hours, days and years exploring and playing and living. When I was 10, my parents moved to another home. The first thing I did was look around for some woods to play in. I found it just a block away. In the middle of town were some holdouts who owned hundreds of acres of woods. I played in them for years. Every now and then I would see the owners next to a barn they had in the woods. They never said anything. I just made sure I respected their property, not tearing any of their fences. Not vandalizing anything. Those woods were too precious to me to do that. Even today I think of one day walking to their door, knocking on it and thanking them.
So, back on topic. There are some people who tell me they hate going to the gym. I know the feeling. I don’t know how many times over the years I’ve been to the gym only to quit a year later because I hated the monotony and just got bored with it. But now I have found how it can affect my passions and fuel them. I don’t go to the gym just to go to the gym. I go to the gym because it makes it easier to get up that hill like this morning. I go to the gym so that when I go to the North Georgia mountains in a week and do a two-day mountain biking odyssey I know I may be spent, but I’ll be better off than I was five months ago. And hopefully one day in the future even a two-day trip will be nothing. I do it because when I go on a backpacking trip in a month on Jack’s River, I won’t be totally gassed by the time I camp and by the time I get back. I do it because it makes me feel even better when I’m outdoors.
Going to the gym isn’t that difficult anymore. I said on a previous post I try to always get a machine for cardo that I can look out a window. And it’s easy for me now. I’m seeing results. I’m loving how I can ride longer. I’m hoping to see some results on my backpacking trip.
It’s easy because it fuels my passion.