I learned a
couple things one evening a few years ago about athletic training.I know, I know, I think too much.Maybe someday I can put all this information
to use and write a book or something.I
learned it while biking, but I believe it has a broader application. It just goes to show, the more you know (or
think you do), the more is exposed that you don’t know.
summer, when I was learning to bike the long, steep hills of Lithia
Springs Road, I found that it was a mistake to
think about the tough climb ahead of me.It was too much of a deterrent.I
dreaded it and the chore seemed impossible.It was better focus my attention on something smaller, maybe my front
tire rolling on the pavement, like a yoga mantra.Or, even better, to let my mind wander to
something distant in time and space, like planning a camping trip, and forget
about my current stressful situation.
I also found that my legs gave out
before my lungs did.They got so tired
that I had to stop and rest long before I got out of breath.To get a good cardio-vascular workout I had
to take up some other sport, like running.
Well, that evening, I biked the
same route, but started late –about We were still in the remnants of hurricane Francis.It got dark early, windy, rainy and
foggy.Before I was through even a third
of the trip, day light was gone.I
brought no flashlight.Getting home safely
became a concern.
This time, thinking about the tough
climb ahead of me became a stimulant rather than a deterrent.It gave me something to focus on…to
attack.Then, feeling my legs giving
out, I figured there must be some way to get the rest of my body more involved.
About the same time, my scuba
diving instructor had told me that I was breathing too shallowly.Sometimes, that is a sign of being nervous or
excess bodily tension.In scuba, shallow
breathing wastes tank air, something in very short supply at the bottom of the
ocean!On land or sea, it prevents full
oxygenization of the muscles.So, he
said, “Quit It!”
This evening, I tried to get my
upper body more involved.I pulled with
my arms, pumped with my stomach and breathed more slowly and deeply.Sure enough, I was able to stay better in breath
and develop a stronger cardio-vascular workout.Then – a miracle!All that upper
body activity sent more oxygenated blood to my leg muscles.I was able to produce more speed and
endurance from my legs. Things were
getting better in balance!
On the upper third of the route, I
ran into a fog bank.It got totally
dark.I could only stay on the road by
following the white painted side line.I
had to stop pedaling by visual clues.If
it got steeper, I geared down.If it got
shallower, I geared up.My feet felt
solid in the pedal straps.My hands felt
solid on the handle bars.Occasionally
the reflected light from a distant house made a sheen on my sweaty arm.I could see the drops of water trickle down
my tan skin.I could see the tight
muscles outlined by pumped blood vessels.I felt solid.
I could not tell where I was on the
route; nor did I need to know.I let the
mountain come to me.This was quite
contrary to my usual modus operandi of
needing to see all the facts, have an itinerary and know where I am in the process.Eventually,
my progress became less about doing… and more about being…and finally I just
…became…the totally present (no past and no future) essence of pedaling up the
mountain.It was so peacefully Zen….yet
so solidly productive.
When I topped out on Brushy
Mountain Road, it was one of my very few non-stop
workouts.I was quite the flyer, racing
for home at top speed in a somewhat euphoric state.Several places the road is steeply sloped to
the left or right.My tires, which are
more worn in the middle, have fresher knobs of rubber sticking out on the
sides.As the tires ran at an angle on
the sloped curves in the road they made a satisfying humming sound, a
reassurance of fast progress down the dark and nearly invisible road.
Rarely in my life have I felt so
embracing of – and so embraced by – a situation.This trip was physical, mental and emotional
therapy.I wonder if the situation was
not just about athletic training.Maybe some
part of my subconscious has been working on my recent tension, frustration and
anger at the world due to my negative domesticate situation.Maybe my mind and my body took the
opportunity to give me a little lesson.
An even bigger insight seems to be,
that I have these smaller insights at times when I am putting forth the most
intense, sustained effort.I am sure
that my accomplishments -mental,
physical, emotional, creative or any other kind - have never been taxed to
anywhere near my total capability, because I have not chosen to push myself