Uphill Just Got Easier

Uphill Just Got Easier

Moving from coastal flatlands to the mountains has certainly challenged my ability to cycle. In fact, I haven’t even ridden my road cycle since arriving here in the Smoky Mountains in late November. And that bike is my sweetheart. There aren’t really designated bike lanes or worse, flat places in which to ride. Nothing comes close to that blistering 33 foot elevation I’d experience while riding through Gulf State Park.  Or the 77 foot high bridge. No, here the elevations are in hundreds of feet. There’s even a chart for the Blue Ridge Parkway of elevation gain per section…and it’s not exactly a comforting document to behold.

The intimidating road cycling here prompted me to invest in a mountain bike. It has been years since I did off-road cycling but I figured I could at least break into elevations on the trails before trying the roads. Where I’d ride 20 miles and know I could have gone many more in the flatlands, if I make it 6 or 8 miles on my mountain bike I feel a nice accomplishment.

But yesterday I had a breakthrough and I think it’s a breakthrough that applies most wonderfully to the rest of my life. It seems simple but it made an incredible difference in my ability to pedal up some challenging hills.

On the usual 8 mile ride I do on a wide, gravel trail there are a few hills that prompt me to get off and walk my bike. Even in the lowest gear my legs protest too much. When I attempted them yesterday, I noticed I was energetically pushing myself up rather than staying centered over my bike with my attention and energy. When I brought my focus into the exact present moment and location in space, I found my bike was moving up the hill with much less effort and pain.

That may sound weird but it happened on several hills and I was able to continue pedaling up inclines that had previously caused me to give up and walk up. After the first success, I begin to fine-tune my attention and recreate it with other hills.

In the frustrating bike-walks, the moment I gave up I noticed my energy and attention was focused far up the hill and it seemed impossible to continue. In fact, my first ride there a rider was pushing up the hardest hill and so that outcome seemed normal. It’s what my mind accepted as true and right. But then I read a review on the trails at Deep Creek and the writer said the cycling was easy there. WHAT!?! As compared to what? Cycling up Clingman’s Dome?

But that came to mind as I was pedaling. How can I make this easier?My body took over and basically said…watch this.It was as simple as pulling my energy back to the exact place where my body was working. I had been directing my attention and thus my energy far up the hill and leaving less of me to actually pedal.

It’s difficult to accomplish one task if my mind is elsewhere. But if I give it my full attention, without focusing on the final outcome, I have more energy available to complete the task in front of me.

We are taught to live in the future, to always focus on ‘down the road’ to create a life of success and affluence. To support ourselves we are taught we must always think of the future. Yet when we do this we often miss the true beauty and richness of life. If our energy is tossed out into some unknown place far ahead, our daily lives can be more difficult because less of our self is present to create, live.

My goal is to make it up the hill but to do so I have to be totally present and keep my energy right here with me to make the effort less difficult. That’s what my bicycle teaches me. I can’t thrive in daily life if I am constantly worried about the future, if my focus is on some imaginary moment down the road of life when everything comes together. That place comes along organically by the everyday present moments of attention given to the quality of life in the here and now.

Struggle increases when we project our energy outside of ourselves to force an outcome. When we ease off and just stay present, life changes…for the better even though it still requires effort.

My road bike just had a tune-up. She’s ready to ride some off-the-beaten-path paved roads….am I? I’m getting there. Definitely…getting there.

 

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