Saturday, February 12, 2011

hikes & bikes move me.

I've written pretty extensively about how much I love my bike, Stinger. I'm excited for the onset of warmer weather so I can climb back on and up some of these mountains we moved into. In fact, Patrick and I might go out for a ride this afternoon.

So it's clear I love biking.

But after a hike up McAfee Knob with Patrick and my brother-in-law, Eric, last Sunday, I rediscovered my love of hiking.

{thanks to eric beeson for documenting our hike! all photos in this entry are his. see the whole collection from his visit.}

not all movement is the same
I have to drag my ass to the gym. I make myself do aerobics (and eventually I'll make myself do weightlifting again) because I know it's good for me.

Maybe I'll find a groove, or even a love, for these things. But that's a way's off. For now, they're work.

What has never been work, in that mental sense, is hiking. Yes, physically I get tired and sore. But mentally I'm engaged 100 percent. I even enjoy the strain of it: My favorite moments in a long hike are on the stretches of trail that require a little full-body climb, or a steep, lunging ascent. My legs are involved, my abs, my arms for balance.

Engaging these same parts of my body in a gym wouldn't do much for me. But on a trail? Exhilerating.

And this is what I take from that difference: Movement is very personal, and most people likely have a specific activity that engages their body, but also get their whole self excited. I'm thinking of dancers, soccer players, runners, gym rats. Being physically engaged is only part of the reason they commit to the activity. Or maybe it's no reason at all they're engaged. Doing that thing, whatever it is, excites their brains, their spirit.

Hiking is this for me. And biking. These things aren't easy for me, but I'm not put off by the difficulty.

what do they mean to me?
There's something similar in hiking a trail and hopping on a bike: I can do both in a pack, but even when I'm surrounded by people it's perfectly acceptable to exist within my own thoughts. The hike Sunday was full of good conversation, but equally full of a peaceful, easy quiet. When I ride with Patrick we speak occasionally, but I mostly concentrate on the road and my bike.

I know the solitary nature of hiking and biking plays a big part in why I enjoy them. But they're different in these simple ways (for me, anyhow):

My biking is an exercise in constant challenge. When I first got on a road bike last fall, I was challenging myself. When I first travelled a road by myself, that was a challenge. When I see hills, I dare myself to climb them with as much vigor as I can muster. When I find myself on a straight-away and with reserve energy, I attempt top speeds.

The fact that I even wished to push myself so hard in a physical way was an exceptional surprise. I did that through cycling, and I'll probably continue to channel my athletic ambitions through a bike.

So, there's that.

And then there's this ...

{the summit at mcafee knob}

Hiking gets me to a calm space, by way of the ground around me. The views on all the good hikes I've done around Roanoke are quiet and magnificent. The work is hard but the pace I choose is steady and easy. I haven't found a hike yet that escapes sounds of the highway or of planes traveling overhead, but the rest of the soundtrack is crackling and light. It allows me to reach some quiet and very comfortable place in myself that I couldn't get otherwise.

As I'm working to gain a more healthful lifestyle, isn't this supremely important? To be at peace with myself, at ease? I think it is.

so incredibly important
And what if I had never discovered them? I would probably make myself go the gym, and exercise would be a chore. Only a chore.

But I did discover them for myself. So I have a chance to experience exercise and movement in a very positive context. And potentially I get to explore it as a means to get to something else in my life. I've found a way to tap my ambition and to start to move toward a more peaceful, easy place within myself. Won't that lead to something?

It feels like it already has, but it also feels like there is something huge looming ahead.

PS: Look at this dog face. We are two lucky folks, Patrick and I ...
{saazie knows something we don't know. i can't wait till she tells us what it is.}


  1. Wow, those are gorgeous photos! It's nice to have something that doesn't feel like exercise and you don't have to push yourself to do it. You'll be racking up the mileage once spring hits!

    I can't wait for warmer weather.. I'm ready for some serious outdoor activity.

  2. Tell me about it! I have never felt so oppressed by cold weather as I do this year. It's not even the coldest temperatures I've experienced, but there's a never-ending quality to it. I'm counting down the days till spring ...