“Pedal pedal pedal!” my dad shouted to me as he let go of the back of my banana seat and gave me a big thrust forward.
My dad taught me to ride a beautiful yellow bicycle with white streamers over 40 years ago, and I remember it as if it were yesterday. It was a weekend morning and with him by my side, over the course of an hour or so, my emotions went from wobbly fear to pure confidence.
I got off the bike a different child than the one who had gotten on it. I had tasted freedom and it was exhilarating. With my chest puffed up and what felt like was going to be a permanent grin on my face, I knew that I could achieve anything I ever wanted as long as I wanted it enough.
That confidence stayed with me through college, moving abroad to learn Spanish, and getting my first corporate job back in the States.
But at times it has waned, like 15 years ago when my husband Randy introduced me to a new kind of biking—mountain biking.
It was definitely not love at first sight.
We had just moved to Colorado and I quickly and painfully learned that riding a bike on a mountain trail was very different than road riding. Regardless of whether I was going uphill or downhill, staying upright on steep rocky trails approximately the width of the bike I was on, took every ounce of focus I had.
There were moments of frustration and overwhelm.
Randy would tell you that during one of our initial forays in the most gorgeous of settings I may have thrown my bike in anger with tears streaming down my face and awkward profanity coming out of my mouth.
I remember my head being full of all kinds of victimizing sentences— mountain biking was too hard for me, Randy wasn’t supportive enough, I wasn’t on the right bike—thoughts that felt true at the moment but weren’t.
I remember I wanted to give up.
But I didn’t.
Fast forward to today and mountain biking is one of my most simple pleasures in life.
Getting on my mountain bike gets me away from distractions, long lists of should-dos that seem important, but aren’t, as they’re creating a gap between the life I choose to live and the life I want to live.
And the life I want to live?
It’s not complicated. It’s a simple rich existence of intentional together time with Randy and our two grade-school boys. And it’s showing up for and serving my clients who are facing their own obstacles and wanting to learn how to move through them.
Over the years I’ve collected my share of scrapes and bruises and sprained wrists and broken bones—literally, and mostly stemming from time on my bike.
So why do I keep getting on it?
Because when I’m on the bike I’m focused on the trail in front of me, and all of my worries disappear.
Any resistance I’m harboring melts within a few minutes of the ride. Thoughts that my life should be one way or another, when it’s not, dissipate.
With each deep inhale my heart fills with abundance—and I’m reminded that my life shouldn’t be any other way than the way it is. Time on the bike always gifts me with clarity, hope, and drive. It keeps me present and feeling alive.
And now mountain biking has become an anchor for our family of four.
Randy and I affectionately named our two boys “Crash” and “Smash” years ago when they were first learning how to ride bikes.
Today as 9 and 11-year-olds I can barely keep up with them.
They’re on their own mountain bikes, with their own stories of what their bikes mean to them.
At the start of each ride, Randy and I tell the boys to stay present to what’s in front of them. And that looking too far up the path can be distracting or even paralyzing—we’re going to ride to the top of that peak? not a chance!
And even though they’ve heard it a hundred times, we still often chorus, look where you want to go! And don’t look where you don’t want to go!
Because in biking, as in life, where you look is where you go.
Randy and I also tell the boys to stick to their line, meaning that we want them to commit to the path they chose to get over whatever rock or tree root obstacles are in their way of reaching their goal.
And we’ve realized that both on and off the bike, there are lots of lines but some are better than others.
Speed is also key.
If the boys go too fast, they’ll feel out of control and be scared.
Yet if they go too slow, they may fall over or come to a full stop, and not make any progress. Another downfall of going too slow? On an uphill, initially, it’s really hard to get back on and keep the bike upright.
So it takes some experimenting to find the right momentum to make the trail flow.
Both on and off the bike, the trail is always changing, but the direction we’re facing, never does. We ride looking forward (but not too far forward) and we live looking forward. And life feels light.
What about you?
Are you creating the momentum in life that you want?
Is there a change you’d like to make?
If so, start by living, looking forward.
And know that if you love your ride—the line you take and the speed you go—you’ll love your results.
About the Author: Heather Aardema is a National Board Certified Health & Wellness Coach living in Colorado with her husband and two grade-school boys. You can find more of her essays focused on growing healthy and living fully at RootofWellbeing.com.