Sunday, December 17, 2006

NEVER TOO LATE

Grandma Moses, famous for her book illustrations for “Twas the Night Before Christmas” among others, created her first painting at age 78, yet as I head out to the mountain bike trails in my now mid-40s-year-old body, so many of my friends, most of whom are even younger than I, tell me that they’re “too old” to start biking.  Perhaps I was “too old” over a decade ago when I hesitantly walked into the bike shop to test ride a bicycle for the first time ever in my life, as a 33-year-old woman.  Perhaps I was “too old” to decide to take up downhill bike racing at 38 years of age.  Perhaps I was “too old” to complete my first 24-hour solo mountain bike event at nearly 39 years of age.  And perhaps I’m “too old” even now to go  out into the woods with my bicycle, enjoying the fresh air and sunshine, laughing with complete childlike abandon, forgetting all the stresses and worries of “adult life”, and simply living in the here and now for just a while, letting myself become a kid again.

But why should being an “adult” mean robbing yourself of the joys of being alive?  Life is fragile, fleeting, and tentative at best.  As I age, that time I can give myself to really live becomes increasingly priceless.  I cherish the time I spend on my bike, communing with nature in an ever increasingly paved world.  I love watching the seasons change – springtime when all the trees are sporting their fresh lacy leaves like frilly Easter gloves, summertime when the thick forests provide a shady canopy under which to ride surrounded by an abundance of fragrant flowers, autumn with its brilliant fireworks display of changing leaf colors, and even winter when for some reason the evergreens seem to emit their most aromatic scents.

Mountain biking allows me the opportunity to slow down and take a break from the hectic world of work, rushing here and there, traffic, deadlines, responsibilities and worries.  I can ride as hard or as easy as I choose, depending on my mood.  It offers me the chance to relax and refresh my spirit, and at the same time know that I am strengthening my body, building muscle, fighting the ever present threat of osteoporosis on my aging bones.  Mountain biking does not have to be the hardcore adventures depicted on television commercials whereby teenaged boys are jumping off cliffs in order to be fun.  It can be something as simple as pedaling around a beginner doubletrack path in a local park.  Make it what you need it to be in order to you’re your own soul.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Baby steps

The knee rehab is coming along gradually.  I took my mountain bike out yesterday for the first time since surgery for a ride on an actual trail, riding everything but the short intermediate loop at Harris Lake.  While I still can't stand while pedaling, and as such had to walk up some of the climbs on the advanced loop, overall I felt surprisingly good and Steve and I had a wonderfully enjoyable ride, albeit a slow one.

 Then today he and I decided to tackle the tennis courts.  I had not picked up my racquet in a while, so I was a bit apprehensive.  However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was able to play a full two-set match.  I'm still not completely comfortable or confident with quick bursts of speed, and in fact really don't have that capacity as of yet, but I was able to run a little to get to some shots I was not even close to making just a few short weeks ago, so I feel like I am making some progress.

 As per the orthopedist's instructions, I have begun a walk/jog program and am currently up to roughly a 4:1 minute run/walk ratio for about 30 minutes several days per week.  I still have a rather awkward gait with the running portion, but my surgeon and physical therapist have assured me that with the three P's (persistence, patience and practice), that will improve over time.  Of course, I continue to stretch before and after exercise, ride the indoor bike regularly nearly every day to increase my range of motion, and ice down the knee after exercise, all of which seem to be helping, and the swelling and pain are very gradually reducing overall.