What does it mean to continue being an athlete once you move on from pursuing your best result at races all over the country? How do you carry this drive to surpass your limits everyday without competition, and all while combining work with personal life?
I take a deep breath as I lace up my running shoes. I can feel myself breaking a nervous sweat as I think of the challenge that awaits.
For the past 15 years, I have spent my winters and summers training hard, my mind’s eye focused on my mountain bike racing goals. My focus is on performance and up until a few months ago, performance was very much top of mind. But recently, things have changed.
I take another deep breath, this time I can smell the forest. I jog slowly towards the trailhead and I put on my BUFF® Pack Run Cap. It is a comforting feeling, I have worn this hat on many an adventure. I almost consider it a loyal companion at this point. Before I know it, the trail is before me and I pick up the pace. Deep breath.
For some time I have felt at peace with letting performance go and turning my attention to new sports and experiences, eager to discover new places and live new experiences. Training for racing did not allow this kind of freedom before and now I am making up for it! I have started living the “van life” and going on spontaneous trips, all in the search for this new found freedom and exciting trails. I don’t feel as if I have slowed down and I am happy about that. Now I am pushing my limits in a new way.
The trail behind me snakes deep into the woods. I eased into this run, it’s a challenging course this time and I have to save some energy. The steep and technical climbs are still ahead of me and I will have to face them before I reach the summit. I am sweating now, although it doesn’t bother me under the shelter of my BUFF® Pack Run Cap, which keeps the sweat out of my eyes and face. I haven’t done much running compared to the time I have spent mountain biking, but the more I do the more I appreciate the simplicity of this calming yet intense sport.
I spend most of my days teaching physical education to children, striving to share the virtues of sport that have brought me so much. In the evenings, I work on my graphic design business in which I am co-founder. But despite this busy schedule, I always find the time to get outside. A day without sport feels incomplete. I need physical activity to feel balanced, healthy and spirited. Prioritizing sport is what encourages me to dream big and the connection with nature keeps me grounded.
My heart beat increases at about the same rate as the incline. I try to speed up as the challenge of the trail is now upon me and I plan on rising up to it. It’s a technical trail and a mistimed step could cost me. Finally, I get out of the trees and before me lies a rock outcrop that allows me to admire the horizon for an instant. It is beautiful, but I don’t stop. What awaits at the summit will be even better. I keep pressing forward, excited.
While racing and competition become a smaller part of my day to day, I consider sport no less important. In fact, it is easy for me to recognize that it is essential to my well-being. It has a major and positive impact in all aspects of my life. I strive to inspire others to recognize its importance in their own lives. No matter how busy they may find themselves, it is important to save some time to get out and play.
I can now notice the golden rays of a setting sun through the branches. I’d like to enjoy the most of the sunset from the summit so I squeeze out all the energy I have left. My brain is telling me to stop, but I ignore it and push on. I turn the last corner and begin to see the horizon again. I give everything I have to the top, knowing that the harder I push the sweeter the view will be. I burst out of the trees and stop, the landscape in front of me taking any breath I have left away. I walk now, soaking it all in. I breathe in and I breathe out, each inhale filling me with joy.
This is the kind of moment that makes me feel alive and fulfilled, as much physically as spiritually. This is my balance and my source of energy, it’s what allows me to flourish in all aspects of my life.
As far as I am concerned, each moment spent in my running shoes or on my bike is one of pure freedom, and that is what matters most.
Happy trails everyone !