cycling · fitness · Guest Post

Riding over rocks and an appeal (Guest post)

Hello, Fit Is A Feminist Issue readers, this is my first time writing to you. So I’m excited about that! I want to share something I learned from a rock and then I’m asking you for some help.

I love to mountain bike. I didn’t always. It took me a long time (like 20 years) to get past the fear that stood between me and making progress in my technical skill.

Then about nine years ago I committed to getting better. I have the good fortune to ride on trails in the Sierra Mountains, in California, for 6 weeks every summer. The trails here are a School of Rock. I struggle to learn how to maneuver around particular rocks or clusters over successive summers.

The first persistent rock I figured out was maybe the size of an upholstered footstool. The rock menaced me for three summers. The trail winds around the rock in a sharp-ish turn, flanked by thick tie-your-bike-up mountain shrubbery. I always balked at the last minute, and put a steadying foot down. Then one day, I approached my rock-nemesis with more calm than usual. What was the worst? –A tumble in the bushes? –A chain ring in my calf? Been there. Done that. I glanced at the rock. Every other day, I stared in dread, but this day my eyes were friendly. The rock seemed to soften, the path to widen. Around I went. No force. Just flow.

I felt my energy slow down. Not sapped or diminished, rather, my energy gathered inward, moving toward my center, that place of balance, which can never be achieved through pushy frustration.

That beautiful zenergy is followed, of course, by the all-important woohoos of delight and mini-party on the bike with helmet-loads of imaginary glitter-confetti.

That rock is the headmistress of them all. She was the first teacher who showed me the key, which I use to this day to unlock the puzzle of so many rocks.

For a couple of years I rode around my headmistress. Then one day, as I approached, she delivered a new insight. Instead of the complicated maneuver around, I could simply ride right over. Light and easy.

I could not have ridden straight over as an opening gambit. I wouldn’t have had the courage. I needed to develop the skill and confidence to ride around. Only then could I trust my ability to ride over.

Often, I feel the same way about making my way in the world as a woman, as a feminist. So many complicated and fraught issues, going around is easier than figuring out the flow and finding my place inside it. But when I have confidence in my intelligence and right to be present, I can be more curious. There’s more room for different approaches. I trust myself to neither defer, nor be overly confrontational. Light and easy. Thank you for opening the door for me. No, your hand is not welcome there, nor am I a “honey” or a “Mrs.”.

Sometimes doing things the hard way builds the confidence to do those same things the easy way.

Of course, my progress (on the bike and as a feminist) is not a straight line. Just this morning I approached a small-ish boulder from below and, in an excess of confidence, instead of going around I tried to ride right up the side and over. Well, that didn’t work. I’m nursing quite a few scrapes and bruises and am very thankful for my helmet.

A few hours later now, I’m thinking—maybe I just needed to gear down sooner and increase my speed. I might try again, or maybe I’ll go around.

The biggest boulder I’m trying to ride around and over at the moment is a book I’m writing. I’d love your help. Run Like A Girl 365 Days A Year: A Practical, Personal, Inspirational Guide for Women Athletes (May 2019) follows from my 2011 book, Run Like A Girl: How Strong Women Make Happy Lives. I’m looking at the ways in which our athletic pursuits nourish and inform how we live our lives; the challenges, the transformational moments and how our athletic self enables us build a life of purpose and meaning. I am speaking with women about their experiences. If you are interested, send me an email at minasamuels@yahoo.ca. I’d love to hear from you.

Mountain biking in an aspen grove

Mina is a writer, performer, fableog-ist, citizen, traveler, enthusiast and author of Run Like a Girl: How Strong Women Make Happy Lives, plus other books. http://www.minasamuels.com

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