Sunday, August 18, 2013

From Lows to Highs (On a Bike)

Before we cycle back up out of my "slough of despond," I must thank all of you who read and commented on my last post for your support and thoughtfulness and wisdom. If you haven't yet read it, I  invite you to have a peek at the comments. They are such a validation of this community's strength. Yes, we're getting older, but my, we seem to be gathering some wisdom along the way, and we -- by which I mean you! -- share this wisdom so generously, so kindly. (And I should quickly add that I know you're not all as old as I am, and that some lovely younger readers responded wonderfully as well -- just that overall, I think you've demonstrated that life experience is a very good thing.)

Here I am in an action shot (why yes, Paul did make me go back and cycle a portion again, just so he could take this photo again. How did you know?). . . cycling the last bit of the trail before we reached our morning's goal on the Kettle Valley Trail, the "Little Tunnel."  (To be clear, we only cycled a very short way, 8 km round trip, on the Kettle Valley Trail -- Most of the morning's work was just getting to the start from our hotel, near the lake, waaaaaay down below the trail.)
We first biked this route in Summer 2007, and I wrote a bit about it in this long-ago post.  We pedalled it again in 2011. This last week, as on those other two occasions, we borrowed bikes from the hotel (more on the hotel later, a separate post). Unlike those other occasions, this past week we took one wrong turn and added fifteen minutes to the uphill climb, albeit we got some respite with a long gentle downhill . . . which, of course, had to be reclimbed to get back on the path.

I noticed a significant difference this time, though. While the cycle up was still very tough, most of it made in the easiest gear (although I went through all 21), I recognized a change in my attitude this time. I remember really grumbling, being seriously cranky, wanting to blame Paul for putting the rocks in the way, for  not bringing enough water, for making it too hot, for making it too steep. This time, I knew it was tough, but I was sanguine, if not cheery, about the sweat. It was as if we were in it together, two. . . dare I say?  . . . amateur athletes out for a challenging cycle* into some gorgeous scenery.

You might remember that I still hesitate to think of myself as athletic, despite having run 8 half marathons in the last few years. You might even remember that I blame this persistent hesitation on my grade school gym teacher, the tyrant gymnast.  But, luckily, this guy below keeps roping me into riding and hiking and running along on his adventures.
And what a rewarding view, no? That's Okanagan Lake below, so beautiful in its near-desert setting, cerulean skies reflected in its watery depths, tranquil tawny tones around. . . .
As we stopped and enjoyed the view (just the other side of the tunnel above), a group of walkers, mainly late middle age, early senior, mainly women, hiked past, most with trekking poles (I've just bought myself a pair. . . more on that later), following a naturalist guide who was explaining the local eco-system to them. They were clearly getting as much pleasure from their activity as we were from ours -- the outdoors makes a great gym, doesn't it?

Have you been out to play recently? And, à propos of my last post on depression, do you find such outdoor activity a good antidote to sadness or anxiety?



*In the interest of full disclosure, I must say, and you'll notice from my gear anyway, that we're not regular cyclists, except that we pedal our island bikes the kilometre to and from the boat daily, baskets usually loaded with groceries. I'm nervous about bike-riding in the city, although I'd like to get over that and did enjoy cycling in Bordeaux a bit this summer. Naramata's a lovely, lazy little town where we felt very comfortable riding the roads. Except for that damned incline!

18 comments:

  1. OMG - that is BEAUTIFUL! I watch documentaries to see views like that! And I cannot imagine a universe in which I would bike up a mountain. I abhor incline :-) (and sweating and bright sun on my skin). Really, I'm kind of like a wussy vampire with mediocre VO2 max.

    As a person who manages anxiety (and always has done), I must walk to feel sane. For me, exercise is not about "fitness" as the magazines refer to it, but about maintaining perspective. The two kinds of exercise that work for me (not that there aren't others, but these are the kinds I enjoy so I do them) are walking (but to get somewhere, not just to enjoy the view) and yoga.

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    1. Walking is really the best -- it's more sustainable, right? As is yoga. Just that I sometimes want the added burn, and I do know how nutty that is and I do marvel that I ever got to this place. . .

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  2. I should clarify that I really can't speak about exercise as an antidote for depression. Mind you, when I was very sick last year (and almost incapable of walking up the block), I'm pretty certain that the lack of movement was a hindrance to my mental state.

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    1. I think there's a whole spiral thing that gets going in conditions like illness. . .

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  3. You are inspiring! Your low and high posts are both energizing and thoughtful. Even your commitment to post no matter what, to find the time, and to spend that time sharing thoughts and feelings. Meanwhile, your hiking, biking, and running make me want to do it all too. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thanks, Liz! And we both know you already do it all and then some. . .

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  4. Oddly enough, my brother sent this to me yesterday:http://www.thestar.com/life/health_wellness/diseases_cures/2013/08/15/getting_outdoors_good_for_mind_body_you_docs_say.html. As a group, women of a certain age are quite resilient. I have never considered myself athletic either but am capable of walking great distances. Our B.C scenery is unlike any other in the world.

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    1. Wow! Perfect timing and thanks so much for sharing this -- it really sums up the value of being out in Nature's green!

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  5. Me again... OK, as an experiment, and as I've been feeling out of sorts, I decided to go cycling to and through Toronto Island (and, regrettably, home at the point of most tiredness). Admittedly, I took my fussy teenager (which is always apt to further depress one) but, on getting home, I have to say I felt merely exhausted AND out of sorts. (Didn't help that Scott forgot to bring a credit card and we had only 60 bucks and 30 of it was spent on the water taxi.) Here we are an hour later and, amazingly, my hideous days-long headache is practically gone. That does NOT further depress me :-) I don't know if this exercise did anything to improve my mood - despite the utter gorgeousness of the day, the weather and the island. But it may have helped me with some pain.

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    1. You crack me up, especially since I just got back from a hike up that same mountain I got to the top of in a recent post . . . this time I fell on the way up and now have a banged-up knee and a couple of purple, puffy, very tender, and possibly sprained fingers to show for it. But I don't have a headache . . . I guess we should be grateful???

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  6. I'm surprised you don't consider yourself an athlete. I do. I'm in awe of your running prowess.
    Walking/hiking is my exercise. A dodgy neck and back put an end to my very short attempts at running in my mid-late 40s. Biking has some of the same issues, but getting my bike set up properly helps. Walking helps me work through knotty problems - when I was studying a few years ago and working on essays, a thinking walk helped me formulate many essay theses. Without walking I sleep poorly. Exercise definitely releases good endorphins for me.
    That Kettle Valley ride is stunning! The sere landscape is so different from our mossy rocks, but there is beauty in diversity.

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    1. I'm a nervous cyclist, one who only rides a "girl's bike" -- I blame my stiff hips. . . .so how could I ever claim athleticism, right? Running, though, just one foot in front of another. And hiking I can do, as long as it doesn't get too technical in the climbing, and as long as my fear of falling doesn't get in the way.

      It is a very sere landscape, isn't it? Have you ever thought of hiking through the Kettle Valley?

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  7. Hi from your walker friend! Endorphins, such an effective natural drug! That plus the beauty of nature is, if not a cure-all, always healing. And like K-line I find yoga fantastic for maintaining equilibrium. Though they are related, pilates does not have the same emotional effect, not by a long shot.

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    1. I've added yoga classes over the past year -- once or twice a week if I'm lucky. I still like my Pilates (excellent, excellent instructor) for a more targeted workout (for me, still too novice a yogini), but I have to agree with you about the overall effect of yoga. I'd love eventually to get to 3 yoga classes a week.

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  8. Hi! Exercise! Beautiful scenery! All are healing. Even getting banged up and grumpy sometimes. I would love to bike again, but my hips are still to stiff. Even walking up hill is still a strain. I huff and puff and grumble and slowly expand my route as I am building myself up and stretching myself out after major back issues in the spring. But in the end I always feel better when I get home.

    When I have enough flexibility to take a hike in the nearby smokies, I will post a picture and thank you.

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    1. The times I've had to curtail activities because of injury are always tough, and I know you've missed being able to move as much as you'd like to. I wish you a continuing recovery into greater flexibility and eventual hiking!

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  9. What a gorgeous view! Getting out in nature on foot or bicycle always makes me feel youthful and happy. I am glad you are feeling better.

    One thing that works pretty well for me in terms of maintaining equilibrium and reclaiming happy thoughts and feelings when I am blue is singing in a choir with friends twice a week.

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    1. Music is a fabulous mood-enhancer! I've been trying to imagine space in my schedule for choir -- it can't happen yet, but I will make this happen in a few years. Meanwhile, lucky you -- enjoy!

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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