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Cycling Saved My Life—and Not How You'd Think

Turning the Page

I hate exercise.

I hate working for things. I'm lazy. I get demotivated fairly easy. I'm a passionate person, but it doesn't take much for me to get bored, for my attention to drift, and for my brain to start itching for something else to do.

I hate exercise.

I've always wanted stuff now. I'm the type of person that would take the stairs rather than the lift, but only if it was towards something I wanted, and I could run faster than the lift could climb. My brain seems to be programmed to make an immediate cost/reward analysis and to decide on the spot whether something is worth the effort or not.

I really hate exercise. I spend my life trying to avoid it. I made a decision early on that I was prepared to never have the chiseled body of a Greek God, and that that was OK because I'd also never have to exercise.

A couple of years ago, I discovered the trail-riding side of Mountain Biking. Whizzing around the forest, dodging trees, and sending jump—and I loved it. As an avid motorcyclist, and someone who has always seen the attraction and thrill of sports like Motocross, I couldn't get enough. There was, however, one glaring problem: The exercise.

After a few rides I developed a small hernia (bible bump) on my left wrist, and quickly decided that I'd overexerted myself and went back to my gaming. I was upset that I thought I was unable to continue, but in my usual trend, I gave up.

Until very recently. My friend Marcus, who lives near Swinley Forest, encouraged me to get back out with him, borrowing one of his bikes. I took him up on the offer, quietly dreading having to push up the hills.

We spent some time riding round the woods, and I quickly realised that a lighter bike meant it was easier to pedal. I remembered why I enjoyed riding bikes in the first place and got frustrated with how easily I had previously given up. I'd finally found something worth the exercise.

Over the next couple of months, I went out more and more with Marcus, renewing my passion for the sport, and in turn, my fitness increased.

I started to look at buying my own bike and I bought a secondhand Cube to replace the spare Voodoo Bantu Marcus had lent me. The bike needed a lot of work, but having been someone who has always done his own car-servicing, I was up for the challenge.

Taking bits of the bike to pieces quickly helped me get to grips with the equipment I was using, and how it should be used. I started to understand how pedaling worked (it sounds simple, I know!) and also started to better understand the weight distribution and technicalities of riding.

Any gain in understanding resulted in an almost immediate gain in speed or riding efficiency. I'm an analytical guy, and having this much control on my performance was rewarding.

I started to think bigger. What about competing? I was getting a rush from being able to go bigger better and faster than yesterday. Was I turning into an "athlete." Not convinced.

I made the decision to start cycling to work. I gave up my car, saving over £500 a month in running costs, and I started riding two miles each way, daily. This increase in activity changed my life. I went from riding maybe 15 or 20 miles on a weekend to consistently doing 40 miles per week—before the weekend had even begun. I then found myself riding 25 to 30 miles on the weekend, too.

With the focus shifting more to the cycling aspect, as well as my enjoyment of the diverse and interesting scenery and nature you get to experience whilst you're out and about, I started to think about fitness.

I replaced my daily supermarket meal deal with Huel, a cheap and nutritious meal replacement shake, and I immediately felt leaner with cleaner energy delivery when I needed it. I also cut cigarettes out, and reduced other toxic habits.

Inadvertently, I'd started trying to be healthy.

The thrill and exhilaration of the sport had provided an overarching motivation to better myself as an individual and as an athlete, without thinking once about "why am I doing this?"

In addition to the fitness gains, myself, Marcus, and some other riders have started working on a mountain bike-related business that has been taking off and is looking pretty exciting for next year.

I've developed a passion, not only for the sport, but also for self-improvement—and it's saved me, from my lazy depressed self. Feeling a sense of motivation and the will to actually commit myself are both new sensations. I'm keen to see what happens next.

Follow Downhill Dreams for more content, footage and community events in to the new year!

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Cycling Saved My Life—and Not How You'd Think
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