Last month I went to Germany to do some advanced Feldenkrais training, there is always more to learn, whatever you do. Last night I realised I should share with you something I wrote in my diary at that time as it had so many similarities to my thoughts on riding and life.
5th Oct 2015 - Ambling Ramblings
Today I walked in the mountains near Tegernsee, Germany, for 5 hours. That in itself was an achievement for me. The start was the toughest. Earlier in the week I'd gone part way with some colleagues, but couldn't keep up, so turned back alone. The track was steep, the weather hot (20C+), I'd worn too many layers so stripped off and was carrying the extra load in my back pack. Walking isn't something I generally do for fun. But here I was in this beautiful area, alone, I wanted to see it and enjoy what it had to offer.
Realisation 1: I'm not hiking fit, I needed to pace myself. I probably set off too fast. I walked a bit, stopped, rested until my heart rate calmed, then moved on and so it continued for the 3 hours or so up the track, until I chose to return down again.
Realisation 2: I don't breathe well under pressure. It's the same when I ride, especially when I jump. I get this feeling that I need to burp and burp really loud. One day I'm sure I will, but right now I don't know how.
At each rest point I took time to appreciate how far I'd come already. Some wonderful trail designer had thoughtfully placed benches at fairly frequent intervals along the route. Some were within my comfort zone, whilst others were in my stretch zone. Sometimes I'd need to stop between benches, to sit on a rock, or just stand on the track. I didn't sit on every bench. I was conscious when there were others behind me that they were generally catching me up and overtaking me. When they were in front I was conscious I couldn't keep up with them. Often I'd stop and wait for people to come past then wait until they were a distance ahead before I set off again. However, I also realised that I had the opportunities to stop and enjoy the glorious scenery the avid walkers were marching on past, missing the beauty. At one stop I was gazing up into the treetops, only to realise the air around them was filled with white butterflies, it was a marvellous sight. I needed to take this journey at my own pace and not have it dictated to me by anyone else. It didn't matter how far I went, or when I turned around, so long as I was down before dark.
As I moved onwards and upwards things started to get easier. Maybe the track was less steep at times, but there were areas where the going was rougher or narrower. I was curious to see how far I could comfortably go. Eventually I reached a bench set high on the side of the track, with an amazing view across to the town and lake below. I could see the next major stop off point, buildings, cafe, car park, were a short distance away, but I had no desire to visit them. I sat on that bench in the sun, admired the view, watched others marching past, then headed back down the track.
On the way down I felt really comfortable. I recalled that that had not always been the case. From the age of 10 I had been troubled with hip pain. In my senior school years we were bused out to our school hockey pitch in Weston Favell, then instructed to run back to the school in Derngate, Northampton (4 miles?). I always struggled, it hurt. I was usually last back and late for the following lesson, and that in turn would lead to a reprimand. As I got older I struggled to deal with walks on rough ground, especially coming down slopes. They frightened me and I didn't trust my balance. That was until I discovered Feldenkrais. I was in my forties by then, but as I explored the method more, I found I had more confidence when the going got rough. I totally surprised myself when, soon after starting classes I walked up the steep path in Petra (Jordan) to the 'temple' on the hill and back down again on a rough and narrow path, negotiating those travelling in the opposite direction. Since then my ability to walk in balance, without pain, has continued to improve, but it still seems out of keeping with my beliefs in myself. A few weeks ago I visited a friend near the Lake District. She's a fell runner and took me walking / rock scrabbling on Morecambe Beach, then sent me walking up Aria Falls near Lake Windermere. I didn't know it at the time but this proved to be good mental preparation for today.
On the way up I'd stopped for a coffee at the cafe my friends had gone to earlier in the week. I surprised myself at that point that I'd wanted to continue on. On the way down I didn't stop at all. I did slide a couple of times, I didn't have the best footwear on, but it didn't phase me - I rebalanced and continued.
I was also motivated / impressed / challenged by some of the other walkers, some with clear physical challenges, some significantly more elderly, others more overweight, some very young, parents carrying their children on their shoulders, their back or front. There were others who appeared to take this path in their stride, In fact one person I knew passed me telling me she did the first part of this walk most days.
I couldn't help thinking in how many ways this experience relates to riding; to my own experiences and those of my clients. It was a huge mixture of balance, confidence, skills, awareness, fitness, practice and desire.