Are you a busy executive trying to maintain some work/life balance? Is it a struggle to keep in shape, relieve stress, and exercise in a way that is enjoyable? Are you finding that running and other workouts you used to do are getting harder, boring, or are putting strain on your knees, hips, or your entire body?
I experienced all of the above. And then one day, I started riding a mountain bike.
Mountain bikes are a wide-ranging and versatile class of bicycles that all have one thing in common—knobby tires for off-road riding. A road bike is built only for the road, but a mountain bike can go anywhere. You can ride a mountain bike on paved trails, canal paths, fire roads, hiking trails, and even up and down ski hills.
Mountain bike specific trails are being built in record numbers all across the country, and tons of people are jumping on board. Including lots of busy professionals. Here are some reasons why:
Trying to get a bike ride in before or after work often means riding during rush hour, which is less than ideal for road biking. Road riding means sharing your space with cars, which can be very dangerous for cyclists— even with bike lanes. This explains why you see so many cyclists on the road at 7:00am on Saturdays and Sundays when traffic is light.
But why wait until the weekend? A mountain bike can be a game-changer when it comes to getting exercise and riding your bike any time of day. Just find the nearest trail and you’re off!
If you’re in a high-stress job or high-level position, you may not have much quiet time to think. Jumping on your mountain bike is a fun an healthy way to get some. You may be surprised by the power of a mind-clearing ride, or by the ideas and solutions that
pop into your head on the trail. Mountain biking allows your mind to unwind as you quietly ride in harmony with nature.
Mountain biking is never boring. There is something interesting to see on every ride. In addition to riding alongside the usual suspects like deer, squirrels, and chipmunks, you can spot some amazing wildlife. My short list of exciting sights includes a mother fox with two kits, a fisher, a coyote, mating owls, and several black bears and cubs. It certainly beats rush hour!
It’s a workout
It might feel like you’re just out having fun, but the physical benefits of mountain biking are numerous.
Mountain biking can help you maintain your weight and develop strong leg muscles, both of which are good for everyone who plans on being able to walk and stay active indefinitely. Mountain biking is low impact, which makes it a great fit for riders of all ages. But don’t let that fool you. Hopping on your mountain bike can provide a total body workout. Even if you’re riding on relatively modest off-road trails, you’ll reap the benefits of strengthening your upper body, arms, grip and core.
No matter where you ride, mountain biking provides a fantastic aerobic workout. But once you start climbing hills or riding twisting trails, it becomes an even more intense workout capable of raising and holding your heart rate to a threshold level for an extended period of time, which is now considered perfectly modern high intensity training. The alternative is to pay big money at gym for a membership, a routine, a class, and an instructor to get the same results.
Mountain biking will seem extremely challenging at first, especially if you haven’t ridden a bike in a while. But stick with it and you will see progress happen quickly, and continue indefinitely. When you ride trails, you will inevitably run into rocks, roots, or fallen trees in your way. Accepting the challenge and learning to wrestle your bike through, over, and around difficult obstacles not only leads to an amazing workout, it leaves you with a fantastic feeling of accomplishment.
Think mountain biking doesn’t have anything to do with business? Think again.
This sport forces you to be agile, think on your feet, and make quick decisions. It can also push you outside of your comfort zones and teach you valuable lessons, especially when it comes to overcoming obstacles.
When you’re on your bike, the key to getting past the various bumps in your path is having enough momentum and determination to make it over them.
If you think you can’t do it, the trail will prove you right. But if you keep your momentum up and have the confidence to face that rock, root, or hill dead on, your bike will lead the way. You may fail the first few times, but if you get back up and try again, eventually you’ll find yourself at the top of the hill, with a really great view of how far you’ve come.
How’s that for a good life lesson?
The mountain biking community tends to be a fun, friendly, and welcoming bunch. The people you meet on the trails could easily turn into great workout partners, friends, and even business connections.
Now that’s what I call work/life balance!
For more mountain biking basics and what to look for in your first bike, read Mountain Biking 101: Steve’s Tips for Getting Started.
Written by Steve Heger, President, Raffa Financial Services, Inc.
An avid Mountain Bike racer and enthusiast, Steve races both Mountain Bikes and Cyclocross as a Masters Division, CAT 1 (expert) rider, year around. He has made the podium over 25 times, with 15 wins. He is a five-time participant in the USA Cycling National Championships, winning two Silver Medals.
Need help with employee wellness, communication, and retention? Want to be an employer of choice in the greater Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC area? Get in touch with Raffa. We love this stuff! And it’s what we do for our clients every single day.
Photos by Steve Heger... in action!