How to keep exercising outdoors in the drought

“How CAN you keep exercising outdoors in the drought????”

I’m writing this blog post because over the past year lots of people have said they just don’t know how I can keep exercising outdoors in the drought. We typically think of nature as nurturing and health-giving, a place of solace and retreat. Being confronted by a shockingly dry environment with frequent bushfires, brown landscapes that used to be green, National Park closures, and dry waterways, it’s clear that nature has a shadow side as well.

flowers before the drought

“It’s REALLY tough!”

To be completely open, I’ve also questioned how I can keep exercising outdoors in the drought. The whole climatic situation has been tough. Really tough! The ripple effect of the drought has swept up farmers, wildlife, local businesses, ‘town’ people, and those in the cities. We’re all affected in various ways either directly or indirectly. There’s a pervasive and damaging sense of hopelessness, and like any emotion, it’s contagious. Yet a sense of hope is exactly what we need to survive difficult or traumatic situations. Where there’s hope, there’s life. Without it, we spiral into a self-fulfilling doom and gloom mentality.

Exercising outdoors has been very confronting. I can’t walk on my home trails without seeing or smelling death. The brown dust colours my view as if I’m looking through a sepia filter. Ticks are in plague proportions. Swarms of good ole slow country flies are driving me nuts. The heat is unbearable. And there’s not enough water for washing your hair after a workout.

My stress tank is overflowing! How about you?

My connection with nature runs very deep, as does my yearning to be active. But in this tough time, I also came down with shingles. My stress tank began to overflow. I had to do something differently. Bushwalking and bike riding whilst constantly thinking about the drought and feeling unwell was contributing to the stress.

So what CAN you do when being in nature is SO stressful?

You have to put your creative thinking hat on to find a solution when things get tough. What worked before is no longer effective. The questions people keep asking me (and that I wanted solutions for too) are:

  • How can I reconnect with the side of nature that heals and nurtures and teaches?
  • How can I enjoy my time outdoors without feeling overwhelmed?
  • What mindset shift do I need?
  • What actions do I need to take?
  • How can I keep exercising everyday?
exercising in the drought
Exercising in the drought has it’s challenges

So I set you to explore this new territory and experiment with the possibilities!

Here are 6 solutions that I’ve discovered. I hope they work for you too!

1. Podcasts

If you haven’t got on the bandwagon yet, then you really need to! Podcasts are audio shows, a bit like a radio show, that you can either stream from the Internet or download onto a device to listen to later. I download episodes from my favourite shows onto my phone, plug my ear phones in, and listen to inspiring, energising interviews while I walk. Instead of focusing my attention on my surroundings, I lose myself in the show and arrive back home with excitement for life and new ideas to put into action. Watch out for a future blog post about my favourite podcasts suitable for Android or Apple.

2. Set an Intention

Before heading out on a walk or ride, I often choose an intention – something I want to focus on or get out of my experience. This is a personal choice, so it can be anything at all. Some of the intentions I’ve set for myself go like this:
“Today I will notice new growth”
“Today I will focus on the sensations in my legs”
“Today I will find fun”
“Today I will discover colour”
“Today I will notice sounds”

3. Mindful Walking

With mindful walks I like to focus on one sense at a time and when I notice my mind has wandered away from my body, I gently bring it back to rest on my senses. I’ve especially enjoyed focusing on my sense of hearing – noticing the many different bird calls, the sounds of the breeze in the trees, my footsteps on the ground, insects buzzing around, wallabies bounding along. I usually focus on one sense for a few minutes, then move onto another one. With my sense of touch, I focus on how it feels to have clothes on my skin, feet in my shoes as I take a step, muscle movement, sunscreen on my face, leaves brushing my skin. When I focus on my sense of sight, I challenge myself to find colours and light and patterns that I don’t normally notice. You can also use a meditation app with a guided practice for mindfulness of walking.

4. Photography

I’ve discovered that taking photos along the way really helps me to bring my attention to the beautiful things. Sometimes I combine photography with an intention or a mindful walk so that I can collect images that bring me joy, and at the same time it helps my brain to collect evidence that there is hope.

5. Make it Social

Walking or riding with other people can be really helpful because the focus is on that invisible connection between myself and someone else. Give me a deep and meaningful conversation with a friend any day, plenty of laughs, a chance to debrief the stuff of life that drives me crazy, and to celebrate the rest. Sometimes, too, there’s a sneaky competitive edge that sees me running or riding faster when I’m with others. Inevitably that ends up in a heap of laughs too, gasping for air, heart pounding out of my chest, and the satisfaction that I’ve done my weekly interval training.

6. Mix it up

I’ve always said “I’m not a gym person”. I’ve built a business and identity around my outdoor adventures. BUT, being unwell and being in the drought has helped me re-set my rigid thinking about exercise. Instead of going outdoors everyday, I went to an aqua class with a friend, did loops of the river walk in town where it’s a bit greener, and took up an irresistible offer to join a gym. I’ve extended the variety of exercise I get which is a fantastic thing! It will help me enjoy and have greater success with my outdoor adventuring which I’m still doing at least a couple of times a week. Going to the gym also gets me focusing on my sadly neglected strength training (one of those things I really ‘should’ be doing at my age!), all whilst staying out of the flies and heat. I get to make new friends and pace myself sensibly (sort of) as I recuperate. At home I’ve also begun a more regular yoga practice – something I’ve been wanting to do but it’s been a lower priority until now.

To Sum Up: Choose Your Focus!

It’s really all about CHOOSING WHAT YOU FOCUS ON. When we feel like we have What's my plan of action to deal with this issue?no control or influence over a situation (like the drought), it’s important to push the pause button, think about it creatively, and choose your focus. Like many people, I’ve struggled with exercising outdoors in the drought. The ideas I’ve shared in this article have made a huge difference to me, my mental state and my physical health. My hope is that they help you too.

Let me know what works for you! Have you got some other ideas to share with our readers?

Daisy Spoke

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Kathryn Walton shares information and reflections in ‘Daisy Spoke’ that inform, inspire and empower women to a healthy and active lifestyle.

Another 5 Things I’ve Learned About Life Through Mountain Biking

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When you open your mind to learning and growing, you discover opportunities everywhere around you. Over the past ten years, mountain biking has become a parallel universe for me to learn about myself and the world around me. As my enthusiasm for this style of learning has developed, so too has my love of mountain biking. I wanted to share my excitement with everyone around me and so I began my blog, Daisy Spoke. And my very first post in Daisy Spoke was “5 Things I’ve Learned About Life Through Mountain Biking”.

So ….. now here at last are another five ways that mountain biking has helped me to keep learning and growing as an individual!

1. Look up

Look upI instinctively look straight down in front of me when I ride my bike. This means I wobble a lot and react to every little lump and bump in the terrain. Having a one way staring competition with the trail right in front of me does me no favours. My imagination fixates on small details that don’t really matter. I didn’t even realise this was happening until I learnt at a coaching session the importance of looking up, to keep my eyes focused further along the track. This gets me into flow and enjoying a smoother, more connected ride. I’m still learning to trust myself, to have confidence that my brain has registered the terrain directly in front of me and that my body will know how to handle it. Every ride is a reminder to keep my sights focused ahead in all areas of my life – my work, my personal life, and my riding!

2. Absorb the bumps

Absorbing the bumps while mountain biking
Photo from Chicks in the Sticks 2017

The bumps and jumps are all part of the fun of mountain biking – in fact a very large part of it! But it’s taken me a long time to see it that way. Fear of falling and lack of confidence creates tension which in turn leads to a rigid framework, sore muscles and stiff joints at the end of a ride. Learning to relax my stance and go with the bumps instead of resisting them is an ongoing process. Mountain biking gives me the opportunity to experience a sense of lightness instead of a sense of lack of control. I can visualise my legs as natural built-in shock absorbers. With improved inner resilience, or bounce-ability, I’m also able to relax a bit more in life in general, to see past the hiccups, and rise above the challenges.

3. Move around

Move moreHaving ridden mostly on smooth paved surfaces like roads and bicycle paths for most of my life, it’s been a huge learning curve getting onto mountain bike trails. You need to move your weight around constantly adjusting for the ever-changing terrain. Forward and back, side to side, up and down, as well as every possible combination of these movements. The hard lesson is that if you don’t shift your weight around you can’t get up that hill, or down that steep slope, or round that tight corner. Riding can quickly turn into hike-a-bike (which isn’t much fun) or hitting the ground (which also isn’t much fun). So when I ride I try to be conscious of how I move my body – above and around my bike frame. As in life, the more you move around, the more fun you’ll have and the healthier you’ll be.

4. Be present in the moment

Mindful concentration while mountain biking
Photo from Chicks in the Sticks 2016

A distracted mind is on a road to mishap. At least, that’s my experience on my mountain bike and life in general. On my bike, the terrain is constantly changing and I need to keep my wits about me at all times. When I tune my sensory antennae into the environment around me, I’m fully present in the here and now. At least that’s the theory! The reality is that sometimes when I’m riding my mind wanders off and suddenly, oops, there it is, a rut the size of the Grand Canyon about to swallow me and my bike. It’s an ongoing learning process of training my brain to come back to the present, Not only does this make me safer on my bike, the ride is heaps more fun too. The same technique applied to other areas of life can lead to more satisfying relationships, more efficient and effective business decisions, and reduced anxiety.

5. Keep trying!

Patiently persist!Throughout life I’ve tended to focus my energy and attention on things that come most easily to me. If I couldn’t do something perfectly the first time, I’d usually move on to the next thing fairly quickly. As far as mountain biking goes, I’d had a few short rides on unpaved paths and paddocks over the years but didn’t develop much interest in “that kind of riding”. I’d fallen off a few times so there wasn’t a lot of incentive to keep going, so my bike tended to stay in the garage most of the time. A few years ago I decided to give it another go. Maybe there was an inner knowing that it would open up a whole new world to me, that there was much more to be gained from riding than simply mountain biking skills. With the support of my Courage Coach, I learned to develop persistence and this has had a profound impact on me. I’ve discovered how valuable persistence can be when life gets tough and I feel like giving up. Persistence speaks to that fiercely determined part of my soul and keeps me trying, practising, modifying, trying again, and finding ways to bring my hopes and dreams into reality. I’ve learned that I can work really hard at things that don’t come naturally to me and to experience immense satisfaction from that!

Read PART 1 of this article (my very first ever blog post!) “5 Things I’ve Learned About Life Through Mountain Biking” including:

  • Look where you want to go
  • Lean into what you most fear
  • Going slow is ok
  • Take a break when you need it
  • Practice, practice, practice

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Daisy Spoke aka Kathryn Walton logoKathryn Walton shares information and reflections in Daisy Spoke that connect, inspire and self-empower women to make healthy choices for themselves. She integrates her love of physical exercise, family, nature, gardening and creative arts with her professional background in mental health social work to facilitate change with individuals, groups and communities of women who are committed to living life to the full.

Frights, Flights, and Fears: Look back to see how far you’ve come

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Life can hand us plenty of frights, flights and fears but it’s good to look back occasionally to see how far you’ve come. I’ve been reflecting on this over the weekend when I noticed some old fears resurfacing, and rather than get caught up in the stories they told me, I chose to look at how far I’ve progressed.

I was eager to get back on my mountain bike after a couple of weeks away road tripping, bushwalking and trail running which I absolutely loved, but I also love riding my bike and Kathryn on MTB riding through a gullywas missing it. When I started riding on the weekend, I noticed some of those old worries pop up that only surface when I’ve been off my bike for a while. They used to hang around me a lot. Well actually, most of the time! But I’ve worked really hard at keeping them in their place in recent years. Deciding to blog about them has been one of the most empowering actions I’ve taken. They could no longer lurk away in the dark depths of my mind, stewing and multiplying and expanding by the minute. Many of them simply lost their power when I brought them out into the light of day. Have you read my blog about how I worked through a step-by-step process to manage my fear of “the scary corner”!

So here I was on Sunday morning with an incessant barrage of inner talk going on in my head:

“That’s too slippery.”

“I can’t ride down that gully.”

I’m going to hit that tree.”

I’m hopeless at riding on ‘technical’ terrain.”

My back tyre keeps slipping out. I can’t ride up here.”

There are too many rocks.”

There are too many low hanging branches.”

I have to go slowly round this corner so I don’t fall off.”

I’d better walk this bit.”

That’s where I fell before.”

That’s another place I fell off.”

That’s where I nearly fell on the snake when I stopped too quickly and went over the handlebars.”

..and so on and so on. It was very loud in my head!

NOW I want to say that the most powerful step YOU can take if you find yourself in a similar situation is simply this: NOTICE what’s going on in your head. Simply NOTICE. The situation doesn’t’ have to be about riding a bike. It might be the thoughts you have associated with speaking to an audience, introducing yourself to someone, going out in the dark, driving in the city traffic, swimming with sharks, flying on a plane, or absolutely anything at all! Simply NOTICE what your mind says. And with the power of noticing what’s going on in your head, you can then choose what to do next.

Kathryn looking calm and happy on her rideI’ve been practising and teaching this technique for a lot of years, and yet still I sometimes forget to do it when the moment arises. The thing is that on Sunday morning I DID NOTICE those fearful thoughts bouncing round my head. And guess what? I didn’t care about them. I didn’t let them bother me. Instead of giving them the power of my attention and allowing them to expand and bully me into playing it too safe, I chose to dig up another thought from my mind vault:

This is a confidence cycle. I only worry about these things when I’ve been off my bike for a couple of weeks and out of practice. Just ride. Focus on how far you’ve come over the past few years. Don’t let those worries bully you or keep you small, or limit the fun you’ll have today. You’re sensible. You won’t do any crazy dangerous stuff. You’re safe. Just ride.”

And so I focused on how strong I felt and that all the recent running has made a positive difference to my strength and aerobic fitness. I enjoyed the feeling of sprinting up a couple "Tough Girl" socksof short hills engaging my quads in an exertion that a couple of years ago would have been painful (if not impossible)! I pedalled in a higher gear than normal and found it easier than expected. I noticed what I did well and trusted wholeheartedly that my confidence will be back real soon. I glanced down at my fabulous new “tough girl” socks reminding myself of my strengths and the stories I can tell myself about what I CAN do. And as I looked back over the past few years, I could see how far I’ve progressed in managing my fears on the bike. I’ve developed resilience and practised some of life’s most valuable skills that I’ve transferred into other areas of my life.

Yes, frights, flights and fears will always be there, but you can choose how to handle them. Practise. Persist. And occasionally look back to see how far you’ve come.

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Daisy Spoke aka Kathryn Walton logoKathryn Walton shares information and reflections in Daisy Spoke that connect, inspire and self-empower women to make healthy choices for themselves. She integrates her love of physical exercise, family, nature, gardening and creative arts with her professional background in mental health social work to facilitate change with individuals, groups and communities of women who are committed to living life to the full. 

3 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Was Younger

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Do you know what drives me to do the work I do with groups of women and health professionals? It’s the fact that there are so many things I wish I’d known when I was younger – things that could have made a difference to my life and to my happiness if I’d known about them, made sense of them, and felt confident implementing them in my own life.

Being stuck in anxiety, sadness or anger stops many people from living truly satisfying and fulfilling lives. With many years of working in the mental health industry as well my own personal experiences, I feel an unstoppable drive to keep moving forwards, to keep expanding my reach to build up people’s knowledge and skills, to make a difference in the world with as many people as I can. My mission is to share information and inspiration that empowers women towards a genuine and deep sense of wellness. And by doing this the ripple effect will have an even greater impact.

Wild yellow flowers

Today I’m sharing with you 3 things I wish I’d known when I was younger.

1. Exercise is the only magic pill

KW MTB selfieDaily exercise and general physical activity are crucial elements of feeling good. Just as some people might need to diligently take medication every day, I need to exercise every day. Exercise is nature’s way of stimulating the hormones which aid concentration, problem-solving, sleep, digestion, and mood. This daily dose of exercise rebalances our body’s systems resulting in wide-ranging benefits that no single medication can provide. The research is absolutely clear that regular medium to high intensity exercise can have a profound effect on health AND happiness.

What types of physical activity and exercise do you prefer? I’ve always loved bushwalking, and in more recent years I’ve become really enthusiastic about mountain biking. I call mountain biking my ‘parallel universe’ because it not only provides me with a very regular dose of fun exercise, family time and social interaction, but I’ve also learned the most amazing life lessons from it including managing fears, growing resilience, and developing mindfulness.

2. Get sleep savvy

Awake owl
Credit: source unknown

Sleep is vital for optimal brain function including mood management. Quality sleep restores the mind and body. It improves concentration, problem-solving, reaction time, capacity to think clearly, organise ourselves, plan, learn … and the list just goes on. But getting a good sleep is easier said than done for some of us. There are many skills to getting a good sleep and there are many things you can control when you understand how sleep works. So, the lesson here is to educate yourself about sleep – sleep cycles, circadian rhythms, body clocks, and sleep hygiene. The most common helpful strategies include exercise (especially in the morning), exposure to early morning light (this resets the body clock so you start to feel sleepy in the evening), reduce caffeine (especially in the afternoon) and learn relaxation and stress management skills. Another vital strategy here is to learn about AND practice mindfulness – every day (not just when you have trouble sleeping). Which leads straight into my 3rd tip!

3. Mind your mind

Don't believe everything you thinkMinds are such complex things! They wield a lot of power over our emotions and our actions (including sleep). But unless you notice what’s going on in your mind, and choose how much power to give it, your thoughts, assumptions and beliefs will control you instead of the other way around. The habit of being hooked by thoughts or strongly attached to them is limiting and anxiety-provoking. The key here is to begin by simply noticing what is happening in your mind, and by doing this with curiosity and without judgement. The power is in the noticing. You’ll collect all sorts of interesting bits of information about how your mind works, what thinking patterns it gets locked into, what beliefs and assumptions are behind it all, and how all of this impacts your physiology, your behaviours and your emotions. One of my favourite sayings is “Don’t believe everything you think!” because we can learn to stand back, notice the thought and choose whether to believe it, or not.

Let's sum up!

So there you have it. The 3 key pieces of information I wish I’d known (and understood, and implemented) when I was younger!

1. Exercise is the only magic pill

2. Get sleep savvy

3. Mind your mind

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Daisy Spoke aka Kathryn Walton logoKathryn Walton shares information and reflections in Daisy Spoke that connect, inspire and self-empower women to make healthy choices for themselves. She integrates her love of physical exercise, family, nature, gardening and creative arts with her professional background in mental health social work to facilitate change with individuals, groups and communities of women who are committed to living life to the full.

Nine Powerful Mind-based Strategies

This post is all about using powerful mind-based strategies to boost your resilience and enhance your sense of wellness. In my last blog post I stepped you through how to create your own recipe for success and happiness that grows from a base of action-based strategies. Your recipe included actions that enhance physical and mental strength such as meditation, exercise, socialising, nutrition and sleep among others. Today we’re adding to your mix with powerful mind-based strategies!

Click here to read my last blog post “Recipe for Success and Happiness: getting the mix right!”

When you have a solid routine of action-based strategies enhancing your resilience, you’ll be ready to make effective use of mind-based strategies as well (the psychological jargon is ‘cognitive strategies’). These tend to be a little bit trickier than the action-based strategies because they deal with things we can’t see, like our thoughts, feelings and attitudes. But mind-based strategies can be incredibly powerful so they are definitely worth practising.

When you combine helpful actions with powerful mind-based strategies, you’ll create a deep sense of wellness and inner strength. You’ll be better equipped to manage stresses and will be able to bounce back more quickly when life throws those curve balls. As a result, you’ll know what it is to experience success more often and your satisfaction and happiness will soar. BUT the key point is that you need to PRACTISE them. All of them. Repeatedly. Don’t give up. New habits can take weeks to gel, so stick at it!

Mind-based Strategies

1. Keep a bagful of helpful questions handy – “I ask myself …”

  • Am I using black and white thinking? Where’s the grey?
  • Am I exaggerating the situation?
  • What does this situation look like from other perspectives?
  • Will this matter in 5 years time?
  • What’s the worst thing that could happen?
  • Am I filtering out the positives / negatives?
  • Am I really to blame? Is it my responsibility to fix?
  • Is this label / judgement helpful?
  • Am I jumping to conclusions?
  • Where is the evidence that what I’m thinking is true?
  • Am I assuming I know what the other person is thinking / feeling?
  • Are my expectations realistic?
  • Am I focusing on things outside my control?
  • What would my older wiser self advise me to do?

2. Work towards goals – long-term, medium-term and short-term

Break them up into little steps and focus on one little step at a time. A personal example of mine was when I registered for “Chicks in the Sticks”, a 3 hour women’s only enduro mountain bike event. I had months to prepare myself physically and psychologically which was a good thing because I’d never been in a bike race before and was terrified at the idea! I broke my goal down into smaller goals such as joining regular group rides, developing a training plan with increasing ride lengths and levels of difficulty, and having some coaching sessions.

3. Don’t give up when things don’t go as expected

Use a problem-solving technique to brainstorm ideas (even the crazy ones!), evaluate your options, choose one option, implement it, review how it’s going, and repeat this process as often as necessary.

4. Give yourself words of affirmation, reminders that you are ok

Many of us talk down to ourselves in critical ways, we tend to notice our shortcomings and weaknesses, but there’s a whole lot more to ourselves that needs some attention too! For example, tell yourself “You did great!”, “You are enough”, “Wow you’re getting stronger all the time!”

5. Gather a store of mantras, statements, quotes or ways of being that you intentionally choose to live by

You can collect them from songs, poems, books and social media in addition to listening to your own inner wisdom. Write them on sticky notes, in a journal or diary, print out visual reminders to stick around your home or workplace, or even use them as screen savers and wallpapers on your electronic devices. Some examples include “Just do it”, “One drop raises the ocean”, “Keep it simple”, “Just breathe”, “Stand tall”.

6. Get yourself a playlist of mentors and role models

They might be people you know and admire personally, or they could be people you’ve read about, or even characters from movies or books. When you find yourself feeling anxious or angry, ask yourself “What would [insert name of someone you admire] say or do in this situation?” One of the tracks on my personal playlist is a mountain bike coach I went to a couple of years ago. I sometimes hear his voice when I’m riding technical terrain on my bike “Get down low. Lower!”, and “Look up. Higher!” These words have been invaluable as I’ve learned to manage my fears about riding.

7. At any time you can call upon 5 seconds of courage

That’s all it takes to pick up the phone, make an assertive statement, click on a button or walk away from a situation. Think what YOU could do in YOUR five seconds of courage!

8. Develop a mindful approach to living

Notice more of your inner world and the subtleties of the world around you. Really get to know yourself, your patterns, thoughts, reactions. With this powerful knowledge you can then make conscious choices to do things differently, or the same. You’ll be in charge of your responses instead of the other way around.

9. Visualise how you would like things to be

Picture yourself doing something you want to achieve, or being the sort of person you’d like to be. Visualisation can be used for relaxation (eg visualise yourself lying on the beach, your stresses trickling away into the sand beneath you) or to help you progress towards a goal (eg visualise yourself speaking in front of an audience, feeling confident, upright posture, smiling, relaxed). When I’m feeling nervous about riding my bike on a particular section of track, I stop for a few moments and picture myself riding it the way I want it to go, as if I’m watching a short video of myself successfully negotiating that section. It truly is a powerful mind-based strategy and one you can use in every area of your life.

Free printable to keep your powerful mind-based strategies in play!

So there you have it – some really powerful mind-based strategies to throw into the mix. And to help you keep your strategies in play, I’ve created a free printable for you. “I ask myself …” is a beautiful keepsake of the helpful questions listed above. You can download it for free from my website, ready to print and display. This will be a valuable tool to keep your powerful mind-based strategies present everyday.

Each month you’ll have access to a new FREE PRINTABLE on my website that will guide you on your journey of wellness. To make sure you don’t miss out, sign up for my email “Grounded Inspiration”. You’ll be the first to hear about my latest offers, news and inspirations. When you sign up, you’ll also have EXCLUSIVE ACCESS to a mini-workbook “Success & Happiness”, a unique guide to creating your own recipe for happiness using action-based strategies that beautifully compliments my last blog post.

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Kathryn Walton shares information and reflections in Daisy Spoke that connect, inspire and self-empower women to make healthy choices for themselves.

Ode to a Headwind

Ode to a Headwind

HEADWIND, how you frustrate me. You visit without warning in all seasons.

You turn a fun time into suffering. You change direction without warning. Swirling, confusing.

In SUMMER, you bring the hot dry desert to greet me as I walk out the door to ride.

Thirst and weariness always by my side. Dust and dirt worn with pride.

In WINTER, you sneakily invite the Antarctic spirits along for the ride.

Icicles and frostbite ripping at me, destroying my soul. In winter you take a toll.

In SPRING, you howl and whistle all around me, invading every space, disturbing every peace.

Your gale force beckons fears and nightmares. Felling trees. You have no cares.

In AUTUMN, the chill is in your breath. Pushing me. Compelling me. Exerting force.

You face me on the open hill. A reminder that change is inevitable.

HEADWIND – you are a force. Meet me face to face or back and forth.

Strength training is all I need. Ensuring power is matched with speed.

But, OH HEADWIND, honoured be your cause. The summer flies are no match for thee.

Gladly I face you as I ride east. Goddam flies! Pesky beasts!

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Kathryn Walton shares information and reflections in Daisy Spoke that connect, inspire and self-empower women to make healthy choices for themselves.

The Forecast is for …. FLIES!

This season’s forecast is for flies.

Yep. That’s right.

It happens every year right about now. No matter what else the weather does, it always seems to set the right conditions for flies. And there’s no escaping it.

I generally consider myself an earth-loving kind of person. I think there’s a place for everything and everyone, but I really do have trouble allowing flies to have their space, or at least sharing it with me. I look forward to my morning run, walk or ride. I love being outdoors. I love exercising. I love nature. But I definitely struggle with flies.

So here was I this morning revelling in my ride when a fly tries to crawl into my left ear. Now that on its own makes my skin crawl. But then a swarm came at me. One on my sunglasses. One under my sunglasses. One in my eye. One on my top lip. Yew!!! Dozens on my legs and arms torturing me as they tickled, wandering aimlessly all over.

But it didn’t end there. What’s a girl to do when she’s being swarmed upon by flies while riding MTB? Not only that, but the trail suddenly got a bit tricky right at that moment when the fly attack took place. Can’t take hands off bars. Can’t swing arms or legs madly to chase them off. So I tried the only thing I could think of. I blew really hard, aiming my breath for the one on my lip whilst simultaneously visualising a force of air blowing out my ear, expelling yet another one. Scrunching up my eyes, squinting to see ahead so I could dodge the rocks and stay on the trail. Holding my breath as I rolled through the narrow gap between the trees. Whew! Made it!

Then the immense relief of being able to brush the flies off my face with my hands, take a deep breath, and remind myself we all have a place in this world. As I pedalled on up the hill, I hoped to find a fast downhill section of trail on the other side, the perfect set-up to outrun my nemesis.

 

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Kathryn Walton shares information and reflections in Daisy Spoke that connect, inspire and self-empower women to make healthy choices for themselves.

Accidentally getting it right – OR DID I?

There’s been a rock garden at the beginning of our mountain bike track on our home property ever since we built it. It’s always daunted me, especially being right at the very start! I’ve been pretty proud of how I’ve come to face some of my fears along parts of our short track including this rock garden at the beginning. As time has gone on, my progress has gone from bike hiking through the entire length of the rock garden, to riding through the first couple of metres then walking through the next bit, to finally being able to ride most of the rock garden and dabbing my right foot once or twice on the boulder on my right as I squeeze through the narrow gap between the craggy rocks.

I often walk or run along our trail as well. It’s so accessible and I don’t need to go any further afield to step into our beautiful Australian bush country! As I’ve traversed the trail over the past few months, I’ve sometimes stopped to look at the rock garden and visualise myself riding through the narrow gaps between the rocks without clunking my pedals. I knew that I would need to develop a lot more skill, line accuracy, confidence and power to ride this section. Basically I’d been riding it so slowly that I didn’t have enough power to get over the craggy rocks. Although I enjoyed my brief little fantasies of riding effortlessly over and around the rocks, I certainly didn’t have much hope that I’d ever actually be able to do it.

Last week I was closely following my husband as we rode the trail. Normally I’m a long way behind and do my own thing. I watched the line that he took through the rock garden and without even thinking about it I probably followed a very similar line, dabbed my foot once on the big boulder on the right, and kept going. I noticed quite a powerful thought come to my mind “Wow that seemed pretty much seamless.” Even though I’d dabbed my foot, it felt smooth and flowy.

A few minutes later as we rode the trail loop again, I was conscious that I was thinking about something that was upsetting me. I wasn’t very mindful of where I was or what I was doing. Suddenly I realised I’d already ridden through the rock garden! I hadn’t dabbed my foot, I didn’t jab my pedals, and the smooth flowy feeling hit the pit of my stomach and came out of my mouth with a loud shriek, my previous upset forgotten in a moment of elation as I realised what I’d done. I’d accidentally got it right!

OR HAD I? What acknowledgement do I owe MYSELF for the consistent work of practising, the walking it through, the visualisations? How often do I mindlessly disregard something I’ve achieved seeing it as a random event which I’ve had no control over? How would it be if I paused for a moment to celebrate my work and my successes, however small they might seem to another? Would this impact my perception of progress over time and keep my enjoyment and motivation rolling along?

Today as I walk the same trail and peer along the rock garden, I can clearly see the line that I need to take on my bike. The rocks seem so much smaller than before, the gaps between them seem so much wider, and I realise just how powerful the images and thoughts in our minds can be.

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Kathryn Walton shares information and reflections in Daisy Spoke that connect, inspire and self-empower women to make healthy choices for themselves.

13 Things To Do When It’s Too Wet For MTB

For nearly 2 weeks the weather has been drizzly and windy. It’s exciting to see the browns turn to bright greens as the water soaks in and gives us hope that we won’t forever more be living in drought. But with our usual MTB trails and State Forests closed until the ground dries out, we have to get our fix in other ways.

Here are 13 different things that I’ve been doing instead of riding in the great outdoors. What other ideas do you have?

1. Baking. Especially coffee muffins. Perfect for your next mid-ride snack!

2. Go for a walk. If you can’t do it on two wheels, do it on two legs. Get out of doors, into nature and breathe in that fresh air.

3. Pace out that tricky section of MTB trail that gets you stuck. As you become more familiar with the tricky technical bits, you’ll be able to find a line and visualise yourself riding it. A great set-up for the next time you ride.

4. Spring clean that cupboard that’s been on your to-do list for months but you’ve been too busy riding to get to it. Admittedly, not as fulfilling as riding right now, but think of your sense of satisfaction as you cross it off your list knowing you’ve well and truly earned your next ride.

5. Rearrange your furniture, reorganise your shed or change-up your bike storage. The process of sorting and organising can be inspiring as well as energising, and flows into other areas of our lives.

6. Plan your next holiday or MTB adventure. Read, research, talk to others, plot a route on a map, create a budget, make some bookings. You know you want to!

7. Give your bike/s a bit of love and care. Catch up on your maintenance and servicing activities to keep your best buddy rolling along through your next adventure.

8. Remember those hobbies you used to have before you discovered the joys of MTB? Yeh, well they’re still waiting for you, so make the most of the rainy weather and immerse yourself in your other loves.

9. Go on a picnic with your family. You know, those other non-riding people you live with? Show them a bit of love and maybe at the same time you could check out that new trail in preparation for the next time you go riding!

10. Core strength training. We all know that MTB is so much fun that we make that our priority, and the added extras like core strength training are a bit hit or miss. So unroll your yoga mat while you have the chance and work those abs!

11. Gardening. It’s amazing how much strength training you can accomplish by even gentle weeding, pruning and digging in the garden. You’ll be sore the next day – proof that you’ve worked those muscles that have been sadly neglected through focused bike riding.

12. House management tasks. Get them done now while you can. Tomorrow could be perfect riding weather and you don’t want to be stuck in the house cleaning or needing to go to the grocery store when you could be outside with your friends riding.

13. Indoor training. Interval training on the stationary bike to your favourite rock music that gets your legs spinning, your heart pumping, and the time flying by. Bruce Springsteen’s my all time favourite. Nothing beats a good workout to the tunes of “Come on up for the Rising”, “Waiting on a Sunny Day”, “Rosalita”, and “Born to Run”. You’ll feel the difference in your fitness next time you have a real dinky-di outdoors-y MTB ride!

 

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Kathryn Walton shares information and reflections in Daisy Spoke that connect, inspire and self-empower women to make healthy choices for themselves.

 

The Three Best Things About Mountain Biking

The three best things about MTB. Hmmm ……. only 3? Okay, well ….. let’s see how this goes!

1. It gets you outdoors.
There’s a recognised association between wellness and outdoor activity. Simply being surrounded by nature is a step towards feeling more relaxed. With the sunshine stimulating our brains and enhancing our mood, there’s no better all-natural way to manage stress. Even just a few minutes outdoors is beneficial, so if you don’t have enough time for a long ride ….. have a short ride! With a bit of fresh air and sunshine, you’ll blow away the cobwebs in your mind and reconnect with those things that bring you joy.

2. It gets you moving.
Sedentary behaviour is considered a modern danger to our health with risks so serious that the problem has been compared to that of smoking. Physical activity refers to general movement throughout the day, so it has a broader meaning than ‘exercise’. Bike riding is a low impact activity and therefore a great choice for people of all ages and abilities. MTB in particular gets your whole body moving as you navigate rougher terrain. You can jump on your mountain bike to commute to and from work on paved surfaces, or hit the trails that are purpose built for recreational use. Cross country, downhill, enduro, freestyle, trials, or whatever is your preference ….. the main idea is to get your body moving.

3. It’s meditative
Formal or structured meditation practices are very helpful for developing skills of attention, concentration, relaxation and mood management. Some people find it very challenging to stay still enough to engage with this process. Whether you meditate in this way or not, you can still reap the benefits of mindfulness practices by fully bringing your attention and awareness to your bike riding. Visualise your attention as a narrow laser beam and focus on your actions and your surroundings using your senses – in particular notice what you see, hear, smell and feel. Notice the fluid movement of your body in response to the terrain, the smell of the pine trees, the breeze on your face, the physical features of the trail in front of you. When thoughts about work or other issues arise, simply refocus on your ride. Before you know it, you’ll have let go of some of those things you’ve been worrying about and given your brain a well-earned rest.

What are the 3 best things that you’ve discovered about mountain biking?