On Sunday, my hubby and I decided to go for a mountain biking trek in a state park called Fort Custer.
An avid mountain biker, he had come to this park a few weeks earlier with some guys from work, and, as a result, knew which crazy trail we would not be taking!
I had just gotten my monthly visitor that day (its arrival always an unknown date, now that I’m off the regulated cycle I had on the Pill, gr!) and was feeling like pure crap.
But I can’t just sit on the couch for those couple of days — exercise always helps ease my cramps and discomfort– and we both love to bike, so I figured, what the heck.
We plotted out what looked — according to the state park map — like the easiest of the trails, with mostly flat terrain that wrapped around Eagle Lake.This sounded pleasant enough, so off we went.
Let’s just say, we found out the hard way that the map’s visual was not an accurate depiction of the actual relief.
I have ridden some crazy mountain biking trails — in El Salvador, in Patagonia (Argentina side), and here in Michigan — but this was insane.
We’re talking uber-narrow, winding, wild hills to pedal up and down, lengthy sand pits at the bottom, twisting trees every which way, logs to jump over, streams to plunge through, wild brush to swat away …
On a normal day, it would have been hard.
In 90 degree weather and feeling as I did … it was awful. All the bumps and rough terrain were not helping matters for me, and I nearly tumbled like twelve times over branches and nearly slipped on sand about eight times.
About 20 minutes in, we realized the trail was not what we had been betting on, and my husband felt awful and suggested turning around.
But I’m not a quitter, and I wanted to finish what we’d started. Plus, call me crazy but I like being able to keep up with my husband — whether we’re running together, biking … I enjoy that we’re physically — more or less — equals. I feel super-strong when we work out together — I push myself way harder than if I was alone.
So we pushed on.
As we passed by the lake, snaked our way up and down cliffs and through open fields, I suddenly felt grateful for my thick thighs, which plowed me up the crazy hills.
For my strong midsection and subsequent good sense of balance, which kept me from toppling over on a couple near-spills.
And my hard shoulders, which helped steady my bike during some shaky twists and turns.
I wasn’t concerned with anything but staying in tune with my physical self — all the while keeping my eyes wide open for trail hurdles 😉
And you know what? My body didn’t fail me.
True, I felt like absolute garbage, and by the last half-hour I was feeling weak and drained, but I didn’t quit. I kept on pushing, up the final hill, until we got back to the comfortable, paved parking lot. We were both pretty relieved to see the end.
It’s moments like this, when I complete a physical challenge, where I realize just how amazing my body —in its current state — truly is. And it’s moments like this when I know that my hours spent at the gym are not all spent in vain. My body can do things, and for that privilege, I am grateful.
Afterwards, we spotted an ice cream shoppe (featuring locally-renown Plainwell ice cream!) and made an impromptu stop. My husband paused to ask if I would get some, too.
I said a whole-hearted, “Yes!,” surprising both of us.
Two years ago, I would have probably freaked at the mere suggestion of an unplanned treat.
I probably would have watched him enjoy his, maybe had a lick or two.
But this Melissa — she enjoyed every last lick of her own Moose Tracks cone (plus some tastes of his Black Cherry) and it was delicious.
Totally hit the spot after being out in the hot sun.
Above all, it was so nice to do something so normal — go out for ice cream with my husband. This is what normal, non-disordered people do! They don’t get anxious about a treat; they enjoy it.
(Of course, they also don’t blog about it the next day, but trust me, my story does have a point within the context of my messaging here and this post in particular.)
When I think of all the moments I missed out on the last several years with my husband, friends, family or co-workers because I was so preoccupied with food, it makes me sad.
But I know that every “normal” moment I have like this, brings me one step closer to having a more normalized, healthy, balanced relationship with food.
In a way, I think of recovery as a winding mountain bike trail.
We often stumble on the way up, there are usually some rocks on the path we need to avoid or we’ll tumble.
But when we climb to the top of the biggest hill, and get there and see the view and how magnificent it is, it’s suddenly a lot easier to head back down to flat ground.
In many ways, enjoying the ice cream cone was treading on flat ground for me.
And the view down here on flat ground? Well, it’s pretty damn magnificent … and I plan to enjoy the view.
How about you? In what ways have you been surprised/impressed by your own physical strength? Do you enjoy physical activities with your significant other, or do you prefer to exercise alone?