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Never Too Old to Learn New Tricks

Last week, I wrote about how learning new physical skills keeps a person young. I’m not talking about staying fit or working out to lose weight.

I’m not talking about mere fitness; I’m talking about skill building. Hand-eye coordination. Balance work. And yes, walking that razor edge between fear and faith, between confidence and crashing, between suck and success.

This kind of challenge requires a holistic presence; mind and body both are tested, toned, and strengthened together.I’m not a big fan of trick yoga poses for the sake of trick yoga poses—most of the time the risk isn’t worth the payoff, physically. But mentally something happens when we approach the impossible and work on it until it becomes possible.

spark_cover BOOK
I’m not alone in this understanding of the body-brain connection. Research continues to point to exercise being a powerful “medicine” benefiting conditions ranging from ADD to Alzheimer’s, from PTSD to Parkinson’s. If this subject interests you, check out the work of neuropsychiatrist, Dr. John Ratey. In his book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, Ratey makes the inarguable case for improved mental health through physical exercise. Ratey cites numerous studies where mental performance, memory, and cognition are sharply improved as fitness, strength and physical skill increase.

Anyone who’s ever experienced a runner’s high or pedaled themselves into a state of ecstatic bliss know this is true. You don’t need a degree in neuroscience to understand it. It’s great that science can measure and quantify the brain-body relationship, but there’s still one key ingredient missing from many of these studies; PLAY.

So many of us just reach an age or a station in life where we just stop playing. We quit exploring. We become grown up, responsible, and seriously serious. Why not grow up, be responsible, and be playfully serious? Or seriously playful?

Yoga can do this for people; it challenges body and mind at the same time. You encounter a trick pose and your mind says COOL! but your body says NO WAY. But yoga can also be (for some people) a practice where your body is like, YEAH I GOT THIS but your mind is over here all (yawn) BORING.

This is (in part) why BikeYoga isn’t just a series of exercises. It’s also an invitation to figure out what excites you. What makes you feel happy. What makes you feel young—even if only temporarily? If that’s a yoga class, great. Maybe it’s paintball. Or air hockey. Or skateboarding. Maybe it’s something you used to do decades ago and gave up because you told yourself “I’m too old for this sh*t.

I know, because I was telling myself the same thing last summer, frustrated with my lack of handling skills when I was trail riding in technical terrain. So many of the guys I ride with have a BMX background, so following their lines was often scary, always exhilarating, and frequently frustrating.

lumberyard shot w/ djangoLuckily, I have a great local resource at the Lumberyard—an indoor bike park—where I could work on some of those skills these guys learned 20 or 30 (or more) years ago. I may never do a Can-Can or throw down a wicked back flip or no-hander, but my rhythm and flow are coming along nicely, and tail whips are just around the corner. It’s just as good a core body workout as going to the gym, plus about a thousand times more fun.

It’s paid off huge in my trail riding. Formerly scary features are less so. I’m able to hit dirt jumps more confidently. And I’m able to follow steezier riders’ lines better.

It’s also paid off on the road, as well, as I’m able to maneuver around hazards with greater ease. But perhaps most importantly, it’s just the most fun I’ve had on a bike in years.

As we move into winter months, full of cross-training opportunities, be sure to add something fun to your list. Do your squats and leg presses and sit ups and yoga all that good stuff, of course! But also pick something—anything—silly, clumsy, goofy or just fun, and run, huck, pump, climb or crawl with it.

Your brain will thank you.

#ride #ridemore #ridelikeagirl #bikeyoga