I wasn’t much a fan of exercise growing up. Sports made me think of school, and the loneliness I associated with that. So I was a typical pasty, geeky kid. I spent nearly all my time indoors, reading or playing videogames.That was the case for years. Once I came to Colombia, the football culture here got to me, and I developed a love for football. I loved watching it, and while I wasn’t terribly good at it, I really enjoyed the rare matches I got to play in. That was back when I was in school, and we had matches at lunch every day, and it was easy to find other kids playing in a park near my house.
I finished school, went to Uni, and was randomly recruited into the volleyball team after the coach noticed how tall I was. Again, I wasn’t terribly good, but it was a lot of fun. I don’t know how to explain the joy of sports to someone who hasn’t enjoyed them, but there’s a big satisfaction that comes from teamwork, effort, and pushing yourself physically.
I’ve really explored that last point this past year and a half.
Before transition I lived with my religious parents, who would get very upset and passive aggressive if I didn’t go to church with them on Sundays. After I came out and moved out of their house, I suddenly had Sundays free, and soon decided to start riding my bike on the Ciclovia. It was glorious.
I began to explore my city, seeing which roads led where. After a few months, I knew my city in a way I never had before. I now understood this street lead to that road, which would take me through that part of the city. It also lead me to museums, parks, and other lovely places to explore around town. I found a comfortable tree to lean against while reading, close to a small plaza where street musicians would often set up and play kickass music. I discovered the wonders of our natural museum and its space rock. I found how wonderfully close a gorgeous park was to a beautiful library.
Most fun of all, I got to do easy exercise! It had been two years since I left Uni at that point, and five years since leaving school. I had barely played any sport or done any kind of physical activity, and it showed on my low energy levels and mental health. Now I was free! I didn’t depend on other people to be able to enjoy myself, so I was able to build a solid routine. I’d wake up early on Sunday, have a good breakfast, then I was out the door. Picking up speed, swerving here and there, now on the big road near my house! I’d speed through the familiar streets, dash by a traffic light, and through the city. I’d zig-zag between other bicycles, hop on the pavement then back on the road to rush past others, and lean just the right way to make a turn without slowing down. I was unstoppable, and everything just felt right as I kept my balance perfectly and felt the wind against my head.
How can I explain it? I got to know my bike better than I’ve known any object. I knew just how hard to press the brakes to slow down just the right amount, I could feel just how much I’d need to turn the handlebars to steer this direction, and the weight of it was like mine when I ran. I didn’t pedal a bicycle so much as I danced with it, which is a ludicrously pompous thing to write, but still feels true. In the speed of it, in the feel of rushing up and down hills, pedalling past others, I found a joy I’ve only found comparable with the act of creation. It’s the same feeling of fulfilment and satisfaction I get when I finish writing something I’m happy with, or when I create a design or illustration that makes me proud.
I’ve also found comfort in the feel of my legs moving back and forth, back and forth, just moving. I might go at a slower pace, but there’s also enjoyment there in the rhythmic movement. I start to let my mind wander, and I get lost in the pleasure of physical effort.
It’s similar to how great I feel when I get home afterwards. I usually bike between 20 and 45 km, so by the time I get home and put my bike away, I’m so exhausted I can barely walk up the stairs to my flat. It’s amazing. I can use the last bit of my energy to take a long shower and make myself some pasta. Then I just crash. I settle on my couch or bed, I rest my exhausted legs, and just sink into quiet happiness. Again, it’s hard to explain it to someone who’s never been there, but there’s such a wonderful feeling of rightness when you’ve pushed your body as hard as it goes, and then sit back and recover.
I’m writing about this today because I went for a long bike ride and feel too exhausted to write about anything but how I feel at the moment 😛
Anyways. I hope you’ve all had a great weekend. Oh, and happy anniversary. Apparently I opened this blog a year ago. How time flies.