And the same biological dynamic that awakens animals and plants seems to awaken our senses and spirits, too. Just walking out the door in the morning becomes a pleasure this time of year. The birds, the angle of the light, the smell of flowers and fresh-cut grass — it makes a person happy to be alive.
In June, of course, spring turns to summer (the solstice, June 21, marks its official beginning), and for me, that change of seasons brings a deep enthusiasm for the great outdoors, and for getting my body out into it as often as possible. There’s a sort of magnetic pull that occurs every time I see an open field, a distant forest, a fast-moving river or a wide-open country road.
“Come on out!” they seem to be calling — and every chance I get, I do.
For me, there’s a recharging experience that happens whenever I spend time in nature. From the meditative reverie of riding a horse through rolling farmland to the adrenaline rush of mountain biking a rough single-track through dense forest, I find there is always a gift in connecting with nature’s elements, and in reconnecting with my own body’s rhythms.
This is also the season when I get serious about intensifying my training program in preparation for summer athletic activities like the Life Time Fitness Triathlon (to be held this year on July 15; find out more at www.ltftriathlon.com). The course, which winds through the parkways, river roads and lakes of Minneapolis and St. Paul, is one of the most beautiful urban triathlon courses in the country, and the outdoor training element of this swim-bike-run event gives many amateur athletes like me all the excuse we need to make spending active time in nature a daily priority.
I particularly enjoy the long training rides that take me out of the city on my road bike. The sights, smells and sounds of the countryside are both grounding and exhilarating, and they somehow reset my perspective so that — no matter how hard I ride — I always return home feeling more replenished and uplifted than when I began.
Athletic events like triathlon also offer a perfect blend of competition and personal-best motivation for anyone who is serious about exploring his or her athletic potential. This act of exploration is, I think, an important adventure in itself.
Participating in virtually any type of athletic event offers a certain amount of mystery and excitement, because you never know exactly how your body will perform, or what the race day will hold. But there’s also some very exciting and unexplored internal territory to be discovered during the act of training and preparation for an event of this sort. What lies at the core of your desire and your will? What surprising reservoirs of strength and determination await your call? What mental and emotional hurdles might you have to overcome?
I’ve heard many people say that just signing up for this sort of athletic event — or simply choosing to attend and observe — has set into motion all sorts of unexpected feelings, desires and self discoveries. And once a person has unfolded these aspects of self, he or she is very rarely willing to fold them back up and put them quietly away.
Adventures change us because they invite us to see more, to feel more, to live larger. In my own life, I’ve seen that training for any event — whether the LTF tri, the Chequamegon Fat Tire race or an adventure race out in the middle of some desert — almost always becomes a kind of personal quest, one that challenges my assumptions, shakes up my mundane routines, and brings out the best in my body, mind and spirit. Spending time in nature does much the same thing. And combining my training pursuits with outdoor explorations generally delivers the most rewarding experiences of all.
In this issue of Experience Life, I hope you’ll find the inspiration and ideas you need to embrace the spirit of adventure in your own life. Whether that inspiration takes you out into the wilds of nature, onto a training course or inward to explore the edges of your own unfenced frontiers, I hope you’ll enjoy the quest.