I am in the middle of reading Long Distance: Testing the Limits of Body and Spirit in a Year of Living Strenuously by Bill McKibben. Originally published in 2000, I received a reprinted edition as a Christmas gift last month. The book documents the year that McKibben devoted to training as a competitive cross-country skier. When I read in the first chapter McKibben saying that "by year's end I hoped I'd have more sense of what life lived through the body felt like," I thought "Me too!" I may not be training as strenuously for a year, and I don't intend to race competitively, but I do want to shift the one-sided way I've been living (all mental work) significantly in the other direction. I am mostly reading the book for inspiration and entertainment, but I am paying attention to what he shares about appropriate heart rates and exertion levels for maximum endurance benefit. [Weird side note: Did you know that "in the brain of a committed cross-country skier, wax occupies the amount of space allotted to sex in a normal mind. Perhaps sex and money both." Admittedly, McKibben is funny, and when he says "normal mind" he should probably say "normal man's mind." Even so, I have found my mind coming back to and pondering this notion a number of times.]
I re-read an article in Outside magazine today about the historic 1963 American expedition to summit Everest. The article describes how Willi Unsoeld, famous mountaineer and professor of philosophy at Evergreen State College in Washington (until he was killed in an avalanche on Mount Rainier in 1979) "embraced risk as essential for growth." He said: "It has to be real enough that it can kill you." I agree with the part about risk being essential for growth. I disagree, though, with the notion that the risk needs to have the potential to kill you in order for it to produce growth. While for a very small number of people this may be true, I think there is so much variability in our minds, personalities, and psyches that most of us simply need to find a level of risk that means we have stepped out of our comfort zones, out of our ingrained habits. I don't think we have to literally risk our very lives in order to make significant change, discover new aspects of ourselves, or embrace life with more gusto.
I am also reading The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg. I think if I understand how habits work and how they may be changed, I will be more successful at transforming my exercise and eating habits and, ultimately, my life.
Maybe this is a good time to explain why I chose BikeHome as the title of my blog. Although my son did argue passionately that I should bicycle from Niagara Falls to my home in Maine when the UGRR tour ends, I do not intend to bike to my home (over the Green Mountains and White Mountains) after the trip. After all, I have to get home and build a house. (See my blog about the house building.) Even so, I do consider this bike tour to be a vital part of my journey home to myself.