I Got in Shape by Cycling

I grew up fat – not fat enough to be called overweight, not slender enough to be skinny. It was always a middle ground but more than slightly inclined towards the overweight side. However, I was a timid, soft-spoken, round-faced kid that enamored every adult and even fellow children. The fact that I was fat was usually to my advantage, and I was called ‘chubby’ and ‘cute’ all my childhood.

But then, my teenage years arrived. And it’s not fun to wear the same size of clothes as someone four times your age. It’s not fun to go to the beach and look pregnant as a teen. It’s definitely not fun the fact that I couldn’t even go into a shop and buy my school uniform like all the other kids. I had to get my pants tailored because I had too much stomach, but I was also really short, so there didn’t exist a size of pants that would ever fit me.

Nearing the end of my teenage years, I tried to lose weight consciously. But those were lame attempts. Eating one piece of cake instead of two and exercising once every two weeks or so. It was embarrassing. And by the time I started university I was unsurprisingly dealing with some sort of depression. This resulted in me gaining even more weight, which worsened my mental health. Which made me gain more and more weight. It was no longer cute, I was no longer a kid, and it was terrible. This ignited some kind of existential crisis in me. I cut my hair really short and went out to buy clothes, but after a pair or two, I realized I wanted smaller clothes. And this time I was determined. That day I jogged my way back home and when I arrived, tired and sweating I looked at myself in the mirror and realized I could get in shape if I tried really hard I could really get in shape.

The very next day I bought a bike. Thankfully I had learned when I was a kid, and I perfectly remembered everything. However, there was a downside to my choice of exercise. It turns out that when an overweight person goes out cycling around the city, even in parks, this person raises a lot of uncomfortable stares. Arriving home drained and demoralized, I was about to quit my goal of getting in shape. But then I remembered a magical sign I had read when I bought my bike. “We change regular bikes for mountain bikes.” It was like a light bulb had just been turned on in my mind. Where could I go to exercise that I wouldn’t raise stares, that people would leave me alone, that I would be at peace and also striving towards my goal? The mountains.

One more day in the city changing my brand new bike for one special for mountain bike riding, listening to all the recommendations and instructions given to me by the kind family that owned the place and who none of them made comments about my weight, and I was good to go. The next day was nearly perfect, the temperature was nice, and the sun was warm. But there were clouds in the sky, some were even menacingly gray, and there was a cold breeze around. I liked it. It kind of fitted my mood. I needed the sun, and I was determined to make the most out of this new activity. But also I felt upset and resentful that my body had in some way betrayed me and that society made me hate my own body. This anger fueled me just as my genuine excitement and sudden love for biking and mountains did.

In any way, I started. That first day was particularly tough. I was riding through the mountain, ready to go full speed and lose half of my body fat. But I quickly realized that riding a bike in the mountains it’s not the same as riding around my backyard. I had to move hesitantly, and I wasn’t sure that would help me lose weight. And still, I was so tired that when I turned around to go back home, I thought I wouldn’t make it. That night I got so discouraged that I swore I would sell my bike the next day.

But when I woke up and looked out the window and realized the morning was perfect this time, kind, tender and the silhouette of the mountains close to my house were so inviting, and I couldn’t help it, I got ready for another try. And something similar continued to happen almost every day for a while.

I would go to the mountain and suffer my way through the beginner’s trail until my body couldn’t take it, but then I had to endure the road back home. However, I quickly discovered the activity had more pros than cons. I loved the solitude of the mountains, the connection with nature, the raw environment. It seemed like it would be annoying, but at the end of the day when I came back bitten by bugs, my legs burning because of the bike, my face red because of the sun and my clothes covered in mud or dirt, I found all that rather gratifying.

It was like my efforts were visible,

Then, almost without me noticing, my efforts became more than visible in those little things. One day, I realized my clothes were getting loose on my body. Then, I ventured into a new, more difficult route and I didn’t struggle too much. This made me realize I was moving faster and more confidently. I was familiar with my bike and with the mountains. I was finally getting in shape. For a second, the idea of giving up crossed my mind but seeing the positive effects this new hobby had in my life, and I decided that mountain bike riding was officially going to become a very special part of my life.

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