Fat biking in Fourmile. Photo: Scott Anderson

I have this problem where I unwittingly try to make everything I do more difficult for myself. This is evident even in my original Outside 365 Manifesto. In that manifesto, I created a well-defined rule for what it meant to get outside and be active. 

The more years that roll on, the more I become convinced that living life doesn’t have to consist of yearning for what you do not have and struggling to achieve it. Rather, living life well is more closely tied to doing the best that you can with the resources you have at your disposal.

Instead of setting my Outside 365 bar at one mile of walking, 30 minutes of biking, etc., I removed the bar entirely and simply said, “if I intentionally get outside and move, that is enough.” 

Early on in my challenge, many of my outside days didn’t even consist of taking the dog for a one-mile walk. It may have been eight tenths, a half a mile, or even on one or two days 0.4 miles—paltry in comparison to many other days where I’d spend hours in the saddle, covering dozens of miles of singletrack.

Along the way, here’s something I realized: even if I only walk a half a mile, that half a mile is infinitely better than nothing. There’s a common saying that “no matter how slow you’re going, you’re beating everyone on the couch.” Actually, I’d upgrade that statement to say you’re moving infinitely faster and infinitely further than the person on the couch. The rate of increase, of a half a mile compared to 0 miles, isn’t 50% of 1 mile or 100% of 0, no—it is infinitely better

Of course, that revelation isn’t groundbreaking or even original, but here’s the upshot: removing unnecessary rules, lowering my standards, and simply choosing to go outside and move my body has resulted in me actually succeeding in getting outside. While perhaps some days are still only 0.8 miles, others are 30 miles of mountain biking, two hours of paddleboarding, and so much more.

Sometimes if you lower your expectations, you end up accomplishing so much more than you’d ever have dreamed!

Outside day 143.

CDT on the way to Tank Seven. Rider: Greg Heil. Photo: Marcel Slootheer

Early on in the year it occurred to me that I was unlikely to meet my Outside 365 goal in 2018. Here’s one reason why: so often when we set goals like this one, goals where we seek to change our lives on an ongoing basis, we begin from ground zero. From a standing start, we intend to launch full-speed into our life change projects. 

In reality, that never works out quite the way I wish it would. Exploding off the starting blocks is a tactic for a sprint race, not for a marathon.

If there’s one skill you must learn to become a better-than-average mountain biker, it’s this: how to conserve momentum. Momentum is the key to riding a bike well. Carrying your momentum will take you up and over obstacles without requiring you to put in a lot—or any—work. Instead of looking at the steep upslope off in the distance as requiring a bunch of pedaling to climb up, if you can instead conserve your momentum from the previous downhill, you’ll sail straight up the next climb.

So before I started logging my Outside 365 days again—instead of sprinting off the starting blocks for a marathon race—I waited until I had a little momentum built up. At some point, I realized that I had inadvertently been active almost every day for a full month without even trying and in that moment, I realized I finally had the momentum required to launch back into this project. 

Some years ago, I set a goal for myself to go outside and be active every day, for 365 days straight. I embarked on the mission (again) in late 2017, and at the beginning of 2018 I wrote a manifesto about this idea

The beginning of the Outside 365 project in late 2017 wasn’t the first time I’ve begun this project. And it wasn’t to be the last. As I wrote in mid-January, if I fail, I have a very simply plan: start again.

And as it turned out… I did fail, or at least, I had to stop and take a break. I’m not quite sure how many false starts the Outside 365 project has been through over the years… but it’s been several.

Despite those numerous false starts, my commitment hasn’t wavered, and the goal has stayed (mostly) the same. Then sometime last week, I checked my logs and realized that I had been active for over 100 days in a row. In fact, today is Day 108.

Achievement—It Feels GOOD

I still have a long ways to go to reach 365 days of activity in a row, but reaching the 100-day mark feels monumental because, through perhaps half a dozen false starts, not once have I passed 100 days in a row. 

75+? Yes. 100? No… at least, not until last week.

Also within the past week, I have ticked over another milestone: moving from 29 years old to 30. By most standards, turning 30 (or any decade birthday) is a pretty big deal, and if my Instagram feed is any indication, it tends to be the cause for much celebration and pseudo-insightful musings.

As I reflected on both of these milestones, I realized something interesting: I’m much prouder of and I feel much more accomplished by reaching 100 days in my Outside 365 journey than I do reaching 30 years of age.

Here’s the thing: in order to reach 30 years of age, all I have to do is not die and I’ll have succeeded. Sadly, numerous people still don’t reach this milestone—but billions others do. 

But in order to reach 100 days of outside activity, I had to actually put in some effort. I had to try and apply myself in order to achieve that goal. I had to pull on my clothes and head outside to move my body, even if that meant walking in the pouring rain down a dark, unknown road after sunset in Norway after 30+ hours straight of traveling. 

So this week, if I’m going to truly celebrate any achievement, it won’t be turning 30 (despite the excellent party last night—thanks friends!). It will be reaching 100 days in my Outside 365 journey. 

Over the next couple of days, I’ll share a few insights and changes that I made to my approach that have allowed me to reach this milestone for the first time. 

Hogback Trail, Canon City, CO. Photo: Philip Sterling

Possibly the most important Over a Beer column that I wrote for Singletracks was titled, “How do you define success?” In it, I was earnestly seeking to understand how Singletracks readers define success in their own lives, but the piece fell pretty flat with the audience.

It has struck me more than once that earnestness doesn’t necessarily go over well with most mountain bikers, and this particular column only drove that point home. Ok, there were a handful of great responses—some from friends that I respect and admire—and for those, I am immensely grateful.

This idea of success has been stuck in my craw ever since then (almost a year now), because it strikes me as an interesting and critically important question. It is a question that each and every one of us must answer for ourselves. We must choose how we define success.

Of course, you could choose to abdicate your decision and let someone else define success for you. Perhaps you listen to a news pundit that defines success along their political or ideological lines, and you buy in wholeheartedly. Perhaps you listen to a politician and buy their definition of success. Or perhaps you’re convinced by a rich businessman or famous author. Or maybe you read a religious text that espouses a definition of success and because everyone in your circle of influence subscribes to it, you buy into that definition instead.

If we adopt someone else’s definition of success, I’m afraid that it will never hold the same kind of core foundational power, motivation, or become the driving force in our lives that it could be if we instead chose to do the work to define success for ourselves. In order to form some sort of core belief on this topic, I personally believe that we should all sit down and think about success and say, “Ok, all of these people define success in these various ways. What do I believe, and most importantly, why?” 

At the end of the day, whether or not we become “successful,” whether or not we are happy with our lives and the progress we’re making—these evaluations come down to the metrics that we’re using, the goalposts and mile markers that we’re measuring against. If we’ve chosen the wrong goalposts, the wrong definition of success, we’ll never be successful.

Or perhaps worse: we’ll be “successful” at completely wrong and ultimately, utterly meaningless things. 
Trail: Tank Seven. Rider: Yours Truly. Photo: Marcel Slootheer

I had the opportunity recently to sit down and chat with Ben Welnak of Mountain Bike Radio. We spoke a bit about my history, but ended up doing a bit of a deep dive into what could--for lack of a better term--be called the philosophy of mountain bike media. I may have gotten a touch overly philosophical, but hey--that's par for the course. If you're interested, check out the recording here:

Sunshine Trail, Telluride, CO. Rider: Greg Heil. Photo: Marcel Slootheer

When I think about planning for the future, the math makes sense. 

Work hard now, save and invest, and then in the future you’ll have more money and more time. Take a few days off of riding now to prevent overtraining, so you can ride longer and harder next weekend. Get surgery now so you don’t need a full knee replacement in 15 years.

The math and the logic always make sense. Put in the time now, get the reward later. We’re even taught that the ability to delay gratification is a form of maturity, and the desire for instant gratification is a childish longing that we ought to grow out of with age.

The irony is that while the math of delayed gratification adds up on paper, in real life it rarely seems to work that way. Yes, we can skip a few bike rides in order to let our legs recover… only to get to the planned weekend ride and have the skies open up and pour rain, or what was a set of sniffles transform into a full-blown knock-you-onto-the-couch head cold.

We try to delay gratification for the hope of an even better life in the future, and while I want to think that the spreadsheet knows best, the spreadsheet can never account for all of the actual happenings and random chance events in the real world.

Those random chance events? Collectively we refer to them as “life." 

This year, more than any other year, has forced me to redefine what it means for me to be outside in nature, living fully immersed in the moment, connected to the rawness of my own existence. Or perhaps, this year hasn't forced me to redefine this type of visceral experience, but rather rediscover something that perhaps I had lost. 

For years when I faced injury, I would focus on recovering. Returning to what I had been doing before. All of my energy would be channeled into not only rehabilitation, but longing for something I had lost—if but temporarily.

While I think I personally need that drive in order to return to the things I am most passionate about, this year I have found myself dissatisfied with the idea of simply waiting around to get better. Part of this, granted, was likely forced upon me by an unexpectedly protracted recovery period… from my perspective. 

The point here is that I am no longer willing to simply wait around for my situation to improve. I’m not even willing to be satisfied with just working slowly toward improvement in my own situation. Instead, I have been asking myself, “what can I do with the amount of wellness that I have, right here and right now, in order to go outside and live?”

While planning for the future and working toward what will hopefully be an even better future is a part of life, at the same time, the only moment we are guaranteed is the moment that we are presently in. How can we make the most of it? 

On my most recent Monarch Crest ride, I noticed an interesting phenomenon. While many riders on this busy Saturday morning stopped to take in the view, some riders, on the other hand, powered straight by, offering up sarcastic remarks—bordering on condescending—for those who were stopping to enjoy the surreal beauty afforded by the mountaintop views.

While I’m not one to sling comments at other riders unnecessarily as I ride by, I do think that for years I was one of those riders, in the sense that I would charge as hard as possible, all the time.

But one thing I’ve realized recently?

Even as a Salida local, if I get 6-8 Monarch Crest rides in per year, every single one of those rides is a rare moment to be treasured, even though I'll log many, many more hours on the Crest than the average tourist.

Personally, if I could get above treeline and hang out on the mountaintops every single day, I would. But that’s not the present reality of my life or my physical health. So when I DO get to journey to the mountaintop—those are moments to be savored, not blasted through with my heart rate through the roof.

Sure, we all ride for different reasons, and maybe those people were way more hardcore than me and were heading out on an epic. (But then why did they ride up in the shuttle?)

Regardless of their unique motivations, I have personally resolved to take it a little bit slower every time I head up above the trees. Especially when riding the Crest and I know I can get down and out of danger quickly if storms build, I've now resolved to take more time to savor the experience of the crisp alpine air, the expansive views in all directions, the changing perspective of the mountains as the sun moves and the clouds float over, and the crunch of gravel beneath my tires.

Sure, my Strava times may suffer. But I’d rather hang out on top of a 12,000-foot mountain than in a parking lot gas station in Poncha Springs any day.
Descending off of the Monarch Crest on the Starvation Creek Trail. Rider: Nick Heil.

The small mountain town of Salida, Colorado lies on the banks of the rushing Arkansas River and in the shadows of towering 14,000-foot mountain peaks. Accessible directly from downtown, professionally-built singletrack trails run up into the mountains on both sides, providing easy access to stellar mountain biking and hiking routes.

In fact, the Arkansas Valley that envelopes Salida may just be one of the most diverse climate zones in the world. On the west side of the valley, the high mountain peaks soar thousands of feet above treeline into a high elevation alpine tundra. During the winter, the local ski resort — Monarch Mountain — receives over 350 inches of snow.

As the elevations drop, the forest transitions through many different zones, eventually culminating in a high desert environment filled with cacti and scrubby pinion pines.

This incredibly diverse climate means mountain bikers, trail runners, and hikers can hit the trails 12 months per year on the east side of the valley, while still skiing deep powder in the nearby mountains mid-winter. Add in whitewater kayaking and rafting, rock climbing, and many other mountain sports, and it’s clear that Salida is ground zero for adventuring in the mountains.

Here are three popular Salida-area trails guaranteed to whet your appetite for adventure:

Read the full article here.

Destination Embed

Monarch Crest Embed

…and they don’t belong to me, either.

It was late June, and the word was out that most of the snow on the iconic Monarch Crest Trail had finally melted. While I was definitely planning to get out and do the full shuttle ride once the weekend arrived, I decided to drive up to the pass for a quick above-treeline out-and-back after work. Normally the Crest is devoid of human life after 4pm on weekdays, and this early in the season I didn’t expect to see a soul.
The weather was absolutely glorious–the temperature was perfect, the sun was shining, and spring flowers were blooming on the alpine tundra. A couple of tall snow drifts were still clinging to their usual spots. Riding the Crest is always fabulous, but the first Crest ride of the year? Simply euphoric.

Friends, today marks a new chapter in my career, as I depart Singletracks and begin a new position at a company called FATMAP. But first, I want to take a minute to reflect on the past 7+ years at Singletracks.

I first started using Singletracks.com as a regular website member during my first summer in Colorado, way back in 2008. Like most people, I was searching for trails to ride, and stumbled on the Singletracks database. I was hooked! 

In early 2011 I began freelancing for Singletracks, and later that year I started working part time—Singletracks’ first employee! The Monday after I finished my bachelor’s degree in May, 2013 I began my full-time position as the Editor in Chief for Singletracks The past 5 years have been an incredible ride: we grew Singletracks rapidly, reaching millions of people. This work has provided amazing opportunities I never even dreamt of, like being paid to travel abroad. I’ve absolutely loved my time at Singletracks!

None of this would have been possible without Jeff and Leah Barber taking a chance on an enthusiastic, wet-behind-the-ears 20-something. Very few English majors have the chance to work in a field that fully utilizes their degree, much less walk into a full-time career as a writer and editor the day after graduation. Without Jeff and Leah being willing to wait for me to finish school and then join the company, none of that would have been possible. Thank you guys!

I’ve also had the pleasure to work with dozens of amazing human beings over the past 7 years. Aaron Chamberlain added a fun and challenging dimension to the Singletracks team during his 3 years at the company, and I’m better for it. I’ve worked closely with a host of freelance writers and contributors—you know who you are. I’ve worked and ridden with people from mountain bike brands, guiding companies, advocacy organizations, tourism agencies, PR agencies, and more that have led to experiences and conversations both fun and challenging. While hopefully there are still opportunities to partner together—and get out and shred!--in the future, looking back I know that it’s the people that make the mountain bike industry so fun.

Leaving Singletracks is definitely bitter, but my next step is also sweet: I’m now the Chief Editor of Mountain Biking for FATMAP.com . FATMAP is endeavoring to create the world’s first global three-dimensional adventure map. They began with downhill skiing and have recently passed 300,000 registered users. They’re now expanding into other adventure sports, with mountain biking and hiking being the next two emphases. The future is big and beautiful and largely unknown, but I’m excited about the challenges and opportunities that await! 

As you have no doubt gathered if you've been attempting to follow my Outside 365 challenge, I'm off the band wagon of everyday activity, and have been for some time... but hopefully, this hiatus isn't forever.

I'm currently rehabbing from ACL surgery and while many of the so-called "activities" I had been doing as a part of my Outside 365 challenge don't count as activity by the scale of most training plans or athletic trainers--i.e. walking for one mile around my neighborhood--for a knee fresh from ACL surgery, apparently that activity can be too much when added to rehab, riding, and then compounded over 67 consecutive days.

Don't worry, nothing extremely bad happened, but I did devolve to the point where I dealt with several weeks of patellar tendonitis and other knee pain and swelling. So I had to take time off.

Right now, I'm getting out and active about 5-6 days per week, but I'm currently taking at least one day 100% off from all activity each week as a rest day. My hope is that when I can return to roughly full activity, about 4 months from now, that I can restart my Outside 365 challenge at that point in time.

I do want to emphasize that even if you choose to embark upon an Outside 365 challenge of your own that you must--MUST--build in rest days, or you risk overtraining syndrome. By most standards walking just one mile in a day is a rest day, but surgery rehab throws all the normal rules out the window.

I will return.

Day 2

One of the major issues with the sport of mountain biking today is that we have too many mountain bikes to choose from. That’s right, we have too many choices. One dogma that’s been ingrained into us in affluent Western cultures, seemingly from birth, is that more choices = more freedom, and more freedom = more happiness.

The problem is, this dogma is wrong.

Read more here.

As I’ve observed my mutt’s excitement every time we go outside, I’ve wondered to myself, “why don’t we humans get this excited when we go outside?” We really should. Getting to leave the world of the sofa and shutting off the screens, we can at our own whim head out into the great, wide, natural world with all of the excitement and adventure that it has in store. The best part is that we don’t have to wait for our owner to decide that it’s time for a walk. We can–whenever we choose–leave the confines of civilization and adventure out into the great unknown.

Read more here.

Over the past three years, I’ve been working to get more deeply involved in mountain bike advocacy on a local level. What I’ve found has surprised me. While it might seem mountain bike advocacy has to do with, you know, mountain biking trails, I’ve found that really, it boils down to attending a lot of meetings.

Read any number of business productivity books, from Tim Ferriss’s The 4-Hour Work Week to Cal Newport’s Deep Work, and one common theme that begins to emerge is a distaste for meetings. “Distaste” is putting it too lightly. In many ways, these business productivity gurus lay many of the world’s ills of wasted time, energy, distraction, and motivation at the feet of constant interruptions and unproductive meetings.

And yet.

And yet, if you want to get legal mountain bike trails built, you better get used to attending a lot of meetings.

Read more here.

Mountain biking–and even cycling on the road, or doing other mountain sports–has always served as a vehicle for exploration, for seeing and experiencing new places, or old places in a different way. The thing that drives me to get out on my bike is to discover what’s around the next corner, around the next bend.

If you walk into my house in the evening unannounced, especially on a Friday night, don’t be surprised to find me in the living room, with maps spread across the floor. I might have my laptop open to a Singletracks.com trail map. I’ll be envisioning daring routes, connecting roads, trails, and possibly animal paths in such an unconventional way that maybe, nobody has traveled just such a route before.

I’m planning my next big adventure, or the adventure after that.

Read more here.

Uber Driver. Photo: Noel Tock via Flickr Creative Commons

I think that often, we expect too much out of our occupations. We expect them to be fulfilling and meaningful and to motivate us to be the best human beings possible… and then inevitably, our jobs don’t do that. It’s too much pressure to put on a place of work.

So we feel discontent, and maybe we start a side hustle, a second job that we think will eventually lead us to happiness and contentment.

You know what the problem is? Hustling takes time. A lot of time. I’m here to offer a different solution:

Quit your side hustle so you can ride more.

Read more here.

The point is this: we get to choose. Even when we don’t think we have a choice–for instance, the 4.35 hours per week spent commuting–we do have a choice. We can switch jobs. We can move closer to our job. We can always make a change.
But when we focus our gaze on time wasters, realizing that the average American spends somewhere between 20 and 35 hours per week (or even more) watching TV, the choice becomes that much clearer.
What will you spend your precious time on? What will you invest your energy in?
Time is ticking away.
Go ride your bike today.

Let's say you observe someone trying to do something great, to achieve something that could possibly be out of their grasp, be unachievable. 

Let's take it a step further and say that person actually does achieve this feat, this goal that appears from the outside to be super-human. I think there are a couple of natural responses that we as the observers can have. 

One response to observing someone else's single-minded pursuit of a goal is disdain. This may seem surprising, but you'll observe peoples’ disdainful visceral reaction quite frequently. "Why did that person spend so much time riding his mountain bike across the nation? If he's going to spend a year not working and without pay, why doesn't he go to Africa and help dig wells or something?" You see this same line of reasoning any time a lot of money is spent on a project, no matter how passionately the spender believes in the project.

Another response is incredulity, to the point of calling that person a flat-out liar. "There's no way you could free solo up that cliffside! You're LYING!" (But does the disbeliever ever say that to the person's face? No, it's usually behind their back or online.)

A third response is to believe that the person did what they said they've done, and to choose to be inspired by their incredible achievement. This is the option that I go with. I love to be inspired by the upper echelon of human achievement. As I see athletes accomplishing extraordinary things it allows my mind to run wild.

"What am I capable of? What could I do and achieve?" 

Seeing other people achieve their dreams allows my own dreams to grow just a little bigger, become just a little grander.

Who's to say I can't reach the stars?

Day 52
Photo: Nathan Wentz

Heading into 2017, I thought to myself: “How can I transform my thinking to promote a healthy balance in my athletic life, and not get too hung up on JUST mountain biking all the time?” It occurred to me that I need to shift my focus from racking up mountain bike miles and instead track some other metric to gauge whether or not I’m successful. (But don’t get me started on success.)
“What gets measured, gets managed,” as they say (the actual source of this quotation is hotly debated). But in a related sense, what doesn’t get measured doesn’t get managed. While I love creating spreadsheets to track my metrics across a wide variety of goals ranging from athletics to finances and everything in between, I’ve realized that I can’t track everything in my life. Some things I need to simply let be, allow them to remain unmeasured, and simply enjoyed in the moment. So, to promote health in 2017, I decided to stop consciously measuring and managing some metrics (like bike miles) and start measuring another metric.
My current key metric is human-powered elevation gain across all sports.

Being active outside every single day injects numerous facets of satisfaction and meaning into my everyday existence. One facet is disconnecting from electronics and reconnecting with the natural world. Another important facet—which I’ve been missing over the last few months—is a sense of adventure.

While starting easy by walking has been absolutely critical and truly rewarding, the core reason I head out my front door is to explore this beautiful, wild world that we live in. Walking the same route through my neighborhood day after day does not an adventure provide. 

I thirst to head deep into the mountain range behind my house. Maps spread out on the floor, I concoct wild routes with daring connections, envisioning a series of roads and trails that perhaps no one has stitched together before. 

What will the view look like from the top of this mountain? Is there any way to connect over this saddle to the next valley over? Is that trail even rideable, or will I be hiking the whole time?

In many ways, it is the unknown that drives us to push our boundaries, to sally forth into areas that we have never visited. This thirst for adventure and exploration is the core of why I do what I do… but injuries need time to heal. 

Soon I will be back to exploring these mountains. Soon. The work to get there is formidable, which is why even the small steps now—that might not feel so adventurous--are still so important.


Day 45

Rider: Jim Cummings. Photo: Greg Heil.

If there’s one thing I could say to the Sierra Club, the Wilderness Society, and their cohorts, it is this: “mountain bikers are conservationists, too.”

Every mountain biker I know loves and values the wild spaces that we ride in. Mountain bikers do not want to see our wild places opened to rampant resource extraction, developed into an endless sea of condos, or degraded through overuse of the land. No, we want to see all of these gorgeous, intimidating, expansive Wilderness places that our forebears have wisely set aside from development, remain in their wild state.

We just want to enjoy them on our bikes, too.

Read more here.

I think for too long--maybe my whole life?--I've wrongly discounted the amazing benefits of walking.

As I spent weeks unable to ride a bike, I've been spending a lot of time walking as I work toward my goal of being active outside every day for 365 days straight. Since it gets dark so early in January and it's warmest mid-day, I've mostly been walking over my lunch break.

And the practice has been surprisingly invigorating.

Disconnecting from my computer and getting outside and active on my lunch break reenergizes me, providing me with both physical energy and a fresh mindset as I dive into the challenges of the next four hours of work. I feel more centered and balanced, in a way that I totally did not expect.

Of course, I've tried the lunch hour mountain bike ride before. But a quick spin generally turns into an hour and a half, and by the time I get home I'm exhausted and ready to take a nap. Simply walking for 30 minutes, on the other hand, doesn't demand so much energy that it will leave you drained. I find the practice of the walk has the exact opposite effect, instead making me more pumped and prepared for the rest of the day.

As I continue to heal from surgery I definitely plan on using mountain biking more and more for my Outside 365 challenge... but even so, I may need to maintain my lunch hour walks. Who says we can't go outside and be active MULTIPLE times per day?!

Day 38

I finally was able to get outside and ride for the first time since surgery! 10 weeks—10 weeks I waited. I looked back at my previous rehab schedule and I tried my first outdoor road ride less than 6 weeks after surgery last time around. Maybe that’s why it failed… who knows?

My first ride outdoors this year was on my mountain bike, on a flat, paved road—my 6-inch-travel enduro bike, no less. (Instead of using the road bike, I’m beginning on the mountain bike due to the ease of mounting and dismounting with the low top tube, and the increased stability.) 

Despite the drag and lack of efficiency, it felt absolutely glorious! After 10 weeks of riding the trainer and just walking around, moving quickly through the open air, watching the mountains slowly move past me and the weeds in the fields blur in my peripheral vision, I realized what I’ve been missing for the past two and a half months. This is what my soul cries out for!

Not a slow paved ride necessarily, but the act of riding a bicycle is magical. Your motion is completely a result of your own power which you've generated, and yet you move FAST! Compared to the painfully-slow pace of hiking or running, riding a bike feels like lightspeed, the miles disappearing beneath your tires.

The rider gets the satisfaction—and the work out—of creating all of that propulsion, yet the sensory experience is magnified exponentially over shoe-bound travel. 

There’s a reason I’ve chosen riding bikes—specifically, mountain bikes—as my main sport. And every time I swing a leg over a bike—especially after a 10-week break—I’m reminded of why I made that decision. Or rather, why this sport chose me.

Day 34

Have you enjoyed reading about Outside 365? If so, I'd love for you to continue reading about it! Unfortunately, Facebook is making some major changes that will make it drastically more difficult for you to see my content in your feed. Here's the best way to keep getting notified of my latest articles using Facebook.

Click over to my public Facebook Page and if you haven't already, be sure to follow it! Once on the page, click the drop down box near "Following," and then select "See First" under news feed. Now, you'll keep seeing these articles on Facebook even as it gets ever more difficult for writers to make a living.

Change is hard. Change hurts. The birth of something new is always, always painful. Change requires us to move through the discomfort and overcome the resistance to reach whatever is really, truly good. That good thing is on the other side of the pain.

If only we could clearly see the path all the way to its ending, the pain of the unknown would be gone. But there are twists and turns in every trail, including the trail of life. Obstacles must always be overcome. You can never see the entire path--instead, it unfolds before you one step at a time.

The key is to keep taking steps. Keep moving forward. One step at a time, the path will be revealed. 

As we take steps, we must remember that we only have one step to take: this step. The step that lies directly before us, right here and right now. Truly, this is the only step that we can physically take. Not the step after that or the step a mile down the trail, but THIS step. Right now.

Do it.


Day 32

For a challenge to be worthwhile, it must be bold. It must be audacious. You have to risk very real failure for a goal to be worthwhile. 

In the past, I have set goals for myself that I know with almost complete certainty that I will complete. One example is Strava, my favorite means of tracking my activity stats. On Strava, you can set a mileage goal for the year in your profile. In 2017, I set a goal of 2,000 miles. While I hadn’t reached the 2,000 mile mark in the previous two years, I chose 2,000 miles because I knew that if I didn’t reach that amount of mileage, I had had a poor year. I knew from experience that in order to have a halfways decent year of mountain biking, I had to ride a minimum of 2,000 miles.

Despite spending the first two months of the year on downhill skis, overcoming a hip injury, and losing the final two months of the year to knee surgery, I still soared past that 2,000-mile “goal.”

The bar was set so low, that I easily accomplished it without even trying.

Some people see this as a good way to set goals. If the bar is easily surpassed, that gives you a feeling of success and you’re likely to go way above and beyond. While perhaps there is some merit to this, that only means that the sense of achievement when the low bar is reached eventually gets labeled as “not important.” You know that hitting the low bar is pointless, meaningless.

On the other hand, if you choose an audacious goal, a goal that you can and probably will fail at, but a goal that is worthy of giving every ounce of effort that you have to achieve it—such a goal is worthy of the effort that you expend. Such a goal can (and will) motivate you to achieve more than you ever thought possible. 

In short, such a goal is worth it. Easy goals are not.

Set an audacious goal this year, and see what you can do!

Day 27
I want to take some time and consider: exactly how important is mountain biking in our lives, really?
To do this, I’m going to examine Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
. . .
Is mountain biking actually required to fulfill any of the levels of Maslow’s pyramid? No, of course not. As I touched on in the introduction, billions of people around the world use different methods to achieve these basic human needs, and many of them are no better or worse than any other.
The paradigm shift happens when you choose to embrace the mountain biking lifestyle. Or perhaps you fall sidelong into this life without consciously choosing to do so, until one day you wake up and realize that all you think about is bikes. Once a person has reached this point, I’ve illustrated how mountain biking can, in fact, help the rider achieve all five (or even six) levels of human need and motivation.
But is looking to mountain biking as your primary means of achieving these six needs wise, or even healthy? Is it a good idea to use mountain biking as the means to achieve these six ends? That, my friend, is a question you’ll have to answer for yourself.

One of the first questions I get after a new injury is, "so, are you done skiing, then?" Or, "are you going to back off on those jumps?" It's usually a question that follows the reasoning, "you got hurt. This sport is dangerous. You shouldn't do dangerous thing that hurt you."

But as I take a step back from their question and think about the absolute best moments that I've experienced in my life, many of those beautiful moments have taken place out in the mountains. Practicing these so-called "dangerous" sports has led to many of the very best experiences of my life.

To focus on the hiccups along the way instead of the beautiful panorama of incredible adventures that span months--even years--in between the injuries, the hiccups, would be a serious error in perspective and mindset. If we're always fixated on the small things that go wrong, how can we appreciate the many things that go so wonderfully right in this life?

We can't allow our focus to remain on the few challenges and difficulties, no matter how formidable they may be. Instead, let us focus on the beauty that surrounds us daily.

Day 24

The main reason I was hesitant to begin my challenge on January first, and doubly hesitant to begin writing about my challenge on January first, was this ominous shadow of self-doubt lurking behind every thought related to Outside 365: “What if I FAIL?” 

Well, I could very well fail. I’m recovering from surgery, after all. So how will I respond?

Here’s my plan: start again.

See, the inherent problem with a challenge that requires you to do something every day, for 365 days straight, is that if you miss just one day—just one—you’ve technically failed the challenge. Of course, the point of doing the challenge, the reason that such an audacious challenge exists in the first place, isn’t foiled by missing just one day. But the overt stat-tracking part is

Why set myself up for potential—even likely—failure in this way? “Because I’m just not all that bright,” is the best answer I have for you right now.

As I embark on this audacious and foolhardy challenge, I do so with the knowledge that I could, at some point, fail to complete it on my first attempt. If I stumble, if I fall, I won’t let that stop me. I will dust myself off, pick myself up, and begin again at day 1. Whether I fail at day 30 or day 300, I will reassess, try to understand what went wrong, and begin again.

Outside 365 isn’t a goal that I devised for myself, to give myself motivation. Such goals rarely work. Rather, Outside 365 is a goal that found me. This project was born of a desire that rests so deep in my soul that it can’t be quenched, it can’t be satiated, until it is complete.

While setbacks will inevitably occur, failure is not an option.

Day 20
I love the dawning of a new year. The passing of the old and the genesis of the new always brings with it inspiration and motivation for change and improvement in my own life. I reflect on the year that’s just concluded—the goals I met, the ones I didn’t—and work on honing my priorities for the coming year.
The problem is that January 1, at least in the Northern Hemisphere, is one of the worst times of the year to set a year-long mountain biking goal.

Photo: Jim Cummings

Many times when we set a personal goal for ourselves--something like Outside 365--we dramatically overcomplicate the parameters of the goal. As I outlined my challenge, I asked myself: "Is simply being active outside enough? Should I add some other aspect to my goal to make it more meaningful?”

Then I realized: we often think that making things in our lives more complicated automatically imbues them with more value. In fact, the exact opposite is true: the simplest things in life are usually the most meaningful.

For many people reading this, who may not be athletes (currently) but are drawn to the idea of physically reconnecting with nature everyday, the idea of riding a bike for an hour or running a mile may be overwhelming. It may seem physically impossible at this point. It may actually be physically impossible.

To just such a person, I have this to say: just go for a walk. Walking is enough.

The more complex a challenge, the more likely that you'll feel the burden of overwhelm and buckle under the pressure. It's always easier to make a goal more complex or nuanced as you go. But to get there, you need to start somewhere.

A limiting reality in my life over the last three years has been a series of serious injuries. Most recently, just over two months ago, I had my second surgery to reconstruct the ACL in my right knee. For me, it is currently physically impossible (or at least inadvisable, according to my docs) to run, hike, ride a bike (except on a trainer) -- you name it. But the one thing I can do? I can walk.

I've been walking a lot during the first few weeks of this challenge. On one hand, it seems mundane--can't I even be on a trail? But then as I slowly inhale and exhale, allowing the stress to depart my body, I pick my gaze up from the gravel in front of my shoes and look around. I look at the mountains--unusually bare for this time of year. I notice the wooden fence, with the dried bark peeling off from the relentless punishment of the Colorado sun. I breath in the sweet scent of the ponderosa pines all around me. 

As I drink in the world around me, I realize: for now, walking is enough. Bigger adventures are on the horizon, but for now--I will walk.

Day 17
I have debated with myself for months about when I should launch my personal Outside 365 challenge. Two things I’ve debated hotly in my own skull:

1. When should I personally begin the challenge? 

Photo: Marcel Slootheer

Normally, my answer would be “right now,” but if you’ve been following my work for any length of time, you know that I’ve had injuries—many injuries. Most recently, I underwent my second ACL surgery to fix an injury from two years ago. So the timing is not ideal to begin a year-long challenge that could be derailed by one off day during recovery.

But there is no other time, any other moment, that exists than this moment we’re currently living. The past no longer exists. The future has not yet come to pass. The only temporal reality is the present. That’s it, that is all that we have, all that we are guaranteed.

So start now.

Technically, the idea of undertaking this challenge has been bugging me for over two years, and most recently surfaced in October, 2017… right around the time I was about to be incapacitated by surgery. So I waited. I decided to choose a present moment to begin that was more ideal than a moment in which I was required to use two crutches to traverse any distance. 

But I couldn’t wait for the perfect moment to arrive, as it never does. Will my knee injury be better healed in a future moment? Hopefully. But what new injury will occur between now and then? What else can go wrong in life to make that moment not feel like the moment? It's impossible to say.

So I’m starting now.

2. When should I begin blogging about the challenge?

I don’t necessarily need to write about my Outside 365 challenge. I could choose not to. But I am a writer, and writers write. Writing is core to our existence—it creates and defines our lives in so many ways. 

So I'm writing.

As I began drafting my manifesto and my first few posts about this project in the weeks leading up to 2018, I did so with the anticipation that if I was so audacious, so bold as to start my challenge on January 1, choosing to defy the demons who plague all New Year’s Resolutions, choosing to defy my injury while not yet being fully recovered, that I would wait to begin writing about it. I would give it at least 30 days, maybe more, before I’d start writing about my project publicly.

But I am a writer. And not a very bright one, at that.

So I’m starting now.

Outside Day 14.

I've had a very simple idea stuck in my mind—inescapable, tantalizingly-attainable, but surprisingly-difficult to achieve—for over two years. That idea is born out as a goal: be active outside, every day, for 365 days straight. I’m calling it Outside 365.

Not an Original Idea

Before I go further, I must point out that this isn’t an original idea by any means. A simple Google search reveals at least 3-4 different websites dedicated to the idea. Some of these blogs have simple goals, like moms simply getting their kids, their families, out of the house every day. Others are a bit more complex, such as having the goal of covering 365 miles of ground under human power in a year. (Note, that goal isn’t everyday activity, but rather a total in a year—similar to Mark Zuckerberg’s running goal back in 2016.) 

Others hone in their focus even further. A cult-like subset of runners addicted to this idea are called “run streakers.” The basic definition of a run streak is to run a minimum of one mile per day, every day… for as long as you choose. Many run streakers make the challenge more difficult, by choosing to run outside every single day, and generally running much more than one mile per day. 

To some run streakers, 365 days might be unattainable… but to others, that’s barely getting started. Early in 2017, the longest run streak ever recorded came to an end at 52 years and 39 days. 52 years and 39 days! I can only imagine accomplishing a feat of that magnitude.

Above and beyond runners, I know so many mountain sports athletes who simply live the Outside 365 lifestyle and think nothing of it. It’s not like they have to set a plan to go outside every day—that’s just what they do. The question isn’t whether or not they’ll go outside, but what adventure they’ll choose to embark on during any given day.

I’ll confess: I was a little disappointed to realize that my grand plan, this idea that’s kept resurfacing in my soul for years, wasn’t an original idea. But then I realized something: the fact that so many other people have felt compelled to set similar goals in their own lives indicates there’s a really important truth here. Not only does a growing desire for this goal amongst others confirm that this is a goal worth pursuing in my own life, but the goal of getting outside and being (more) active might just have implications for people around the world.

We Need This

The desire to complete this challenge germinated somewhere deep inside of me, in a place that I can’t quite defineSometimes, trying to retroactively assign a meaning to a desire is more than meaningless, but I think the desire to go outside and be active springs from deep roots.

We—Americans, and westerners at large—are dying from a lack of movement. According to the CDC, over one third of adult Americans are obese, and “obesity-related conditions including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer, are some of the leading causes of preventable death.” 

Photo: Marcel Slootheer

Even for those of us who might be in decent shape, a lack of time spent outdoors and in nature is shown to negatively impact our moods and our psyche. Mental well-being is the primary reason that my soul craves to go outside and be active. Moving my body through the woods and the mountains is an extremely centering experience, allowing me to process my negative emotions and live a well-balanced life. I’ve learned that I need this… yet it still can be difficult to prioritize.

Personally, I probably fall toward the more active end of the American spectrum. Some people might even consider me to be in decent shape (but is the athlete ever satisfied?). However, as a writer and an editor who spends 40+ hours per week behind a computer, I can easily go several days--sometimes close to an entire week--without any meaningful exercise. While getting out for a walk or a quick bike ride seems like it should be easy, the addictive call of the lazy boy is real and it is powerful. And, the daily pressures of everyday life can quickly overwhelm one’s schedule, squeezing out the most important activities if we don’t take the time to make them a priority.

Ultimately, I’m undertaking this challenge for self-centered reasons: to maintain my own health, and as a way to live the richest life I can imagine. 

What counts as a day spent outside?

For my personal goal, I’m not defining a day spent outside as just walking out onto the deck to sip my coffee in the morning, playing with the dog in the yard, or walking to the car. Instead, I’m requiring some sort of physical activity:
  • General adventures like a mountain bike ride, downhill skiing, whitewater rafting, rock climbing, hiking, snowshoeing, et al. qualify. 
  • If on foot (walking or running), cover 1 mile.
  • If biking, 30 minutes minimum. 
  • Strenuous physical activity (ex. yard work, building a trail, doing trail maintenance), 30 minutes minimum.
Why blog?

"Why choose to blog about this? Why not just do the challenge on your own, and call it good?” you’re probably wondering.

While this idea of going outside and being active every day might not necessarily resonate with you, if you've made it this far through this manifesto, chances are you're at least curious about the idea. And I think if we're all being honest with ourselves, we can all use a little inspiration from time to time. I'm hoping that my weekly blogging will provide a touch of that needed inspiration.

I don't plan on penning hoo-rah motivational speeches, but rather sharing small nuggets of ideas that will hopefully germinate and grow into greater inspiration and motivation to lace up the shoes, lube the bike chain, stick the skins to the bottoms of the skis, and head out the door into the great, wide world.  

Because in my opinion, ideas are what matter. I’m not really interested in relating the ho-hum day-to-day events of my Outside 365 challenge in this space. “I went for a one-mile walk down the road today,” would be gouge-your-eyes-out boring. If you want those details, follow me on Strava (but don’t expect me to post all my one-mile walks).

Instead, I hope to share ideas that matter. Ideas about why getting outside and moving your body is important. The bigger picture of engaging deeply with our world and living a vibrant life. Motivating oneself to get off the couch. Those sorts of things.

If you like the sound of this, I’d love to have you join me as the experience unfolds! If you haven’t already, you can “like" my Facebook page to get updates there, and/or follow me on Instagram for a visual experience.

2018 is going to be an interesting year!

Outside Day 13

Instead of taking Wikipedia’s word for it, I’m putting forward my own definition of mountain biking:
“Mountain biking is the act of riding a bicycle under 100% human power or the pull of gravity on terrain that is impassable by low clearance, two-wheel drive vehicles.”
 Read more here.

Photo: Enve