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