Matt Hill, K-6 Creative Arts Project Advisor with the New South Wales Department of Education, shares why spending time mountain biking is important for his wellbeing.
Mountain biking has become somewhat of an outlet for me. Perhaps it’s the fresh air being filtered through the trees. Perhaps it’s because I find it hard to focus on anything other than the pain in my legs and the burning in my lungs. Perhaps it’s because my time on the bike is one of the few times I can truly escape the noise in my life (both literal and metaphorical).
I grew up in a family of cyclists. Riding bikes was what we did and what we were known for. I have been fortunate enough to live most of my life in New South Wales’ Blue Mountains, surrounded by some of the best mountain biking terrain in the country. Both my brothers and I all worked in bike shops and travelled all over the country to enter races.
Then I became a teacher and found it hard to find the time to ride. Then I had kids and I just didn’t find time to ride. My bike sat in the shed. The tires went flat and the chain went rusty, a sad reflection of my physical and mental health.
My instinct in the previous paragraph was to write that I didn’t have time to ride, but I’ve learnt that’s not true. I wasn’t finding time. I wasn’t making time.
I realised that I needed something for me. Something for my own mental health. I had been giving so much of myself to my students and my family, but I was never refilling my own supplies. I was not my best self. I realised I needed to take a bit of time for myself, so that when I was giving to others I was giving quality, not just quantity.
I bought a second-hand bike and committed to getting the tires dirty. It felt so good, despite being so painful.
I still don’t ride as much as I’d like to. I need to develop good habits. It’s a process. Every time I get on the bike, I’m reminded how much I love it. I don’t even care where I’m riding. I’ve ridden the same loop through the bush near my house more times than I can count. It never gets old.
Sometimes I go fast, sometimes I just meander along. Sometimes I ride with a friend or with my eight-year-old son. It’s not important how I ride. It’s just important that I ride. I’m a better person after I have been on a ride.
We all need to find time for ourselves. I see it as an investment. It’s hard to put that time aside when we have so little to begin with, but it pays dividends in the long run. What are you going to do to invest some time in yourself?
If you see me out on the trails somewhere, say g’day or give me a friendly nod. I’ll be the guy puffing and panting with a giant smile on my face.