In 5 Days to Lake Garda on my Bike

5 takeaways from this challenging trip.

Verena Wilmes
In Fitness And In Health


Photo by Graziano De Maio on Unsplash

I don’t consider myself as adventurous but I do like to challenge myself. Especially when it comes to physical challenges.

So, at the end of August I travelled in 5 days from the south of Germany, through Austria, to Lake Garda in Italy. With the bicycle. I drove a total of 350 km. There are more difficult routes through the Alps than the one I took, still, it was physically and mentally challenging. But most of all, it was an enriching experience, because I took away five lessons from this Alpine cross.

1) Staying positive always releases more energy than doubting.

Of course, I was aware of what could happen on this trip. Illness, crashes, a broken bicycle chain or other material problems. In the middle of nowhere, such problems are difficult to solve. And, of course, there were voices in my ear pointing all this out. There were people asking me if I could do it physically. But all these thoughts are of little to no help on the way, on the journey, in the middle of it. Whatever our goals, such thoughts drain the legs (and our minds) of energy needed to reach the destination. And we can’t solve problems that haven’t even arisen yet anyway. What we need is confidence in ourselves and positive thoughts. We climb hills with our legs, but as soon as our legs burn and our breath gets shorter, we need our mind. Our mind either encourages us, tells us that we are getting a little closer to the summit with every step, or it tells us that it’s not worth the agony. And we give up. Still positive thoughts are underrated, sometimes even considered naive. But being positive doesn’t mean we are unprepared. They are simply a better travel companion than doubts, fears and negative thoughts that paralyze us.

2) Staying in the moment gives us peace.

We are rarely focused on what is immediately around us. We’re glued to our smartphones while walking the streets or talking to our family. We go to the gym and our minds are clouded with the things that are still on our to-do lists. We are not in the moment, even though our lives are made up of moments. On the trip, however, I was forced to be in the moment, forced to deal with what was immediately surrounding me. I had to focus on the right path, watch the weather, find out where I could buy water and eat something. And so I had the opportunity to take in the nature around me, to listen to myself. There was nothing more urgent than being in the moment. And there is nothing more urgent than the moment.

3) Move, move, move!

We’ve all heard it before: sitting is the new smoking. But after 5 days of sitting in the saddle for 4- 5 hours at a time, I realized how true that phrase is. The sun, the fresh air and especially the exhaustion have benefited me. My sleep-wake rhythm regulated, I slept better and my digestion was also better. It felt like I had reached a more natural state. In contrast, my daily routine at home, with a day-to-day marathon of sitting, feels almost alien. My body wants and needs movement. Since this trip, it feels wrong to be constantly sitting, whether at a desk, in the car, or on the couch. I don’t think, we’d voluntarily give up our legs and sit in a wheelchair. So why don’t we use our legs?

4) There is real food out there.

It is a cliché to rave about Italian food and the relationship Italians have towards eating. And yet I will say that in a small and not at all touristy village in Italy, barely 80 kilometers north of Lake Garda, I ate better than I ever have in my life. I used taste buds I didn’t even know I had (the same was true when drinking espresso). But my point is not to praise Italian food, but to question what relationship I have with food in my everyday life. Most days I’m not having the time to sit down for a meal, let alone to cook a varied meal. And in these days of delivery service, food to drink and ready meals, as well as vitamin supplements, we often think that is a relic of a less modern time. Something we don’t need today and don’t have time for. But we all know that synthetic products can never match the nutritional value of natural products. And can there be anything more important in life than providing our bodies with everything they need to be healthy and fit?

5) I can do more.

Growth can be painful. It takes place outside of our comfort zones. We see the task, the path, the journey ahead of us and we have doubts. About ourselves, about the idea. We are afraid and wonder if we shouldn’t rather stick to our established routine, to the life we have. But life rewards us with prospects that we would never have seen in our comfort zone, when we dare to jump outside of it. Maybe we won’t always meet all challenges head on, maybe we’ll experience setbacks. But we will learn from it all and do better next time. Until we are amazed at what we have accomplished, how far we have come. There is no better feeling than that.

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