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Muscle training

If you can’t outrun them, outsmart them
April 22, 2019
Cycling in Belize
April 28, 2019

Saturday 23th of March - Chiapas


Paul, who cycled with us for a week, is already back to Mexico city. It’s the two of us again, and we start to test our muscles, as if we want to compensate for the easy week with Paul. That's how our mind works. We love to suffer, to cycle quickly, to feel the muscles and to push our limits. On top of that we are super competitive and the result is that we don't want to be inferior to each other and can achieve more and more this way. Not every world cyclist does it this way. We sometimes hear that others sit on the bike seven to eight hours a day to reach the same distance. "Everyone has their own rhythm, but I wouldn’t be able to ride 8 hours a day" says Zoë, who starts to ride even harder. "Cycling is fun, but cycling slow makes me really tired."


Yet we do not only train our leg muscles. There is a small muscle in our body that is very difficult to train, but it has the greatest return of them all. Rodrigo, our warmshower host, looks at us questioningly and waits for our answer as he points to his heart. 'The heart?' we ask, but that too obvious. Rodrigo nods no and teaches us a very important lesson. There is a very small muscle inside us and it hurts a lot to train it. The more you train the muscle, the happier you become. We are very curious and try to pull the answer out of his mouth. "It is the muscle of sharing," Rodrigo finally says. Sharing something with others is very difficult at the beginning because we are all materialistic and selfish as humans. Yet it has been proven that sharing makes us the most happy. We have already experienced that a lot during our trip. Many people already invited us, helped us on the way, gave us food or a warm shower, from poor to rich. They saw how happy it made us, and they became happy as well. We often asked why they did it because we had no house, shower or food to give back. "You share your time and stories with us," they said. Rodrigo tells it like it's proven science. "That is why we are so happy that you are here, otherwise we cannot train our muscles," he laughs. For three days we get a soft bed, delicious food and in return we give presentations at the Rodrigo school all day. The most amazing of all is that Rodrigo has already received more than 300 cyclists and is still so interested, as if we are the first.


With an important life lesson in our bicycle panniers we climb back into the mountains. The next destination is Oaxaca, a tourist city in the center of Mexico. Olivier thought that we can be there in four days, exactly on his birthday. Zoë is not so happy with the idea and especially the altitude meters that are coming up. Since a few days we have registered on Strava, an online platform where cyclists share sport achievements. We are in a group with all Owayo ambassadors, our cycling clothes sponsor. They are all top athletes and we can measure ourselves against them. There is a weekly ranking with the training time, altitude meters and kilometers. When Zoë heard that, there was enough motivation. Once a top athlete, always a top athlete!

The mountains are dry with many cacti and agave plants that they use to make Mescal, Tequila and Pulque. There is hardly any water during this dry period, so we are forced to cycle until we find a village. The town hall is the most beautiful building in our destination village, it looks deserted and we put our tent on the first floor. There is a basketball court in front of the town hall with a large fence around it. There is a small tap, ideal for showering us. Since the whole village seems to be having siesta in the afternoon, we can shower and wash our sweaty shirt without any bystanders. Moments later a shrill sound from a large speaker in the village. "Maria Hernadez, llamada para usted". We look surprised and ask a local what this is. 'There is no mobile phone network in the village and there is only one telephone. If someone calls, we use the speaker to announce the call'. Surprised, we laugh at each other while the man does not know another alternative. Around six o'clock in the evening a man comes to open the doors of the town hall. This is voluntary work and he only has time in the evening. Behind his desk, he conjures up a large bottle of Mescal. We still do not understand what is good about liquors when we gasp for breath. He looks at us strangely and does not understand that we are refusing the second glass. We certainly don't need to train all our muscles.


In this way every village delivers an adventure. One evening some children see Zoë'bag of chips and they send the youngest girl to us to ask for a bowl. The next day we get the telephone number from the police officer. "If something happens, we'll be there in two minutes," he says with conviction. They are all heavily armed and we wonder if it is dangerous here. "No, this is a quiet village, but you never know," they say. It is striking how many heavily armed police and soldiers are driving around in Mexico. All farmers walk along the road with a machete, but we find that less threatening than the armed soldiers. Sometimes it seems like it's a war. We do not feel unsafe, but we still ask why it is all necessary. It generates fear and unrest instead of peace and trust. One night we ask a local woman if it’s safe here. ‘Yes, off course, this village is really quiet, but there they found two dead bodies, and over there another one’ as she points in two different directions. We have no idea if she wants to say a hundred meters of ten kilometers, but if this is what they call ‘safe’, then we have another definition.


After Oaxaca we cycle to Pachuca in eight days. Olivier’s sports watch shows almost 1,200 intensive training minutes. That is two and a half hours of intensive exercise every day. According to the watch, the intensive minutes applies if the heart rate records above 120 heartbeats for at least ten minutes. On average we have a hundred heart beats per minute on a complete cycling day, but every climb provides a lot of intensive training. At the end of the week we are at the top of the rankings with altimeters and training hours. As a training ground we certainly cannot complain about Mexico, but it didn’t steal our hearths yet. "What do you think of Mexico so far?" Olivier asks one evening. Zoë needs to think for a while, but doesn't really know the answer. "We have seen beautiful things, but it is mostly dry and busy." All cyclists are enthusiastic about the country, but we don't have that feeling yet. Who knows, but the city of Pachuca could change that. Pachuca feels like coming home because this is the city where Lina was born. Lina invited us two and a half years ago to her home in Gran Canaria. We stayed there for more than a month looking for a sailing boat. Now we are in her hometown and we halfway on our mission to Atlanta. Our muscles have trained enough and deserve a few days of rest. Natalia, another warm show, gives us a warm welcome and trains her giving muscle to full pleasure to please us.


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