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May 12, 2022

Chris Schmidt’s Journey with MTN LAB and Coach Lyons

When I reached out to Coach Lyons at MTN LAB in late 2020 I had a specific goal in mind: get fit for riding the GDMBR (Great Divide Mountain Bike Route) the following summer. You see, I’d been around bikes for years in other formats and had recently dabbled in a couple local Midwest bikepacking races (shout out to Heck Epic and Crusher EX). Those events then led me to consider such a seemingly crazy undertaking as the GDMBR after a friend opened my eyes to it.

Coach Lyons also happened to work with ultra endurance legend Jay Petervary, so I figured she had an appreciation for the nuances involved in getting on the bike for ultra distances and what happens when you get off the bike from those efforts. I had seemingly found one good thing on Instagram!

Through my quest for fitness on the bike over the years, I had always neglected something: EVERYTHING off the bike. I’m talking core work – loathed it… weights – I’d be too sore… “functional fitness” – I don’t have time for that… hip CARS – what are those?! Any excuse not to do these things and I’d find it.  Now understand that my wife Tammy is a gym rat and over that last 25 years we’ve assembled quite the home gym that you’d never find me in - aside from an occasional lapse in my judgment.  “When are you going to start working out?” was a quarterly question she’d throw my direction.  I always knew that it was probably good for me and I should be doing something besides spinning the cranks.  I was rapidly closing in on 50, so I figured I should probably finally get after it.  After all, the route down the Continental Divide with all of its glory and booby traps wasn’t going to care about years of self-neglect in this area.  I knew I needed to put in the work just to get me at the start of something that epic, let alone to the finish at Antelope Wells.

So I guess you could say that it was sort of a perfect timing that brought me to MTN Lab. This was a huge 2400 mile ride with my best friend that I couldn’t let down. It was the carrot I apparently needed to commit myself. At surface level I needed routine that could evolve into habit and ultimately a more durable me. Though I was committed to riding the GDMR before the pandemic, the experiences of COVID-19 and its toll on life as we all know it also certainly framed my intentions for everything much differently. Which brings me to Coach Lyons.

Left: Jay Petervary | Right: Chris Schmidt

It was just practical typical gym stuff I’d expect at first. Early on, Coach Lyons put me through a series of movements and feedback from that session got my attention. There were words like “limited”, “sluggish”, “deviation”, or my favorite two words: “lacks ability.” Damn, she wasn’t messing around. There was work to do. I knew it. But she called me on it. Now I’m a physician anesthesiologist and lover of physiology and anatomy, so I know enough to be dangerous (or a pain in the butt for Coach Lyons?), but it was evident immediately that Coach Lyons knew her stuff and she had just told my ego that there were some chinks in the armor! Yes, I signed up to get stronger to survive long days on the bike and maybe finally do those core exercises, but I was in for so much more.

Through the remote client app Coach Lyons assessed my motor patterns and mobility and we began progressing through different exercises to address issues and teach me and my body the playbook to move forward with. Over time, we progressed to build strength and stability and remind my body what it was like to move before I folded it over a bike 20 years ago. At first it was a struggle, but months later the building process was paying off. Exercises that initially seemed to have no relevance were clicking into place and cueing my movements on and off the bike. I was mobile, agile, recovering, and, most importantly, I was still doing it!

But why? I never could string together more than a couple weeks of gym work before. I had “big events” or races to get ready for, but I could never follow through with any consistency. What was different? For me, it came down to my little chats on Zoom with Coach Lyons, the occasional message or email, and the contemplation these evoked. We talked a little about how the gym was going, but she also in many ways encouraged me to explore my intentions. What’s my why today? Are the actions I am taking from the moment I get up and throughout my day in line with that? How do I put in perspective the essence of the challenge before me, whatever that might be? Are the people and activities I concern myself with pointing me in the direction I want to be going and the person I strive to be? Is my mindset on that same path? Am I just existing or captivated by this moment?

Unbeknownst to anyone, these types of questions would become my gym mantra, part of the workout prescribed, an intentional moment to check in on these areas.  I was spending time doing these exercises, I might as well multitask.  We are always going from one thing to the next and to the next and don’t take enough time to really get down to ground zero within ourselves on such questions as we otherwise try and connect the dots in our daily lives. Now I’d say my “gym mantras” are first steps for me, but I credit Coach Lyons for asking the question(s).  The answers to these questions are most certainly different for everyone.  But for me, a year ago the gym was just an activity that I had to get over with to get stronger physically.  Now, it has become a key part of everything I’m striving for - an important tool to leverage life with.  It has become my set aside time to get my body AND my mind fit; both need their exercises.  Am I faster and stronger and more resilient on the bike?  Sure.  But I never bargained for the gym to be the place where I take my mind to be a better human.  As they say, movement is medicine. 

With that said, it’s off to Tour Divide 2022!

—— Remote Client: Christopher Schmidt

Chris has teamed up to raise funds for diabetic care at Open Arms Free Clinic of Walworth County, WI. Their goal is to raise $4 for every mile they will complete while racing the Tour Divide.

Help support Chris in reaching his goal. Donate Now:

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