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Training for a purpose – Riding my first 4 day MTB tour

nedbank tour del tuli

Join us for the next 12 weeks as we stick with Tanja Schmitz, Fitness Magazine  publisher, as she trains for an MTB experience through Southern Africa. 

The annoying adage ‘a goal without a plan is just a wish’ plays over in my head as I weigh up what’s in store for my training for the next few months. As much as I hate to admit it, the saying is completely true.

I’ve been reviewing mountain bike (MTB) races like the Berg and Bush or perhaps Wine to Whales to make my MTB debut, both with a nice mix of epic views, challenging riding and some technical stuff. But when I found out what the Tour de Tuli offers, it made my heart sing.

For the next 12 weeks I will be training for my first MTB tour , the Nedbank Tour de Tuli. This four-day African mountain bike trail adventure follows a route that winds through untouched Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa. Unsurprisingly, it’s rich with wildlife and picturesque landscapes.

Tour participants experience amazing bush surroundings for four days and five nights. But the tour is more than just a unforgettable bucket list experience, as it also raises funds for Children in the Wilderness (CITW).

I now find myself 12 weeks out, and ready to go!

The biking back story

For those who don’t know me, I love riding my bike (bicycle). So when the opportunity presented itself to connect a passion with a goal, I had to grab it!

I’ve always loved the gym, but I never LOVED the gym. It’s an escape; a place for self improvement, but not a place where I found self worth.

I’ve been a functionally fit trainer for years. I dabbled in MMA, had a brief encounter with road running, and being a CrossFitter probably would’ve resonated with me if it wasn’t for my back injury. (Burst fracture L4. i.e: broken back in a car accident, and a FAI hip impingement several years later)

Like many others, I started looking for ‘purpose’ in my gym activities. I want to be strong, athletic, fit, and feel that I’m living, breathing the outdoors. I train for function, not only to look fit, but to feel fit, too. Feeling strong and capable is just as important as being healthy. So it came as no surprise that I really enjoyed being on a mountain bike.

This is all thanks to my husband, who also reentered the riding scene from his younger years. Watching how much he enjoyed riding was inspiring (and annoying) – I wanted in on this happiness too. He invested in a secondhand Trek full suspension bike and had me tag along on his recovery rides.

And it was all downhill from there. Literally.

The marathon and cross country scene wasn’t his (our) vibe. He went on to fall in with the downhill/trail riders and forged long-lasting friendships. Naturally, I followed suit. Both of us enjoy more technical rides, steeper descents, and anything that is not a long uphill pedal.

I’ve raced a handful of enduros, with lacklustre results. It turns out that as soon as you strap a timing chip to me I gravitate towards trees and take the proverbial dirt nap.

(Read more about enduro, downhill and trail riding in this piece I wrote for Dirty Heart magazine)

While the enduro scene is amazingly friendly and extremely welcoming of new riders (especially women), my competitive nature pushes me to the point where my speed possibly exceeds my skill. The community is supportive and many riders don’t ‘race’, they just ride. I soon realised the skin on my elbows might thank me for sitting out a season of racing.

And this lead me here: seeking adventure and a physical challenge, coupled with an amazing once-in-a-lifetime opportunity experienced on my bike.

What happens now?

If you’re reading this, it means I’ve made that commitment to train for a purpose. The experience of riding off the beaten track, breathing in Africa and completing a mentally and physically challenging event appeals to me.

Couple that with finally taking the leap and making a commitment to an end goal that sees me stronger, faster and fitter than ever before.

Join me on my #trainingfortuli journey.

I’ll be asking the novice questions, riding many trails, learning about the MTBs dos and don’ts and exploring supplementary fitness routines to help build the foundations I require.   

‘Hello adventure, I heard you knocking”.

Coming next week:

  • How do you really get used to hours in the saddle? For girls**

If you have questions or want me to try products or investigate MTB topics, comment below or catch me on:

@Life_as_Tanja / Or find me on Stava, and lets see if I can get more kilometres in…

Also, lets set this straight – the opening photo isn’t me. 

Author: Tanja Schmitz

Founder and Editor of Fitness Magazine. You’ll find her behind her computer or on her bike, dreaming up new ways to improve or create content for you.

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