By Dirk Smith, M.Sc, SDL (He/Him)

When the lockdowns begun, I, like everybody else, suddenly had my life interrupted as we faced a new and radically different reality from what we were all comfortable with. The pandemic has influenced our society and culture in many ways that we will feel the effects from for years to come. As a swimmer, for me, this meant that pools were closed and suddenly my main sport was no longer accessible. Honestly though, I needed the break from swimming. On Facebook, you’d say “it’s complicated” regarding my relationship with swimming. While I love the sport, I wasn’t pursuing any particular goals and finding it hard to motivate myself to be active in the swimming community.

It’s been over six months since I last swam, and I have been on the emotional roller coaster dealing with the stress and drama that is life in the pandemic. I have been steadily getting back into a regular exercise and training routine which has helped immensely with the physical, mental, and social aspects of my life and as a fitness/ strength and conditioning coach, doing what I do best, that is teaching, has helped me find a sense of stability again.

A few weeks ago, I was writing an article on TogetheRide for Compete Sports Diversity, the TogetheRide is a virtual offshoot of the annual #AIDSLifeCycle which is a 7-day, 545-mile bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles to raise money and support for HIV/AIDS research, preventative and treatment services. Since the traditional AIDS LifeCycle is not taking place this year, TogetheRide seeks to continue the mission of AIDS LifeCycle by encouraging participants to raise money and log the miles in a way that is Covid safe.

So, as I was researching this, I became intrigued with the whole idea, while I am not a competitive cyclist, I do enjoy going on bike rides to explore new areas as well as use it to commute whenever I can. With the weather getting nicer, I was already planning to do some big rides and decided to channel that into a good cause as well, so I signed up. Set a goal to raise $1000 and to ride 1000 miles for the TogetheRide and through this effort.

Signing up for the ride is important to me because of the motivation that participating in the cause that it represents. It’s easy for me to go out and do bike rides myself, log some miles, set local-level goals like distance, speed, or time, and take some pictures to post on social media. Which of course, I will do all that stuff anyway but doing the TogetheRide adds a greater sense of purpose for it as well. That is, to share *why* these rides are important to me, to contribute to a cause and help people, to give back to a community that has given so much to me and to be part of something greater than myself. These are the kind of motivations that help me better stick with it and to continue doing rides even when I don’t feel like it, because it’s not about finding something I would personally gain from it, but to do it because it’s something that is important to me.

During this journey, I am planning to ride through the German countryside and visit some amazing castles and historical landmarks. Places where typical tourists won’t go out of their way to visit because of the obscurity, inaccessible by transit, or other reasons that make the places more unique to the local communities in which they exist. I started doing that last year and got to see some amazing castles, so I am eager to do it again, but even more so knowing that it won’t just be for my personal interest, but my own unique way to contribute to my community and hopefully help make it a bit easier to get through this pandemic.

Visit my TogetheRide fundraising page at http://www.tofighthiv.org/goto/fitwithpride and learn more about the TogetheRide at https://www.togetheride.org/ and AIDS Lifecycle at https://www.aidslifecycle.org/