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Things I’m Learning While Cycling

…and how it relates to everything else in life.

A recent decision to take up cycling at the tender age of fifty-something has been quite inspiring and motivating and crazy!  At this point you may be asking yourself, “Why would any sane person do THAT?”  It started with wanting to ride in a three-day charity run.  So here I am with a determination and conviction to reach my goal – of a 3-day ride without waiting for the sag wagon to take me to the next point.  As I ride, I see some cycling / life parallels emerging.  Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

  • Patience – sometimes the lungs work really well and help the body to keep going with minimal discomfort.  Other times, every muscle, every joint, every bone and even the hairs on my head scream for mercy.  With so much fluctuation in performance, it can be so exasperating especially not knowing what day will be “good” days and what days will be “bad” day.  Accepting myself for where I am at the moment, being kind and gentle with myself in thought is teaching me that delayed gratification is so much better than instant gratification
  • Let Go of Expectations – OK, this one smacked me right upside my head!  It was all planned out (in the secret recesses of my mind that were into chicanery) – I was going to hop on my brand new Cannondale and ride like the wind into the sunset for an entire day.  After all, when I was younger (MUCH younger) riding 25 miles in an afternoon was child’s play.  Yeah, right!  Somebody forgot to tell my body that this was the plan.  Expecting to ride 10 miles on the first outing was ridiculous, at best.  What I learned is that it’s OK to lower expectations a little (sometimes a lot) when those “voices” try to tell me otherwise.  My expectations now are realistic and in alignment with where I am and my current skill level.  As such, I knew that a 2-month quasi-training period was not enough to get me there.  My new goal is to get in shape to ride in next year’s charity event.  I readjusted.
  • Rest – I don’t need, nor do I want, to push myself beyond what I’m capable of doing (see Keeping Up with the Jones’).  Stopping every now and again to hydrate is a GOOD THING!  Or even using the excuse to stop for water is a GOOD THING.  Rest after a ride also allows your body’s muscle memory to kick in and it’s in those quiet times that I can really soak in all that I’ve accomplished on the ride.  Plus, who doesn’t like a nap every now and again?  Hmmm?
  • Keeping Up with the Jones’ (NOT!) – In a group ride, I seldom take the lead.  Oh, it’s not because I don’t like setting the pace or being in front (I have this control thing going on).  What I found is that I enjoy being at the rear and setting my own pace.  I’ve knighted myself “TP”.  LOL.  I used to be all about competing and I’ve been known to do some pretty stupid things back in the day.  These days I’m more into competing with myself.  And all those cyclists that pass me by going 100 miles an hour?  They can just keep on going – just don’t let your wind knock me over, because then I’m pretty sure I’ll catch you.
  • It’s Hard Work – Let me say it again, “Damn, it’s hard work!!”  How could such a small incline when you’re walking seem like Mt. Everest-size protrusions when you’re on a bicycle?  This simply baffles and fascinates me at the same time!  Like anything worthwhile and worth doing, there are going to be some tears involved once in a while, especially when you’re at the cusp of “blowing up”[1].  What I learned a long time ago on a motorcycle ride (yes, I was driving) from VA to FL in some of the most torrential downpours known to man is this, when asked the question what are we going to do (because it’s raining), I answered, “What am I going to do?  Cry?”  So, I put on the big girl panties, suck it up and get on with it.  Why?  Because no one is forcing this on me – I’m choosing it.
  • Rewards are Great – Those great feelings of reward come from many different things.  It can be a small accomplishment like s-l-o-w-l-y riding under the bridge up the curved hill or pushing yourself just a little further, reaching down just a bit deeper to tap those oft unused reserves or staying on the bike and pushing, grunting, groaning your way up the hill.  It can be a great sense accomplishment just going for a ride regardless of the number of miles…or feet.  And, there are many things in between – great scenery, getting yourself out of bed earlier, giving up television for a night, realizing you have more energy (energy begets more energy) to just really feeling good about yourself.  I’m all for that!mountain-biking--woman-on-bike-dolomites-italy
  • You CAN Conquer the Mountain (Fear Has No Place Here) – Seeing that mountain in front of you (OK, it’s really a hill – still feels like a mountain) and purposefully engaging in self-motivating talk – yes, talking out loud is acceptable and encouraged – gets you up that mountain.and the next…and the next!  It’s one full stroke of the pedal after another.  If you do one, you can do another.  Rinse and repeat until you’ve reached the top.  What’s the worst thing that could happen?  I walk the bike and myself up the hill.
  • FUN – Call me crazy – I promise I won’t hold it against you – this cycling thing is fun.  I get to feel like a kid again!  I get to ride around with some great people where we ride a trail, stop for lunch, and ride back.  I’m having some great conversations and meeting new people – even making a new friend or two along the way.  Learning about all the different things involved in cycling, the different styles of cycling and trying out new things are all part of the fun.  The one thing that would make the experience more enjoyable is a clothespin and a playing card.  Alert the neighbors – there will be more noise on the block!
  • Falling Down is Part of the Ride (sometimes) – You know you’re going over the handlebars if you suddenly apply the front brake without assistance from the rear brake.  If you try to get “fancy” with a move here or there, you’re going down.  If you find yourself in a situation where you’re going a bit too fast for conditions and you suddenly have a case of the doubts, guaranteed road rash is in your future.  So, what do you do?  Cry?  No!  (All right, sometimes you might if it really hurts.)  You get up, assess the damage, repair it / bandage it / stop the bleeding / put the chain back on the derailer, put yourself back on the bike and keep going.  What if the bike is demolished?  You call someone to help.  You take a risk – sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.  Thing is, you’ll never know what works and what doesn’t unless you DO it.
  • Slow is Good – I’m not out to break any speed barriers or do I want to intentionally hurt myself.  I learned that in cycling, like most all things, whether it’s the first time I’m doing something new or rediscovering something I’ve done a long time ago it’s good to take my time until I get my “balance.”  Once I’ve got that going pretty well, then I can pick up the pace a bit.  Slowing things down, taking my time, savoring the moment is an awesome experience.
  • Going Fast Can Be Scary-Good – What goes up must come down. 🙂  This is what gets me up all the mountains and hills – knowing that the ride down is going to be a blast!  There’s nothing more exhilarating than being at the crest of the climb (it definitely helps with those last few pushes of the pedals) knowing that the best part is about to happen. [Insert music here… Carly Simon’s song, “Anticipation”] For me, the feeling of flying down that hill is like nothing else in the world – scary sometimes – yet definitely good…very, very good!
  • Breathe – On occasion, I find myself holding my breath.  That usually happens when I’m feeling a bit stressed.  That stress can be something work related, in my personal life or struggling for breathe on those long climbs.  On the long climbs it’s a bit more evident – gasping for breath and feeling like there’s not enough oxygen getting in my lungs to help my muscles perform.  This is where I consciously remind myself to breathe.  If I’m fortunate enough to have a yogi with me on the ride, she’ll remind me to practice my Ujiayi breath – a controlled manner of breathing where you actively use your mind to override the feeling that you’re running out of breath.  The feeling of losing your breath can create a state of panic, which becomes cyclical.  I may not use the Ujiayi breath every time I’m stressed, yet focusing on my breath for 15-30 seconds when I’m in situations where I’m feeling a bit stressed goes a long way in reducing the stress, fear or panic I may be experiencing.

I’m sure there are many more things I’ll learn on this cycling adventure I’ve undertaken.  I can hardly wait.

Bring it on!

Until next time…

P.S. — Want to learn more about YOU can adopt and apply these lessons in your life, business or career?   Schedule your private, confidential complimentary discovery session or send an e-mail to to learn how.  Invest 30 minutes today to change your life forever.

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