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WHAT’S GOT BIG?
After a recent exercise drought that spanned months rather than weeks, I finally summoned the strength to shrug off the paralysing feeling that floods me when I have left training for too long. It was now time to dust myself off and get back on the horse, or more to the point my bike!
Having left something that we used to do regularly, why is it at times, an impossible task to return to?
EXERCISE,WORK, SCHOOL, LOVE, RELATIONSHIPS, COMMUNICATION, FALL OUTS?
How can the once familiar task be put off or even avoided at all costs?
How does the once familiar task grow in size becoming daunting where once it was so manageable and ‘every day’?
Why does it paralyse us? Stop us? Prevent us?
Now, for those who know, there is not a more humbling experience than that felt by a middle-aged man rummaging through a drawer of amassed lycra after a period of reduced training and increased period of inactivity. The prospect of the rummage itself was almost enough to stop me even going on the ride. The thought of donning once perfectly fitting shorts and figure-hugging base layers created an internal uneasiness, similar to the one I experience during my annual wetsuit fight where I see if my beloved Rip Curl neoprene has shrunk since the last time I wore it!
To be fair, it could have been a lot worse. We are talking an increase in pounds rather than stone, but the use of the word ‘snug’ when describing my lycra clad appearance would be accurate and possibly stretching its definition proportionally in line with the way that my waist was now stretching my beloved Alpe D’huez bib shorts, nevertheless I was in!! Safely in, supported correctly and ready for the ride ahead. Stage 1 complete!!
After the customary 30-minute garage ‘faff’ of tyre pumping, water bottle filling, glove finding, helmet adjusting and spare inner tube checking, I was finally ready to leave on a tried and trusted straight out and straight back route to the glorious seafront of Exmouth. A reasonable 50km round trip, aimed to test but not humiliate.
As I was about the set off, I became aware of the physical and mental sensations of nervousness. I experienced:
- Heart rate increase.
- The need to take a few deep breaths.
- I felt a ‘sicky’ type feeling in my stomach.
- A NEGATIVE self-talk of ‘I’m not going to do this’.
Feelings and thoughts akin to first day nerves in a new job or similar to those faced during an interview. It wasn’t enough to stop me going on this occasion, but strong enough for me to become aware of ‘IT’. I guess in many ways I was returning to my training after a significant time away and experiencing undesired, unwanted and very unhelpful feelings of doubt and uncertainty.
Afterall, I was returning after an absence but not that long that there was a need for me to pop my stabilizers back on. I knew the route, the conditions were kind, the distance was realistic and for company I had my onboard bike computer to let me know how I was getting on. I’d be fine, so as those who exercise are often reminded, I gave myself a kind internal nudge of encouragement to… JUST DO IT!! So, I did.
- Sometimes a KIND, INTERNAL NUDGE OF ENCOURAGEMENT will be enough.
- Sometimes a KIND, INTERNAL NUDGE OF ENCOURAGEMENT won’t be enough.
- Often an EXTERNAL kick up the arse is the last thing you need.
- Possibly, maybe an EXTERNAL kick up the arse is exactly what you need.
REVERSIBILITY is a training principle that lends itself to the notion of ‘if you don’t use it, you lose it’. The answer, ‘a loss of fitness through the lack of training’ would get you one mark in a GCSE Phys Ed paper and I was experiencing REVERSIBILITY in bucket loads. My legs burned early on. The hills felt steeper, the kilometres felt longer and my bike computer constantly updated me on how much slower I was going IN COMPARISON to previous rides!
A slower maximum speed IN COMPARISON to my best maximum speed and a slower average speed IN COMPARISON to my fitter historic rides. IN COMPARISON to the data, this ride was not as good as rides I had previously been on. Instead of feeling a warm sense of pride for RE-ENGAGING into exercise, I carried a feeling of disappointment with me all the way down to Exmouth.
Whilst chewing over how far away I was from pleasing levels of fitness; I navigated the undulating speed bumps and stop started in between the numerous pedestrian crossings along the Devon coastline.
Glancing down to further confirm how slow the trip down to Exmouth had been I noticed that my bike computer had fallen off. Bugger!! Its absence left me cycling alone. Uninformed of times, distances and speeds. Bugger!!
How will I possibly be able to see how far behind where I used to be now??
Not only deflated by my ‘snugger’ lycra, battered by my poor comparative data, I was now a £70 bike computer down on the day too. Cheers!
How could the ride get worse??
Well, it didn’t, there was in actual fact a remarkable turnaround at the turnaround of my ride!!
My home leg became free of COMPARISON. After shrugging off the financial angst of my bike computer loss, I returned home free of the numbers that slapped me and acted as a constant reminder of how far away I currently was from my fitter days when I was training regularly.
I returned home steadily and kept within comfortable breathing rates, comfortable levels of exertion whilst looking up and enjoying the scenery of the South coast, inspiring views of Woodbury Common and taking in the simplicity of the countryside lanes.
I free wheeled, stretched out, ambled and pootled at times; safe in the knowledge that I was always heading home and with it closer and closer to my finish line. A sense of accomplishment replaced the disappointment as I applauded myself for getting back on my bike after an absence caused also by objective injury as well as subjective lack of motivation and a loss of confidence.
I finished my ride in one piece, no PB’s, overtaken many times, but 50km better off, invigorated and a few calories to the good. I enjoyed my ‘in the moment’ moment in the garage and when asked “how did it go?”, I replied “great thanks!”
I remember when my bike computer was my friend and told me regularly how well I was doing. It told me that my times were coming down and it told me that my speed was going up. A positive comparison about how much better I am NOW as opposed to THEN. A constant, motivating pat on the back in a ‘YOU’RE GREAT!!” kind of way. I loved my bike computer!
However, during times of challenge, recovery or rehabilitation we have an unhelpful tendency to compare ourselves to ‘how it was when I was at my best’. A negative comparison between how good it was THEN compared to NOW.
Below my best, (as this account attempts to portray) the same bike computer was a constant reminder of how far away I was from the rides I remembered on perfectly still summer mornings, during an uninterrupted era of fully fit, high level cycling that I enjoyed over ten years ago. An unrealistic comparison between me then and me now.
During the paralysing moments we have when we unfairly compare ourselves to previous highs, better times and former existences, our thoughts, feelings and body sensations can prevent us from igniting the sparks of growth.
- They suffocate us.
- They restrict us.
- Prevent us.
- Stop us…
…from getting back up and trying again.
We make comparisons all the time. Not only with ourselves but also with others.
- Status at work
- Parenting (home schooling….ouch!)
- Strava segments!! (a cycling order of merit based on speed)
Comparisons with others can create unhelpful league tables and competition and often don’t take into account the incredibly unfair start lines. In a league of one, you are neither top or bottom, just a team on its own doing the best it can.
Do you compare, unhelpfully?
Your past has created your present. You are here now, where you are because of it. You are where you are and accept that, even if it is a place you do not wish to remain.
Your future is yet to be written. Desired future outcomes will be born out of your current ‘in the moment’ thinking. It is impossible to compare NOW. NOW is NOW and the future will be shaped by it.
My subsequent rides have been ignited out of my ‘in the moment’ moment in my garage. Of course, I would love to be back to the personal dizzy heights of yester year, but that is simply not going to happen. I am ten years older; I have less time to train and if I am honest, I have less inclination to beast myself up steep hills and clock up hundreds of kilometres. But I would like to ride more regularly and intend to do so. I would like my Alpe D’Huez bib shorts to be under less strain at the seems and yes, I’d like to get down to Exmouth and back a little quicker………
…But quicker than NOW, not quicker than 10 years ago!!
I wish you well.