Enjoy your exercise

This morning I was VPT’ing (Virtual Personal Training) my friend Georgie. We had a conversation about what we’d done last week and I mentioned that I’d cycled 100 miles (over 5 days). Said out loud 100 miles sounds a lot and it would be if attempted in one journey! Not too clever on the ‘keeping it local’ during lockdown either!

As I talked to her I said that having once been a cycle athlete that I found riding my bike a bit of a challenge mentally and I could see that I’d have to explain myself in order for her to understand what I meant and I thought I’d share it with you.

Many years ago, when I was being coached for track racing every time I went out on my bike I was ‘training’. In one year trained every day except for 12. Even if I wasn’t ‘training’ I had to do recovery rides. If I wasn’t out on my bike for 2 hours a day I was on the turbo putting in some action.

Riding the bike for me was actually ‘training on my bike’. Mentally I approached each ride as a training ride, even the recovery rides. After a while it became my ‘normal’. It was what I did. I accepted it. It was tough and even though I accepted it, it was an acceptance that I took on as a means to an end. My goal was better performance on the track. I wanted some wins under my belt and medals on my chest!

Well that was then, and this is now and it is 20+ years since I raced on the track. Bizarrely, I forgot to tell my brain this and for many years since competing I got on my bike and trained. I couldn’t quite grasp that I could ride the bike for pleasure. I always felt (in my head) that I had to ‘suffer’ and keep up with whoever I was out riding with. I always put in an effort and pushed myself.

The thing that happened though is that my riding time reduced, winter would come and I wouldn’t get on the turbo and then spring would come and it would be cold and then summer it was wet. My time in the saddle became almost non existent and then I had hip and shoulder operations (the joys of getting older) and didn’t really get on my bike for about 5 years. My joy of riding had disappeared.

It is over the past couple of years that I’ve got back in the saddle. What a shock that was! Uncomfortable on the bum being just one of the hurdles to overcome. I was slow. Really slow. I struggled to ride up inclines that previously I’d pop up without a second thought. My shoulders ached, my backside throbbed and my lungs felt shredded. This was not an enjoyable experience and every time I finished a ride I was never really happy with my ‘performance’. This yo-yo-ing riding would probably have continued and even stopped if I hadn’t come to the realisation that I wasn’t riding the bike for performance ~ I was riding it for enjoyment.

My epiphany came after slogging up a hard climb and the voice in my head asked me what the hell I was doing? Was I going to win a prize? Would I get a medal? Would anyone care?! NO, was the honest answer. No I wouldn’t and no-one would worry.

That honest conversation between my ego and my inner self was the start of my enjoyment of riding the bike again. Now I ride my bike and stop to look at the view at the top of a climb. I appreciate the smell of the wild bluebells, the overpowering smell of fields of rape flowers and the pungent smell of wild garlic in the hedgerows. Even more so now that we are in lockdown I celebrate that I am healthy, and am thankful for my family, friends and loved ones.

The takeaway of this message is to do exercise that you enjoy. Don’t be a slave to it. If you do something you love you will do more of it, if you do something you dislike you are unlikely to do it again or do it regularly.

(written during COVID-19 Lockdown 2020)

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