Today I got a reality check. Or maybe it was just a reminder. A reminder that not every day on a bike do you perform your best. As soon as this sinks into your brain while you are churning along that little voice in your head that acts as your ‘inner critic’ wakes up. (I really can’t stand that little voice.) For me: it chimes in and starts telling me how I’m not good enough, I should train harder, eat less, or just give up ‘cause I suck. Maybe it tells you that you will never be where you want to be, even if you try. You might get mad at it and push harder, but a bad day on the bike is a bad day – pushing a struggling body won’t make it better.
So, you suck (you think) and the little voice keeps yakking away telling you how awful you are and what could be a beautiful ride turns sour. You might feel sorry for yourself, feel grumpy, or just want to get off the bike. Yep, your inner critic is eroding your confidence and taking the joy out of your day. It’s called ‘defeatism’. It’s ego talking and if you aren’t feeling like King of the Mountain and you happen to be a competitive spirit (and a perfectionist like me) – it’s hard to take the ‘bad day’ with grace… unless you have the right perspective.
Not every day on a bike a fabulous day for a variety of reasons. The only constant in life is change. A very smart man called Albert Einstein said that and I’m sure he knew what he was talking about. Maybe you didn’t eat right, or you had too much stress, you could be over-trained, or perhaps you didn’t get a good night’s sleep. Whatever the reason for the bad day on the bike – it just IS and that’s it. You can either accept it as a bad day, listen to the voice, want to hang up your bike, or: you can take control and change it.
Cycling is mostly mental and if you aren’t in the right place mentally it will damage your performance. It’s critical to have the right perspective and today I didn’t start off with the right mental frame of mind. My body didn’t have the energy and power I would have preferred, I was getting grumpy, and starting to loathe myself because I was not performing to my idea of perfection. Half way through the ride I looked up at the beautiful clouds in the cerulean blue sky and thought “what the heck am I doing to myself?” I told the little bruised ego voice to “shut it” and changed my perspective.
It goes something like this: I cannot change what I cannot control, therefore I will not let that which I cannot change control ME. I cannot change the weather, whether my body is ‘up to it’ or not, or what I ate yesterday. I CAN control my point of view. I told my husband to go on and do whatever mileage he wanted to do at whatever pace. I knew my way and I would do my own thing – unhindered by feeling like I was being an ‘inconvenience’ (women do this more than men). On my own I could focus on what my body needed from my brain and the two could work together to make a bad performance day a great ride day!
I backed off, chilled out for a bit, and enjoyed the scenery. Spring is here and there are a million birds flitting from tree to tree. Hawks are calling to one another and freaking out the same little birds. I rescued my first turtle for the year. Cows watch me curiously as a hum past and I could appreciate the day for what it was: amazing. I enjoyed every struggle uphill into a headwind to savor the immense view when I got to the top – to then scream downhill yelling “wheeee!” like a 5 year old. Even though I was originally ready to throw in the towel at mile 40, I sailed on to complete my intended mileage and had a heck of a better time doing it!
I also practice yoga and I love that one of many benefits to cycling yoga can give you is mental balance. In yoga class it is common to hear: “wherever you are in your practice today is perfect” and “be present on your mat, let the static of the day fall away to be here in the now”. Be present on your bike. Embrace where you are in your ride that day and be content with what you have. If you didn’t do as well as you would have liked: then you have something to look forward to and a goal to push towards. Enjoy the now for what it is know that you are the only person standing in your way.
Cycle on my Friends!