Do you know who must be very patient, thoughtful people? Olympians. I realized that yesterday as I did a sixty-kilometre training ride (impatiently) to prepare for the Cycle for Sight, a 140-km charity bike ride raising funds for vision research. I find training difficult because it’s so terribly boring — nothing to do but think and sweat for hours on end. After ten minutes I found myself wishing I could somehow stream Netflix into my brain and binge on Ray Donovan.
After I resigned myself to the fact that brain-streaming technology isn’t quite there yet (give the good people of Netflix another year, mark my words) I forgot about being bored, because I was suddenly faced with a ninety-degree slope of quad-ripping dread-terror. This was the kind of hill that makes you want to spin your bike in the opposite direction to find the closest pub and call it a day. Unfortunately, I had only cycled for fifteen minutes and I wasn’t about to give up yet. I soldiered on.
And do you know what happened? The mountain of misery wasn’t so bad! I was reminded of something I always think when cycling, which goes something like “Wow, hills look a lot scarier from the bottom than they ever turn out to be when you’ve reached the top.” I began to think of work projects I had been afraid of that had also turned out well, and realized that this little cycling analogy was true for many other challenges I had faced in my life. I wondered if there might be other life learnings I could take away from cycling, and suddenly I wasn’t bored anymore as I played a game to think of this list below. So here goes: inspiration from the back of a bicycle seat.
- The first ten minutes is not a good barometer for how you’ll do
The beginning hurts. In sport, it’s your body getting into its groove and sometimes in that first ten or twenty or even forty minutes you want to quit. But weirdly, if you persevere, at minute fifty you find yourself breathing calmly, as though you were walking even though you’re pedaling full out. I find the same thing with learning something new. If you quit in the beginning, you’ll never get to the part where you’re breathing easy.
- It’s good to learn to change your own flat
This is more “do what I say, not what I do,” because I’ve always managed to find someone to change my flats, but I hope one day I’ll be able to do this myself. It’s empowering to learn how to do your own maintenance, especially if it’s something you’d otherwise have to pay someone for. If you’re a woman, it’s especially exciting to learn to do a “manly” job. Having the courage to learn a few skills can help you come to your own rescue.
- Having a destination makes you go farther
I’d have only gone ten kilometres rather than sixty yesterday if Gravenhurst had been five K from Bala. Also, when I work out on my own I usually quit at minute twenty in the gym instead of doing forty-five or sixty in a class. Goals help with perseverance, especially those without many options for escape.
- The arts make everything easier
A little Rihanna goes a long way with me. When I’m really slogging it on the bike, a good song gives me that extra boost that I need. I think this has been true throughout my life – enjoying someone else’s art (books! film!) or creating your own can give that emotional energy you need to keep going when feeling drained.
- Don’t skip the stretching or the beer
I always wonder about people who do a whole spin class but then sneak out before the stretching is done. That’s the best part! Take time to enjoy that reward after you’ve worked hard. At the end of the annual 140 km ride there’s beer, and those are the best tasting drinks I have all year.
- When you think you’re at full capacity, completely exhausted, you’re only half way to your potential
This might be a load of BS that they tell real Olympians, but it’s what my friend Victoria Nolan, blind ex-Paralympic rower for Team Canada, told the Cycle for Sight crowd trying to motivate them before the main event one year. The crowd giggled. Maybe you don’t know how tired I am at those times, I bet they thought. But even if you’re skeptical, it’s a nice idea when you apply it to other areas. Have you truly exhausted yourself in trying to reach your goals, or is there still more gas in the tank?
- Fear bears
Bears are scary, and they can eat you. I was quite *concerned* that I was going to run into one yesterday. There are also dangerous human bears around who can make life terrible — avoid those ones too. Oh, and back to me and the real bears, don’t be afraid to take calculated risks. I didn’t get eaten! Yay!
- Bugs will only bite you in the behind if they can catch you
This truth made me think of entrepreneurial friends. Stay four steps ahead of the naysayers and critics, and it will be like they’re not even there.
- Nothing can be done about the rain
There are times when you’re pedaling uphill in the pouring rain with the wind in your face, and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about that. My husband’s cousin is a marathon runner with three young kids and he was just diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Another friend has been fighting brain tumours for years. It completely sucks. Enjoy the love and support of those around you on the sidelines when it’s raining.
- You want a hard body? You want a Maserati? You better work
This convenient Brittany Spears song came on while I was playing my game. But let’s forget about hard bodies and be happy with ourselves. And while we’re at it, let’s forget about the Maserati, too. I could work 24/7 but I don’t think a Maserati is in my future. Anyway. Looking past a few unfortunate lyrics, Brittany’s general point is that success comes with hard work. If you want something, commit and go for it.
After all, the hill is never as big as it seems.