What I Learned by Deliberately Cycling Through the Storm
I cycle three times a week without fail, it’s one of the cornerstones of my existence. Cycling nurtures me, calms me and centers me; it’s been one of my salvations. Now, you might be thinking that I’m some sort of super fit iron man but I am, in fact, bestowed with rather modest athletic ability. I’m a rather ordinary, slightly overweight middle-aged man. A MAMIL or middle aged man in lycra in fact! And one day I found myself cycling through the storm.
Cycling Through the Storm
I always cycle at around 11 am on a Tuesday and this Tuesday at 11 am it was absolutely pouring with rain. I decided to go for it and clad in a single thin layer of cycling shorts and top I set out.
Immediately the icy drops soaked through onto my back and I pedaled quickly to try to generate some heat. As I got further from home the rain started to increase to the extent that it was an absolute deluge and then, intermittently at first, it started to thunder and lightening. The rain was now stinging on my face, the thunder incredibly loud and lightening flashing regularly close by and I was plowing through standing water on the road.
Working quite hard on the bike my breathing was heavy but regular and I was struggling not to breathe in water as it streamed down my face. No one else was out, I felt slightly insane, soaked but exhilarated! In fact, I lengthened my route as I was feeling good and also wanted to avoid what felt like a slightly risky open hilltop in the lightening.
The last mile was fantastic! I felt triumphant as if I had slightly stood up to the force of nature and won. I cycled flat out along the puddled road, water spraying in front and behind me, blinking to keep the water from my eyes. A few minutes later I was basking in a hot shower, my cycling kit in a huge pool of water on the kitchen floor, my body tingling. I felt deliriously joyful, energized and at peace.
What I learned
I could have easily changed the day of my cycle to avoid the storm but it occurred to me, standing there in the shower, that I had done the right thing to go out and that I had won a small kind of victory. I had learned three things that were really important:
Stay true to my goals
- I know that cycling is really, really good for me on many levels and I’ve made a long-term commitment to myself to cycle three days a week at a set time. It’s become a habit. The problem with habits is, as soon as you break them once, the spell is broken and it’s much more difficult to get back on track. Initially, I didn’t want to get wet, cold and tired out on my bike. All could see was the struggle and discomfort that I was going to put myself through in cycling through the storm. However, the important thing was that I forgot my short term difficulties and stood true to my long term over-arching vision to cycle three times a week as I know how good it is for me.
Often, we make grand plans and big promises to ourselves and then stumble as soon as the going gets a bit tough. We forget the long term view and just convince ourselves, because the here and now is hard, that the journey is impossible or invalid. Sometimes, the force of habit has to carry us through even if it feels irrational, difficult or uncomfortable to do so. The long-term vision has to win, short term comfort and our emotional response to the here and now is often wrong. You have to trust the judgment that you made in the past when you committed to your cause. Trust your objective judgment, your current emotional response is probably wrong.
Cope with Adversity
2.We all spend a huge amount of time, energy, money and emotional stress on trying to avoid things. It’s so easy to worry excessively, to over plan and try to optimize our lives so precisely that our world becomes a sanitized version of reality. Imagine what would happen if we didn’t waste energy on the “what if’s” and devoted more of it to the “what now”.
One of the greatest feelings we can have is that we coped with adversity. We learn through struggle and get a huge confidence boost by knowing that we have the resources and strength to get through. I’m not suggesting that we deliberately put ourselves under stress or in danger but it’s liberating to have a belief in your own resilience, to know that you will be able to cope and not to worry about it. If you can do this it frees your mind to be much more in the moment, to be more creative and to concentrate more fully on the task in hand.
Be badass sometimes
3.It’s good to be slightly badass sometimes. Getting out of your comfort zone is exhilarating and exciting. I’m not saying that deliberately cycling in a thunderstorm is really that crazy but it’s an irrational decision to make. I was surprised, as I often am on my bike, at how my body will sometimes take over and perform in ways that my brain doesn’t really think it can. I was even a bit scared for a while, I’m a big hairy 49-year-old man but, when that thunder and lightening was striking around me I felt vulnerable. I felt an irrational childlike fear, a deep-seated primordial fight or flight response. It’s a good thing to reconnect with nature in such a way, to feel small and irrelevant, vulnerable and a bit scared. There’s something extremely strengthening in being able to nurture your childlike fear with your adult voice, to sooth and reassure yourself and to say to your inner child “hey, this isn’t a scary ordeal. It’s an adventure!!”
There are hundreds of sunny cycling days that I’ve forgotten and countless average cloudy days that I’ve spent in the saddle and will never remember. But I will never forget the day I deliberately cycled through the storm, my sense of triumph, the discomfort, and the exhilaration.
We will all have storms to cycle through. Try not to dread them but embrace them because, despite the pain of the moment, they are the times where you will really grow and develop. The stormy days are the ones that give the countless sunny ones context. Without them how do we know that the sunshine is so good?
About the Author
Andrew Hind is an avid cyclist who has written a free ebook “5 Steps to Cycling Yourself Into Being the Happiest Person You Know” You can get it on his website http://roadcyclistsguide.com/