I went out on the summer bike for the first time in 2018 at the weekend. I almost thought I’d worn too many layers it was so mild. Even a week ago you could sense winter had slipped into spring – you could smell it in the air even before taking in the cherry blossom and the primroses.
I may have mentioned this before but as I’ve got older I found myself being more affected by the changes in seasons; the change of clocks in October brings a need to steel myself for the few months ahead. By the time the clocks go forward in March the daffodils are showing, snowdrops have been out, and the return of colour to the landscape brings the promise of warmer days.
As previously written, this winter I’ve done more non-bike exercise and been more sociable – these things seemed to have made the shorter days more bearable. This is particularly true of those occasions when I’ve not had enough motivation or energy to get out on the bike. I’m more guided by weather that I was years ago and see no reason to go out riding around Kent for hours in the pissing rain. I’m a bit more cautious about freezing weather too – I’m more careful on the icy days. I guess I have in mind that, generally speaking, it takes longer to recover from injury as you get older. I try not to let it completely dictate my riding though. I went out during that recent cold snap in the snow. Rather paid for it though.
I have a tendency to keep riding when I’m under the weather with coughs and colds – to the point where it slows my recovery. I find myself getting annoyed by the break in routine. Which makes me wonder if I now rely on the cycling just a little too much. I’ve ended up getting with chest infections in the past. As with many people, I’m great at giving advice about this sort of thing to others but not so great at taking it myself. Occasionally a clubmate will give me a stern look and that helps.
Many people who experience depression have a tendency towards unrealistically high standards, and pushing themselves too far. I am certainly guilty of this. I keep going and going until my body and mind force me to stop – this has meant depression, or physical illness, or exhaustion. I see depression as the mind’s way of restraining you, limiting you, so you can only do the basics. Usually at this point you are physically run down too. Then you have no motivation, little or no ability to get out on the bike. Which makes you feel more guilty/desperate/frustrated/unfit/isolated/underachieving.*
*delete as appropriate
Depression (and anxiety and so on) isn’t all in the mind – if you experience it you’ll know how it massive the physical impact is. In past personal episodes I’ve noticed not just the lack of energy but also how my body closes off to the world around me. My shoulders have rounded, I’ve looked downwards much more, I’ve had lots of tension headaches from holding my shoulders up around my ears. I think there’s evidence (must find it) regarding our perception of colour during depression. Many people experience life ‘greying out’ along with lack of highs and lows in emotion
Anyhow, I’ve gone on a bit of a tangent. Back to motivation.
I went to the Look Mum No Hands ‘Letting Ourselves Go’ evening hosted by Adele Mitchell a couple of days back and was really impressed at the range of riders in the audience – from those touring countries to those using the bike as daily transport. I was also really impressed at several of the women who brought up the subject of mental health in front of a large audience. It’s fab when people feel able to do that. The more this happens the more we can normalise the discussion of mh. A Good Thing.
But I’ve gone on another tangent. So much stuff to say!
To bring things back to where I started… today’s ride. I went out a bit later than I normally would but not because I was procrastinating. I just did something different. I’d replaced the chainrings, cassette, and chain on the summer bike and planned a short ride to make sure everything was as it should be. Partly it was the mild weather, some sun here and there, but it was also the switch from a heavy winter bike with mudguards, pannier rack (my winter bike is also my commuter atm) onto a super light, stiff and responsive race bike that meant I ended up being out for over 3 hrs. I was a bit concerned that the chainrings I’d put on would mean that my legs would complain greatly on the hills but, to my surprise, this was not the case. The joy of Storck gets me at this time every year – I’ve had it for about 12 years now and it’s just a lovely ride. I picked up a puncture but the temperature was such that there was no danger of cooling down significantly as I replaced the inner. And a local cat wandered over to have a brief chat and that pleased me.
Lack of motivation can be a bastard. Many of us will be set in riding routines and ‘lost’ ride can weigh heavily – miles not ridden, calories not burned, training for an event not going to plan, etc. etc. It’s very easy to slip into a very narrow vista of your time on the bike and it’s worthwhile to step back and see that in the grander scheme of things not getting out on the bike sometimes isn’t a huge deal if you ride regularly – even if it rankles like crazy. Sometimes you can push yourself and get a positive result, but there will be other times when it just isn’t going to happen. And that’s ok actually. If you really, REALLY don’t want to go out riding, then maybe just don’t. Try it another day when you find it easier.
I find that if I can push myself out that in the majority of cases I’ll be so glad I did. Very occasionally I’ll get back having dragged myself around the countryside for 2-3 hours wondering why the hell I bothered and my head will be as busy as before. If you feel that too try to remember that *you got out on the bike*. You got outside and did it, and that’s worth noting.
Like many cyclists I’m looking forward to more riding wearing fewer layers and being able to sense the sun’s warmth on me. I’m also going to try and do a few more rides that are ‘I’ll see how I get on’ rides, rather than having a set goal. Countryside Appreciation rides. Who knows, I might even stop for a pub lunch one day. I have a pub already in mind, tbh…