What Cycling Has Taught Me

Photo by Joshua Cole
Photo by Joshua Cole

Cycling has taught me…

…I’m stronger than I think

…I’m my biggest obstacle and get in my way more than anything else like schedule, energy, or the weather

…To dig deep even when it seems like there’s nothing left, there usually is and you don’t know until you try

…There are some incredibly generous people in the world

…It’s crazy fun to descend singletrack!

…There is little that a bike ride can’t fix

…The potential is endless

…You start where you are and go from there, pro’s didn’t start as pro’s

…When you take care of your body, it takes care of you

…Know when to rest and recover73579_527636400580028_940666401_n

…Always be prepared, it helps to ward off the evil of flats and mechanicals

…How to experience flow not only while riding but in other areas of my life

…To ride for fun

…And to focus on a goal

…To use the excitement of races as fuel for competition

…That I’ll go to places I never thought and see more than ever before

…Meet amazing people who inspire and motivate

…To race smart and not get too giddy!

…To have fun doing something amazing!

…To keep on exploring and experiencing!

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Things That Have Surprised Me

I had grand ideas of what it would be like to be in shape….fit, energy for ever, super strength, etc. While I’ve never really been super unhealthy, there were times that I weighted in at the higher end of the healthy range, didn’t move enough and indulged a little too much (leading to the weight thing). But, two years into cycling and I’m the fittest I’ve ever been. What’s even better is that I’m much smarter about it too!

But there are some things that surprised me. Things that you don’t really think of when thinking about being an athlete or at a healthy weight and activity level. I’ve listed a few things that caught me off-guard and what I do to balance it out!

My list is in no particular order, just how my brain presents it!

  1. Flexibility: It’s super hard to stay flexible! This is why stretching is SO important! Your muscles get tight as they recover and repair after workouts, so post-exercise stretching is a good way to keep everything limber (and aligned correctly) and even reduce the soreness you feel the day after. At the other end of the spectrum is soreness from inactivity! Stretching can help here as well, but nothing beats regular active movement.
  2. Pain: Being fit can hurt! This ties in with post-exercise soreness, as  well as the pain during a workout. But it is so worth it! I’ve really found that the right mental attitude or perspective helps here. When I feel like crap during the climb, I know it’s good and that next time, I’ll be going a little bit faster! A saying that gets thrown around on the team a lot is: “It never get’s easier, you just go faster.”
  3. Immune System: Healthy people never get sick, right? Maybe so, but as an athlete I’m in the constant process of building up to the most fit I can be, recovering, rebuilding, recovering and on and on. This means pushing myself and my body to those peaks. The strain often means my immune system is right on the edge between resisting illness and succumbing to whatever cold is floating around. I combat by trying to get enough rest, trying to limit my sugar intake (I really like sweet things!), and eating foods that meet my nutritional needs so my body has what it needs to recover and resist. Don’t get scared though…moderate exercise actually improves immunity! So don’t stop just because you’re afraid of getting sick. That only happens with over-training and not allowing for proper recover or when you’re not giving your body the right fuel.
  4. Food: I can eat just about anything! It’s great! As long as I’m training, it doesn’t matter that I have pizza for lunch 4 days out of the week (granted it’s Kyle’s awesome homemade pizza, but there’s still a lot of cheese on those babies!), eat ice cream when I want (not every day of course), enjoy whatever dessert is being served, and not worry about drinking a beer with dinner. Sure, if I was more careful I might weigh less, but I value the enjoyment that comes not having to worry about watching every calorie. But really, be smart with what you eat! You’ll feel better, be healthier, and your body will be nourished!

It’s amazing to me to look at the past two years and where I’ve been and where I am now. I’ve found an activity that I am excited about, good at, challenged by and that has amazing benefits! I used to be jealous of people I knew who had that thing that they did and were so excited about. But now I have a thing that I am good at and excited about! This has changed my goals, my passions, my body, my mind, me.

So, all that to say….find something that gets you excited. Explore it. Be surprised! Work out the challenges and dig deeper. You’ll find yourself improved and strengthen. Isn’t that what we all want?

Don’t Just Marvel, Do

I like to admire. I see the super-cool people doing the amazing thing I dream of doing and just marvel at the awesomeness. But then it hit me, as I was podding up the hill yesterday on the ride in the heavy, humid southern heat. Don’t just marvel, do! Admire and take away inspiration and movtivation, but don’t let it stop there! Go and do!

If Johnny Hoogerland can ride like this, the least I can do is keep going in my little mountain ride!

Self Love

Self love is a strange concept to me. It always struck me something that was self-obsessing and selfish. That view has changed dramatically in the past year to the idea of self respect and taking the needed steps to nurture and grow in the best way possible. For me, a better term is “self care.”

I’ve usually always been pretty content with me. Sure, there were improvements to make, but they were minor flaws that hardly kept me from excelling at work, school, and play. However, the older I’ve gotten (oh yes, 22 is so old and wise), the more I’ve realized the importance of self improvement, better health and fitness, and even the eradication of some of my flaws. That all comes together under my idea of self care.

The idea of self love first came from Gala Darling and her Radical Self Love posts on her blog. If you have time, I really recommend them. While not everything applied to me or even interested me, the concept was really inspiring. It further compounded the concept of taking care of yourself so that you can take care of the people or things that are important to you.

Over the past year I’ve kept coming back to taking care of and loving myself; be it through exercise, diet, time management (this is a big one for me), organization (another huge one), focusing on the people around me (in other words, show and act on my care and concern for them), and making time for the things that matter to me. So far, 2011 is a year of change, improvement, and movement! Better care and self improvement is right in line with that!

It’s so easy to get caught up in the ideal of who you want to be, the perfect version, that it’s easy to forget that the small actions and changes now will accumulate into that best self. For me, that means managing my time better now, eating better now, going to the gym now, putting away a few items now, reaching out now. Now instead of later, even if by later you mean in a few minutes.

Some of the things that I’ve found to be helpful in maintaining self care and activity are a positive friend group, good diet, writing down the good things you’ve done for yourself (I write down all my workouts, and it’s awesome seeing all the days that I’ve overcome being lazy and comfortable to do something better!), and rewards! 🙂

So I’m going to take action now, and do my homework!

Three Things for Progress

The more I work out and increase my fitness, the more I want to continue to improve and grow. It’s so satisfying seeing the differences in my body, strength, and endurance! I’m still very far away from where I want to be, but I have the motivation, a bit of the reward, and more importantly, the mindset.

It’s easy to think about being fit and healthy. About what I’ll do tomorrow to be more active and make the right eating choices. But to have the mental power to actually do it is another story! It’s a gradual process to get in the habit of doing those squats, going to the gym and pushing it on the elliptical, and eating the best food. It’s something that I’ve been working on and struggling with at times since December.

There are three things that I’ve found to be vital to progressing:

  1. Accountability
  2. Habit of healthy choices
  3. Goal or motivating factor

Accountability: I’ve discovered that it’s so important to find people who want to do the same activities, or can go to the gym at the same time. Without Erin and I going to the gym after class on Mon/Wed/Fri I probably wouldn’t be getting 3 workouts a week. Without Ariana starting to run everyday at the park, I wouldn’t have run (well, attempt and walk is a better description) on Tuesday and Wednesday. It’s so great having someone to share the time with. There’s also more get-up-and-go when you know that there’s someone counting on you being there.

Habit of healthy choices: Once I made the terrible mistake of not eating enough protein after an intense workout. Needless to say, for the next several days, my muscles ached and I felt like I was falling apart! Ever since then, I’ve been very careful to eat protein after every workout. I’ve also slowly developed other healthy habits, like eating something substantial for breakfast (oatmeal is a favorite, and a Zone Perfect bar in a rush.). My meal choices overall have improved, partially since I don’t want to negate all the work I’ve done, and partially because when I eat better, I feel so much better! I still eat what I want, but what I want to eat has changed for the better. Also, portion size! Splitting food with friends is awesome! It’s usually the right amount and much cheaper!

Goal or motivating factor: I have two main goals right now for getting fit and healthy. One is to prepare for cycling in the fall. The second is sort of silly, but I really want to look good in a bikini. Now, I have what have been called “child-baring” hips (I was told once that a girl was jealous of them since it would make childbirth easier. Wow, thanks. Glad that’s on my to-do list. Not). Anyway, it’s the part of my body that I’m the most self-conscious about. I’m not trying to get super skinny or even change the fact that I’ve got junk in the trunk, but I do want to be comfortable. And it makes me feel really great that I’m getting closer to that!

 So I keep going, progressing and growing, developing good habits, and feeling better than ever!

My Best Self

Take a look at your best self. What is s/he like? Can you clearly describe your best self’s character, personality, attitude, and beliefs? (from here)

My best self is organized and punctual, personable and outgoing, helpful and inspiring. My best self takes care of myself mentally and physically. My best self provides support and love for my friends and family. My best self believes strongly, and isn’t afraid to share those beliefs. My best self is knowledgable and constantly learning more. My best self is confidant and motivated, competent and an excellent leader. My best self is reliable and encouraging, and eager to share. My best self drinks enough water everyday. My best self doesn’t stop moving and growing.

Sources: 
The Best Guidance by Steve Pavlina
The Dame