If we keep moving forward, quickly and busily, we won't have time for doubt or regret. Fill each day with training so that at the end of every week, you know you've put the work in. There's no space left to wonder if you're doing enough. Your legs ache, but that's good right? It's a feeling that you're improving and doing more than most. The initial pain of waking up at 0500 is easier to handle than a constant pain of feeling you aren't doing enough. But it only lasts so long. Pause for just a moment and the foot that was on the accelerator pedal comes down hard on you like a ton of reality bricks.
This week I stopped, and soon stumbled upon the fear. The emotion I try to avoid by constantly moving, planning and doing. On Tuesday afternoon, I suddenly felt wiped out. There was no clarity with my focus, will from my legs or want from my heart to cycle that evening as planned. I'd been training for the past few weeks, including a century ride last weekend, and completely loving it. For the first time in a while, I was feeling stronger and seeing barriers and PB's broken. There was a routine to my riding and the thought of not training wasn't an option. The best motivator isn't a celebrity endorsed fitness DVD, it's seeing yourself ride faster and with more confidence. I was craving more of that positive drug called improvement.
When, on that Tuesday afternoon, I couldn't find a reason to ride, I began a mental process of accepting some 'down time'. With time off, my legs may stop but it's always the signal to my mental chatter to do the complete opposite. My mind speeds up.
1. I'll lose the fitness and strength
2. I'll feel unsettled
3. I'm missing out
4. I'm wasting my days
5. I'm not being a real cyclist
6. There's no purpose
7. I'm not being the best I can be
8. I'll struggle to find routine again
9. I can't measure success
10. I'll fall into a relaxed pattern that doesn't provide the same reward
I know that many people have experienced the fear when they've taken time off the bike. Whether that be voluntarily or forced to rest through injury. Everything we frame our days around is gone and suddenly there's space for new worries and concerns to appear that we aren't sure how to handle. When we talk about challenging ourselves and achieving great things, it's normally based on doing more. Going faster, harder or further. We celebrate and then begin planning how we can push our limits even further.
However, I've realised that my biggest challenge is doing less. A challenge that can't be achieved in the gym or on that 13% gradient in Essex. There's no sportive or event to base my efforts around. It's just me and my head. Trying to accept that standing still doesn't mean you're going backwards. It's allowing my body to refuel when the tank is flashing empty. But just like when I was 18, I've been ignoring the petrol signal for too long.
It's me and my head for the next few days.
Riding straight towards the fear and aiming for my next (and most important) QOM.
To be Queen of my Mind.
Photographs: MJU II 35mm. The unsuccessful images that blurred