Kindness. A concept that I can easily extend to others when they are hurting, but I have so much trouble applying it to myself. Over the last month or so my focus has been on being kind to myself and holy heck it’s not easy.
I’m a driven perfectionist, so there is always something I am trying to improve. Unfortunately, my method of personal motivation is usually more slanted toward the negative — “if only you weren’t so heavy you would be so much faster on the bike”, “you’re not getting enough done (at work / home / etc.), get your ass moving”, or “a good mother would keep better track of her son’s homework!” I spend a lot of time beating up on myself, and this combined with the darker days and cold weather slump, November has been rough. A lot of my cycling friends turn to trainers in the winter, group rides mostly go away, and my tendency to eat and hibernate is at an all time high. This makes for the perfect storm.
To try and fight this, November has been about being proactive in scheduling group rides. It’s a little outside my comfort zone to host rides with strangers, but nonetheless I’ve hosted 3 gravel rides in the last month or so and at each one I’ve met new cyclists willing to challenge themselves in the cold weather and in less than perfect conditions. Seeing the excitement of others to ride some of my go-to gravel routes that I now take for granted has made me appreciate them a little more. I forget that I DO have a knack for creating routes, editing cue sheets, and making sure the navigation files are spot-on. I actually find the planning activity to be very fun, so it’s a twofold bonus when I coordinate rides. Here’s hoping some of those riders continue to join me as the days get even darker and colder.
Another bright spot this month has been my son Cole. We have a tandem, a superfluous purchase, a luxury item, but wow is it fun. It’s configured for both gravel and pavement, and we’ve been testing out group rides over the last month. I thought he’d just tolerate group rides with a bunch of adults, mostly older men at that, but he loves them! When he and I ride solo it’s a challenge as he whines quite a bit, but it turns out when others are around he “mans up” — suddenly, riding in the cold rain is “fun”, bumpy gravel roads make him sing, and he’s fascinated by riding in the dark, looking for the supermoon and seeing giant farm equipment up close for the first time. It takes an act of god to get him, the tandem, and all our gear to the start of a group ride. It’s like packing for a long road trip with an infant again — (water) bottles, snacks, a full change of clothes, extra layers in case the weather changes, bags, hats, gloves, coats, and the list goes on. The tandem group rides are SO MUCH FUN but it’s hard to keep this in sight when the preparation feels insurmountable.
I’m also working on not berating myself when I’m not putting big miles on the bike — I have a hard time not feeling “lazy” when I dial back the intensity, and in the past I’ve pushed myself into the overtraining / burnout zone often. Lately I’ve been “quitting” rides early, allowing myself to head home if I’m not feeling it, and trying to not let my head get the best of me when I do. It’s hard though. I still second guess every ride I cut short, wondering if I just need to HTFU and get it over with. To top it off, yesterday I crashed and I swear my left knee took the majority of the impact from the fall. The crash was due to an innocent mistake, the result of another cyclist riding into me – he thought the route turned and started bearing right, the route didn’t, and I kept biking straight. I ALMOST recovered and was luckily able to shed a lot of speed before falling down, but my knee is an angry ball of fury today. I’m sad I’ll be off the bike today when the weather is supposed to be gorgeous for late November. I’m trying to embrace the downtime instead of second guessing my bike handling skills, how could I have avoided falling, etc. Perfectionist nag vs. kindness once again, and it’s unclear which side will win today.
The last piece that isn’t dialed in is my weight. I’m up … 20 lbs? from last summer’s roadie season. I’m not sure of the exact number because I’ve refused to get on a scale for the last three months. This is my biggest mental struggle right now by far — it plagues me hourly and its exhausting. Do I be kind to myself and allow my weight to hold where it is while I deal with other difficult and stressful things? Or am I being too soft on myself? The good news is I’m in the best shape of my life weight notwithstanding, and my Strava segment times and epic distance rides prove it. 😉 Why is it so mentally hard to let the weight go for a bit longer? Must. Focus. On. Kindness.
Other things have been great – vacation, cohabitation with the BF, learning new MTB skills, many solo rides exploring the countryside, dinners with friends, work things finally syncing .. just gotta keep focusing on kindness in the next few dark months until the sun comes back out to play. I’m finding it hard to commit to spring races and events, but maybe that will turn around again soon too. What’s your strategy for getting through the winter months??