It’s been a few weeks since I started my journey with real cycling training. It’s sure been an interesting time so far. After the fitness evaluation, I thought I was doomed when I found out how much work I needed to do. But to my surprise, it hasn’t been too overbearing...yet. When I first started, I could barely do ten km. Now I have more than doubled that in a few weeks of training, including riding a few challenging hills.
The people at Saddle Up have taught me how to properly use the gears on my bike and that has made riding my bike more enjoyable, especially when I’m climbing some steeper hills. This extra support and help has allowed me to challenge myself more when I’m climbing hills or going on longer rides because in the back of my mind, when I am struggling, I know I have an extra gear or two to help me. Riding with others also challenges me to push myself to places where I may doubt myself. Along with that, I have been getting out on my bike at least four times a week, rain or shine, unless it’s a snow blizzard. We do live in Calgary after all!
Learning how to incorporate stretching into my routine has also been a huge success factor. Jenn from Triple Threat Training – T3, has shown me the benefits of stretching. I have increased movements in my joints and have reduced muscle tension which enhances my riding. Personally, I find stretching in the morning an excellent way to start the day and it’s also a great way to cool down after a challenging ride. Without the encouragement and guidance from the gang at Saddle Up, I may not have done this ride. Or, it would have been a difficult journey on my own.
Embracing the cycling lifestyle has had positive rippling effects in other areas of my life. It has helped in reducing my stress levels from working everyday and the craziness of my social life. Long rides provide me with an opportunity to clear my head from a difficult or stressful day.
It has also improved my confidence and belief in myself, especially when I am challenged with climbing a difficult hill that I’m not sure I will be able to climb. Once I start tackling that hill, the internal battle in my mind starts. My muscles hurt and my mind tells me to stop because it hurts too much. Then I need to remind myself that a year ago, I was much worse off, battling cancer which I overcame. I tell myself not to quit and that I am stronger than I think I am. Once I conquer that hill, there is a boost of confidence that rushes into me like a drug, but much better than that.
The training has been very enjoyable. With a little less than a month of training to go before the RTCC ride, I know it’s time to put my training into high gear. As our cycling training motto goes, “we do a little extra than the ride before.”
Bye for now, Francisco
The half way point of our first training ride.
Taking a breather after climbing a big hill.
The spot where we reached our first goal.
Francisco has shown his ability to overcome the negative thoughts in his mind. This isn’t an easy task and is an ongoing journey. When the mind is weak it can easily convince us that we too, are weak, physically, mentally, emotionally and/or spiritually. We can come up with all kinds of excuses about why we “can’t” do things. We’re too busy, too tired, too sore, too fat, too skinny, I don’t have time and on the on the list can go. We become victim to ourselves and our inner demons. It leads us to believe we have no choice in the matter. This is who we are we are, we tell ourselves. But who told us these things?
The war and violence that we see around us externally in the world is only a bigger reflection of what is going on inside of us. There is an ongoing mental battle with our inner demons. The demons that tell us we aren’t good enough, smart enough or strong enough to do certain things. Overcoming these negative thoughts is one of the most challenging parts of being human and a continuing journey to overcome.
All of us at some point or another have been told by someone, society, religion or media etc. negative beliefs, thoughts and ideas about ourselves. The mistake we have made is in believing them rather than seeking out the truth for ourselves to see what we are made of. Knowing who we truly are is taking the time to do the work to find that out. In turn, we realize our strengths and limitations having made those decisions for ourselves rather than just believing what people tell us.
The interesting thing I know about myself is when I challenge myself physically, how those negative thoughts can awaken inside of me to try to take myself out of the game. It’s an ongoing journey of training the mind. An important part of mental training is learning how to free the mind of stress and tension associated with doubt, fear, anxiety and other distracting and negative thoughts. Minimizing tension in the mind alleviates tension in the body when doing any kind of activity.
Lori Meisner, a registered physiotherapist and cyclist recently stated in May/June 2010 Impact Magazine that “There is a relationship between the length of a muscle and the amount of power it can generate. A tense muscle is a shortened muscle. Consequently, there is too much overlap of the contractile components within the muscle. For maximum power output, you need to keep your muscles relaxed.”
When a person is relaxed they are able to breathe more deeply using their diaphragm, a strong breathing muscle which helps to increase the amount of oxygen they can take in. This reduces muscle tension which impacts the amount of force you can use when cycling or doing any activity. It’s also about being present and in touch with your body and noticing when you are breathing and when you are not. So many times I have caught myself where I have stopped breathing and need to remind myself once again to breathe.
Incorporating mental training techniques and simple reminders into a training routine can be easier than you think. One technique is to continually check in with yourself when doing an activity or just going about your day. Ask yourself, “Am I breathing? Am I relaxed? How is my body feeling?” These three simple reminders can be the start to becoming in touch with your body, training your mind and being consciously aware of where you are at. You can then tell your mind and body to “Breathe, relax and let go.”