So, this just happened. After reaching 16 months of consecutive bicycle riding couple of weeks ago, the blurb I put in my 500th bike ride in a row on Strava sums it up well:
I ain’t fast, suck at hills, don’t have a ton of followers, or a fancy bike, but I git ‘er done. Different parts hurt and I’m plum tuckered out most days. So mebbe a forced break’s a-comin’. Or mebbe not. I Just Keep Pedalin’.-moi
Thing is, I didn’t plan on this streak. I just one day realized that if I rode a little bit every day, it might be easier than a long ride every few days. And like my other streaks (yoga for 7+ years and walking, writing and virtually no flour each for 3+ years), at some point, a little voice started saying “Don’t Break The Chain.” It’s a little phrase attributed to Jerry Seinfeld writing jokes every day for a year, which he said wasn’t true. But it’s still a good handle for a challenge.
In a world where half a million Americans have now died of COVID-19, millions of Texans were without power for most of a week during the bitter cold snow and ice storm, and some still have no water or water damage. Plenty of other injustice continues: price gouging, racism, white supremacy, homophobia, sexism, unemployment, poverty, and climate change just to name a few. I know it really matters very little what one zaftig mid-aged bicycle dude in Austin did in his bike. Yet, life goes on. Content must be created, stories must be told, and horns must be tooted. So since you’re here, it’s like the Buddhist path: once started, may as well finish.
Although I rode 6,666.66 miles in 2020 — an average of 18.2 miles a day — there was no mileage minimum I made myself do. After a short while, NOT riding simply seemed like the wrong thing to do. The trick is making sure it happens. After a very dicey ride on snow, ice and slush, I had to put Sophie the Fairdale on the metal trainer and ride inside for a few days. (Read my recent post Poem: Snowmaggedon 2021 Is Receding.) It helps being a mostly car-free dude for 15.5 years, and I still run most of my errands by bike. But how do you make yourself exercise when you haven’t had enough sleep, have a headache, or just can’t even put down the Ben & Jerry’s and Netflix remote?
In some ways, it’s not that hard to do — IF you have the time and inclination. I used the following techniques to get me through. There’s nothing terribly original about them, except maybe the way I combined them. They work for me, and may or may not work for you. Always check with your doctor before trying something this brave or dumb or both.
- Pre-ride nap. Plenty of times I would ride tired but biking would wake me up. But when I was simply too sleepy, I mean really snookered, I would hit the sack. Sometimes just a short lie-down on the yoga mat would do the trick. It used to be called a “disco nap.” Before you’d go out to shake, shake, shake yo’ booty on the dance floor, you’d rest up. Same concept. Of course, a full night of sleep every night would be ideal.
- Fill the tank. If you’re low on energy, it could be simply not having eaten enough or being dehydrated. Easy enough to fix (if you have potable water and food access). Ideally you eat at least an hour before biking, though. In a pinch, protein powder with water or a smoothie can get you going without weighing you down too much. For longer rides, eat well the night before.
- Ride slowly. Nothing says you have to go balls to the wall every time. Just head out for whatever distance feels doable at a sustainable pace. Think of any long-term goals, bicycling or otherwise, as a marathon, not a sprint. Tortoise, not hare.
- Take breaks. Of course, stopping to eat or drink or just take a load off in the middle of a ride is perfectly permissible. What’s your body telling you at that moment?
- Ride with a friend. Even during a pandemic, one can safely ride with another. Just wear a mask and don’t get too close. The advantage is that you can have a chat, and that makes the time fly by.
- Go on short rides. Heading out for an errand in the morning and then a joy ride later in the day makes it more doable. If you drive a car, resolve to do close by errands that don’t involve hauling lots of things on your bicycle instead.
- Commute to work, or take a job where you can bike. If you are fortunate enough to be employed, maybe you can bike to work. Even one way and taking a bus or train home with the bike could help you add up the miles. In my case, I had a job for a while where I biked to get to multiple locations. I was still racking up 100-150 miles per week in the Texas summer.
- Take care of your body. It goes without saying that if you’re going to use your body every day beyond what you normally do, you have to treat it well. If that means a better diet, vitamins, doctors visits, massages, yoga, walking, baths — do as much as you can that works for you and your budget. I’m not perfect at this by any means, being a fathlete, and some things like genetics aren’t exactly under my control, but I try. Do your best and forget the rest! Especially any haters.
- Find support. It helps to have people in your corner, whether it’s the bike shop guy saying “dude, you ride a lot,” a friend, family member or partner giving you encouragement, kudos on Strava, comments on your blog or other pages, cheering yourself on in your journal, whatever — it’s all helpful. Even haters can give you fuel to put the fire in your belly.
- Go within. It’s your goal, so figuring out why you’re doing it is important. Everyone’s sports psychology will be different. It could be as simple as “I wonder how long I can keep this going?” Or maybe it’s “I want to inspire others” (is that working yet?) Maybe it’s just “I like to ride my bicycle and that’s is part of my identity.” And it can change or be more than one thing. Whatever it is, keep it in mind, especially on those days you feel like quitting.
In the end, we can each only take it one day, one bike ride, and one moment at a time. I’m seeing a doctor for a minor but painful thing tomorrow, and she could easily tell me to give it a rest. I ain’t no spring chicken, either. I’ve also been ignoring my own advice about rest days from this post and this post. So it helps to keep some perspective that there are more important things in the world than fitness goals. It helps to have little bit of a Buddhist mindset of non-attachment, too. I will end by paraphrasing The Proclaimers, a band from Scotland known for their hit “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)“.
And I would bike 500 days
And I would bike 500 more
Just to be a dude who biked a thousand days
To fall down at your door
Coincidentally, their latest album is titled “Angry Cyclist,” which is a metaphor about anger about Brexit, Trump, corruption and fascism — like a cyclist who gets stuck in traffic. (I’m not an angry cyclist unless you try to run me over.) Click on the link for a YouTube video of the title track.
This post was brought to you by the number 5, because of the 500 miles and this is my 555th blog post.
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