As you learned last week, I've taken on a new sport: cycling. Whether it's running, hiking, climbing or singing at the top of my lungs all by myself - whenever my blood is pumping, my adrenalin is rushing and my energy level is elevated - my creativity soars, insights are revealed, and my best ideas are born. My next few Monday Morning Stretches are devoted to some of the internal shifts I've discovered (or re-discovered) while exploring our favorite new cycling routes in our little slice of heaven here in Southern California.
My boyfriend, Tom, has become a strong, confident, self-taught cyclist over the last six and ½ years. That's a great accomplishment in and of itself. Starting out hardly able to finish 10 miles at a time, let alone climb a grade without stopping, he now can claim the victory of finishing several "century" rides (100 miles!) around California, a 72-miler around Lake Tahoe, a "half-century" (50 miles) from Rosarito to Ensenada, Mexico, and a Sprint Triathlon in Palm Springs. Understandably, he loves riding that bike for multiple reasons and on many levels. He particularly likes riding with a group of better riders, igniting the competitive spirit within him that pushes him to ride harder and become even stronger. He absolutely loves that.
I, on the other hand, don't.
A little computer was installed on my bike when I bought it that tells me my current speed, average mph, miles traveled, cadence, among many other useful pieces of information like the temperature, time, how many heads you turned wearing those bike shorts.... Okay, not really ... as if I'd want to know that anyway? But I digress...
When I started riding, I was lucky to average 10 miles per hour on a short (in cycling terms) 12-15 mile ride. By my fifth ride, I was up to 22 miles and a 14 mph average. Definitely getting stronger, definitely feeling more confident, and definitely, well, not quite loving it yet like Tom... but not hating it anymore either. Still, I felt frustrated that I couldn't keep up with Tom and his friends. I'm not used to being "at the back of the pack" with the old folks and beginners! I found myself pushing beyond my limits to keep up, feeling "less than capable" if I lagged behind, only to make the ride so hard that it wasn't enjoyable for me on any level. I felt almost jealous when others rode so much faster with seemingly much less effort.
At some point I was so far behind, I lost sight of Tom completely. Simultaneously, I happened to hit a virtual wall of sweet, fragrant blossoms coming from a huge orange orchard on the side of the road and automatically pulled back just a little to breath in the amazing smell. As I did, I realized that to reach the place Tom was physically or emotionally, I would need to really love the time on my bike and to do that, I'd need to ride my own ride. It was all a self-imposed head trip anyway. Tom had never once expected me to keep up in the beginning or expressed any irritation that I couldn't. He'd only offered encouragement and kudos for the progress I was making.
Now, I use my little gauge to help push myself in small increments, like staying at or above 10 mph on an incline or between 17 and 20 mph on the relative straightaways or simply trying to gain a little distance or a little speed over my last few rides. My ride... my goals... my accomplishments... no one else's. It's made it so much more enjoyable and gratifying.
You know in your gut that which is right for you. When to push, when to pull back, when to let go, when to hold on. Once again, I'm reminded (as I hope each of you are) that in the end, we'll all leave this world "one to a box" as my Grandfather used to say. This is your ride and no one else's.
Stay tuned in to that source within you this week that knows exactly which road to take and how fast to take it ... all the while celebrating everyone and anyone else's victories along the way. There's plenty for all of us.