Life Lessons Learned on a Cycling Trip

 

My family and I have just come back from our first Cycling holiday. We went to New Zealand. I was so excited about going. I’ve always enjoyed cycling (even though I don’t do it very often). I love to be out in the fresh air with the wind blowing in my face and the feeling of freedom I get when whizzing down hills.

We pedalled approximately 45km per day, which gave me a lot of time to think. There were so many metaphors about life that came to me during this trip that I felt compelled to share them with you.

PREPARE AND BE PREPARED.

As is the case with anything we do in life, preparation is vital! I am the type of personality who jumps in a new car and starts to drive without reading the manual or checking a map. I hopped on my bike that first day and with great gusto led the charge along the dirt road. It wasn’t long before I realized that

no amount of enthusiasm could carry me through the thigh burning, uphill struggles that awaited me. I should’ve trained!

BE PROPERLY EQUIPPED.

Not only did my thighs burn and my chest heave, but also my poor bottom was sore and very uncomfortable. The second lesson learned: no matter what project you are taking on; get the right equipment. My husband saved the day when he produced cycling shorts with a padded bottom and a cushioned seat covered, that he had packed.

ENJOY BEING OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE.

Many of the cycle paths through the mountains were narrow, windy and had a sheer drop on one side. I’m not a fan of heights. On a few occasions, I felt my body tense in response to my mind’s signal that I was out of my comfort zone, which resulted in me being a bit wobbly on my bike, creating the very thing that I had wanted to avoid – veering towards the edge. When there was a large stone on the path I would see my husband cycle around it, yet I always ended up heading straight for it because we get what we focus on.

LOOK FORWARD.

I remember when I was learning to ski the instructor kept telling me to look in the direction I wanted to go and everything else would follow. It’s the same with learning to drive a car for the first time, the temptation is to look at your feet and check the pedals, but doing this can result in crashing. I reminded myself to look up and forward. As soon as I did this my mind calmed, my body relaxed and I once again continued enjoying the scenery. In life too a good lesson is not to look back and don’t look down, but keep your head high and look forward in the direction you want to go.

CLARIFY YOUR WHY.

I really loved the cycling except for the one time that the wind blew me off my bike. I know that sounds hilarious, but it’s true. The wind gusts were so strong that they literally caught me sideways and pushed me to the ground, not on soft grass but hard, stone gravel and it hurt. “Why am I doing this?” I asked myself quite a few times. And every time there was a positive answer: time with my family, exercise, pushing myself, trying something new, away from the computer. When my brain remembered all these positives it let go of the negatives. It’s an important question for all of us to ask ourselves about everything we do.

EMBRACE CHALLENGE AND CHANGE.

People say, a change is as good as a rest. I disagree. I would argue that a change is much better than a rest. We often feel challenged by change, and that feeling creates adrenalin. It is that same adrenalin that tells the body if we are excited or afraid. A change wakes us up, makes us more alert, on guard. When we rest, we stay put, we may ruminate, the brain and body slow down, and it is often harder to get going again. Whenever I got momentum on a downhill tar road during this trip, I wouldn’t stop for anything. I used that momentum to help me up the next steep incline, I rejoiced in the speed and the opportunity to rest my legs. There is no freewheeling through life, but it is certainly easier when we have a bit of momentum. Treat yourself to a change, get some momentum and just keep going, (as Dory said to Marlin!)

ENJOY THE JOURNEY.

Initially all I wanted was to get to our destination at the end of each day. The thought of a warm bath, glass of wine, hearty dinner and good book drew me like a magnet and it was all I could think about for the first few days. However, towards the middle of the week, I found myself wishing the days were longer, I didn’t want to be indoors all evening, I didn’t want my family looking at their mobile phones. I realised that I loved the sensation of freedom that cycling gave me, I enjoyed being in nature again, I liked the picnics that we had on the way and the jokes we shared. I was actually enjoying the journey and this is a great lesson to learn in life. We often wish away challenges, we dream of when our kids are off our hands, we concentrate on booking the next holiday instead of appreciating today! Stop and take time to be mindful right here, right now.

LAUGH AT YOURSELF.

The mind is so powerful that it will give up way before your body does. We so easily talk ourselves out of doing things, even if we know they would be beneficial. The secret to staying on track is to learn to switch off your mind. When we remove negative thoughts, we deny the opportunity for negative feelings and thus prevent access to negative behaviour (giving up). Some days we cycled through heavy rain and I felt miserable, but then found myself laughing at the scene: a family of four alone (the only idiots daft enough to cycle through this weather), cold and hungry and tired. Yet for some reason it made me laugh, it was invigorating and it was amusing. The more we laughed, the less we cared about the weather. You can choose to feel good on the inside, regardless of what is going on in the outside world.

NOTHING COMES WITHOUT HARD WORK.

Behind every glory there is always a story. On facebook we posted a picture of us at the finish line. 300km completed woohoo! Behind that moment of glory, as you have just read, is a story of bruises, sweat and tears – and I wouldn’t change a thing.

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Anne McKeown

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