Learning to cycle again, and the psychological challenges that come with it.
In the last few weeks, to help my cardio for my trip, I have once again gotten on a bicycle. I have not seriously been on my bike since my late teens. Back then my friend and I would bike all over the place. The bike was our freedom and independence, and we really enjoyed it.
It was not until 40 years later, and the age of 58 that I once again used the bike for transportation. This time it was on Inishmore Island, in Ireland last year. Unlike the typical tourist who visits Inishmore for a day or two, I stayed for 6 days, and the main transportation was bikes. So I rented a bike for the time I was there and rode around the island. It took me some getting used to- as it had been a few years, but I soon caught on and was riding around, and it was a lovely way to explore the island. Traveling by bike makes one slow down, notice one's surroundings and enjoy the moment.
One of the moments that I found interesting was when I had to bike up a hill. The few times I was on a bike as an adult, when I came to a hill- which we have many here- I would push myself until I was so out of breath and as they say “ sucking pond water”- meaning you can't catch your breath. However, when I was on Inishmore I would get off the bike and push it up the hill with no issue, no negative dialogue, no big deal. While I was there I found this fascinating, and I also found the joy of riding a bike once again- that joy that one has as a kid riding along exploring the world. I wondered if I could do this once I was back home.
One thing I did notice while cycling around Inishmore...I don’t remember my sit bones hurting this much when I was a kid!!! I get that I’m 40 years older and heavier but wholly hanna!!!
Back home and a year later, I pull my bike out of the cobwebs to start training for Mont Blanc.
It’s been an interesting experience so far. I have discovered that you really notice the slight inclines of the roadway while cycling, as well as every pot hole and piece of stray gravel along the way. I am now more aware of the width of the various roadways and slowly getting used the cars going by me- I don’t think I will ever get used to that. I am I the process of trying to find a comfortable bike seat- I don’t know if that is even possible, but folks tell me it is, so I live in optimism.
I did my cycling in the early morning if I can, to avoid the heat and the traffic. And some days it’s harder than others to get going and get on the bike and get moving. But, when I do, it only takes a minute of two for me to be glad I did. In the early morning I can hear the birds singing, and the scent of various flowers wafting through the early morning air. This is the most enjoyable part of the ride, the toughest part is pushing myself physically.
When I say the toughest part is pushing myself physically, it's not the physical part so much as it is the psychological part. There is the negative self-talk, about not being able to do this etc...But I have come to realize what is behind all of that self-talk, and it is this.
When I was a kid and living in the abusive and neglectful situation as I did. It did not matter how strong or how fast I was, I couldn't get away from the abuser. I could not protect myself, fight them off etc. So when I am physically pushing myself, the body remembers times in the past when I could not get away, and my nervous system starts to panic. This is not a nice feeling.
But, I am now aware of this, and I will continue to work on it and adjust my training etc as needed. This is just one of the manifestations one carries with them from past trauma. And like every Outward Bound Course I have been on...the journey starts long before I out my boots on. I think of what I have gained from these programs and it urges me on, as I know the life saving and life changing aspects that participants receive from these programs. That is enough to keep me going, and when I am there trekking the 170 km route, I will continue no matter how tough it gets, or how crappy I feel, I will dig down deep because I know the life changing benefits of these programs, and others gave so that I could participate in them. I know the enormity and power of this gift, and I will be forever grateful.
Please continue to journey with me on this journey of self-discovery- join me in the ups and downs and let’s see where the next steps take me. Till next time, take good care of yourselves <3