Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Zen of Riding Uphill

When I first started riding my bike again several years ago, the hardest part for me was dealing with the hills.


CatMan would tell me to just put it in a lower gear, but it didn't really seem to help. No matter what gear I was in, it just seemed like my legs would burn out as soon as I started climbing.


Then one day I had a bit of a revelation. I was riding up a steep hill, and for some reason there were a bunch of beetles crossing the bike path, and I didn't want to squash them. So instead of looking up at the top of the hill, I was looking down at the path to avoid the little critters.


I suddenly realized, that when I was looking up at the top of the hill that I had to climb, the task just seemed impossible. And no matter how hard I pedaled, it always felt like I wasn't going anywhere.

But when I looked down at the path, I could see my tires moving and watch as each block of cement rolled past. I could see that I actually was making progress, even though it might not be as fast as I wanted it to be.


It was a real epiphany of sorts. My hill problem wasn't really that I "just wasn't strong enough" to get to the top, the problem was that I was trying to get there all at once.

It sorta reminded me of something John Elway used to say. (Yes, I am a hopeless Bronco-maniac.) Elway used to say that one of the things that always got him in trouble was that he'd get too excited and try to win the whole game on the first play.


I think I've always had this problem. I'm not very patient, and when I can see the place that I want to get to, my first reaction is to get angry and frustrated that I'm not there yet. Then I try to will myself to get there all at once, and it just doesn't work that way.


In fact, when I was a little kid I was in great shape, and could run and play for hours on end without getting tired. But whenever we'd have races at school, like in field day or whatever, I'd always come in last.

It took many years, and one very observant friend to figure out what was going on. It turned out that I'd get so worked up about how I had to "run really fast" that I would actually hold my breath!


So, I've gotten a whole lot better at climbing hills recently, and ironically enough, I did it by slowing down and not trying so hard. Instead of gritting my teeth, holding my breath and pushing so hard that I'm burnt out after a minute or two, I'm learning to pace myself.


I have to tell myself to slow down, breathe, and settle in for a long climb. And whenever I start to feel like I'm not getting there quickly enough, I look down at my tires to remind myself that even though I may be moving slowly, I am still moving, and that's the important part!


I'm thinking that perhaps I should try to apply this lesson to other areas in my life!


14 comments :

  1. So true! I need to remember this when I'm working on something I despise (like digging or scrubbing the tub, perhaps). Every little bit I do gets me one step closer to the end. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There's a type of meditation/mindfulness exercise where you try to stay completely present in every moment. Part of this is that you say out loud each thing that you're doing. Sometimes people do this walking... so they walk circles and stuff repeating out loud "walking, walking."

      Soooo... perhaps I should try this... "cleaning litter boxes, cleaning litter boxes..." :-)

      Delete
  2. I struggle with this too - both in riding my bike (not a fan of those hills!) and other areas of my life. Thanks for the reminder that even slow progress is progress :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yup... I think life is full of metaphorical hills!

      Delete
  3. Oooooooh, I am like that too!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Perhaps it's human nature to want the hard stuff to be over quickly!

      Delete
  4. Slow and steady wins the race. It took me a while, but I've learned that. It used to be that I wouldn't even start something unless I thought I could do it quickly and well. But luckily, I've gotten past that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm trying earnestly to cultivate the art of methodical plodding, but I fear it really isn't in my nature!

      Delete
  5. Fascinating. I think I actually am too weak to go uphill. Definitely getting off and walking at that point is a lot faster.

    Back in high school I taught my best friend how to run long distances (by which I mean greater than 440 yards) by slowing down. After that, she was faster than me at ALL distances (which was cool).

    I definitely have a couple of big projects around here that could use being broken down into smaller steps which I might actually do. Checklists also help.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha! Well, the first time I tried one of the big hills in my neighborhood I actually got passed by a small child pulling a wagon! So I'm sure some of it is that I'm just in better shape - plus I bought a lighter bike!

      But the idea of breaking down big projects into smaller manageable steps is a great one. I think perhaps I should try that.

      Delete
  6. I am not a cyclist but we can all relate to a good sports metaphor!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think that's why I love football so much, it's the whole metaphor of it all. I'm sure you don't know much about the Denver Broncos, but for many, MANY years it was just a terrible team. We'd draft players who refused to show up because the team was so bad! And just having a winning season was seen as a huge accomplishment.

      Then John Elway came along, and he was this amazing player who actually agreed to play for us! And he carried the whole team on his back season after season. They made it to the super bowl several times and got totally destroyed - as in pummeled.

      Then, at the very end of Elway's career, when he was like 36 years old (really old for a football player) he finally got a supporting cast that was worthy of him, and they finally won the super bowl. They were underdogs the entire way.... all through the playoffs we had to beat teams that had beaten us earlier in the season.

      When they finally won the game, the look on Elway's face was just priceless! It still brings tears to my eyes thinking about it. Sigh... a hopeless Broncos fan I am!

      Delete
  7. I'm absolutely the impatient type. I want the future to happen *now*! Unfortunately, I forget that getting there faster means I'm not enjoying the now. That's what I saw in your post -- mindfulness. Living in the moment. When I think of that, I know I'm supposed to be thinking of pretty people posing in yoga outfits. I prefer the idea of squishing bugs while on a bike :o)

    ReplyDelete

I welcome your thoughts so please leave me a comment and I promise I will respond.

On older posts I've had to enable comment moderation to prevent spammers, so don't worry if your comment doesn't show up right away - unless you're just commenting for the sake of embedding a link, in which case I really wish you wouldn't waste your time or mine because I'll just delete it.

Thanks, and have a fabulous day!