How To Calm The Restless Mind
I have long believed in simple, meaningful mindfulness exercises over the trite meaningless exercises spouted off about from hear to eternity all over the internet. If breathing would have helped curb my insanity, I’d have been a breathing fool, huffing and puffing my problems away.
That mindless pablum works for those with minor issues. For those, like me, who have real issues, we need real help. Concrete steps that will stop the racing mind.
My favorite tip from my early days of recovery and work on calming my mind was advice I realized on my own in a rare moment of clarity: I don’t have to treat every thought I have as though it is valid. I’m not responsible for the first thought, I am for the second.
By allowing myself that first thought as a freebie, I could simply say, “Man, that thought was bat-$#!+ crazy” and discard it as if I was throwing away a snot-filled tissue. Think about that a second… who pulls out a gnarly tissue to contemplate its usefulness? Unless you’re slightly nuts, nobody. You pitch it in the garbage without a second thought, lest you try to use it again and end up with a booger on your face.
This line of thinking came from a special I’d listened to on dreams. The doctor being interviewed explained that dreams are the brain’s way of taking out the garbage. That made sense… and if the brain had garbage to take out, what garbage was there?
It only made sense to follow the natural progression and connection that some thoughts are garbage and can be thrown out without contemplation. Thoughts ranging from using again to some really dark $#!+ I can’t politely put in writing (It’s been decades, my friends, since I’ve grappled with thoughts so difficult, but I did. And I won.). They could simply be discarded like a wadded up, snotty tissue. A simple, “Man, that thought was nuts“, with LOTS of practice, became enough to let a dark thought go that would have occupied my mind for days, even weeks.
You get enough nuts rattling around up there, eventually there’s going to be trouble and it becomes difficult to sort through the chatter with all that banging going on up there.
That simple exercise and recognition, very early in recovery, completely changed my life.
Breathing never would have stopped that hamster wheel. I needed deeper work and understanding before the easy, low-hanging fruit could be dabbled in. Nowadays, breathing is great and works a treat. Back then it was a pea shooter at a freighttrain.
And so, with that, when I happen on a real post that can do real good to help someone who is sick like I was, I have to share it (and along with it, a fairly long story of my own).
If you need to shut the hamster wheel down and struggle with it, click the link above for a chance at relief. And remember this above all else: you’re not necessarily sick, the thoughts you entertain are. And now you know you don’t have to entertain them anymore.
Cycling in Michigan (in any season but summer) 100% Chance of Being 6% Wet. Ride Anyway
Trigger warning: If you don’t want to read about the mindless cycling stuff, the post comes together at the end for an excellent “life in recovery” message in the last two paragraphs. Skip down to that if you wish.
A single digit chance of rain… and it was misting as we prepared to roll. Such is the nature of
late fall weather in Michigan.
The question was what to wear. I’ve got a lot of cold weather gear, but I was stuck for figuring out the right combination for the temp with mist. I opted for light arm warmers, jersey, thermal long-sleeve jersey and a windproof jacket – it was 40°, or 4 C and would maybe warm to 44 by the time we were done (6 C). Below the belt was leg warmers, bibs and light tights.
Perfection was achieved.
The key was the windproof jacket. I tend to opt for bulk in the cold, but the windproof is also a rain jacket… I figured if the mist picked up in intensity I’d be covered. I forgot how little bulk you need to stay warm if the wind can’t get you. I’m going to have to think about that in the future, over bulk. More on that in a few seconds.
The ride itself was one of those that would normally bum me out that the weather was so crappy, a lot worse than the forecast called for, but the clothing combo was so perfect, I enjoyed the whole ride and could have stayed out longer. Traffic was almost non-existent with anyone going out for “black plague Friday” using different roads from those we were riding on. Other than the on-again, off-again mist, it was really an excellent day for a ride.
We pulled into the driveway with a bit more than 35 miles and a decent average for the group and bikes we rode. One thing is for sure, it was fun.
Which brings me to the interesting “recovery” observation for the day… I had low expectations for this weekend. With COVID lockout going on, it’s really not safe to visit my in-laws as we’ve done every year but one since my wife and I were married. I love that trip and I was more than a little resentful we couldn’t go. We even decided against going down to my sister’s to spend Thursday with her family (just 25 minutes south of us). However, I made my peace with it before I even made my way home Wednesday afternoon. I didn’t “vow to make the best of it”, either. I accepted it for exactly what it was. Not being able to visit the in-laws wasn’t good (for sure), but it wasn’t necessarily “bad”, either. It just was. I rolled with it, and here we’re only halfway through and it’s been a fantastic, enjoyable Thanksgiving weekend with my wife, kids and friends. Had I let my expectations get in the way, there’s simply no way I’d have let this weekend be as good as it was.
And therein lies the lesson for me. I make my reality, good or bad, or somewhere in the middle, with my expectations and my choices. Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I act on what happens to me. It’s when I let that swing the other way that life starts to suck.
A Wet, Thankful Bike Ride…
It’s rare we get a comfortable Thanksgiving Day to ride. Normally, we’re up at my mother-in-law’s house. She lives further north in Michigan’s “snow belt”. Down south, if we get an inch she’ll get six or eight. This year is obviously different. We’re home. This year the temp was a little more favorable but we had rain for the last 40 hours or so which meant dirt roads were out… in fact, even the paved roads were still wet – and not “damp” wet, “wet wet“. I’d been checking the weather since 3 am and we were good, though. 3-4% chance of rain, temps well above freezing… if the paved roads were still a little damp, so what.
At 8, an hour before we were to ride, it started misting, then sprinkling… a cell had popped up out of nowhere. It went from wet wet to England.
And we suited up anyway.
Just Mike and Mike showed, other than my wife and I, and we rolled out having to make sure we weren’t in the line of anyone’s spray. Thankfully, we were on the gravel bikes so I wasn’t worried about the bike getting a little gritty. We completed my usual summertime weekday evening route and my wife split off to head home while Mike and I rode Mike home for a pile of bonus miles. Better than an hour later and it was still just as wet as when we’d started, though thankfully we didn’t get rained on.
On dropping Mike off, Mike and I turned for home and we kicked up the pace. We had one tailwind mile followed by two cross-tailwind before turning into the teeth of it. Mike took the first mile at 19-mph and I took the second. Surprisingly, I managed to hold that pace, but heading up the shallowest of inclines my heartrate went from manageable to pegged in about 20 seconds. My power (and speed) dropped off a cliff. Mike came around and picked me up but it took a couple of minutes for my heart rate to come back and my breathing with it. The last mile was fairly relaxed.
Mike and I thanked each other for the ride and he loaded up and headed for home. I took my toy inside, showered up, and prepared for breakfast. My daughter was in the process of making French toast with caramelized apples and bacon… it was amazing. Shortly thereafter, I passed out into a sugar crash induced coma. I woke up with a gratitude that often accompanies a short-sleeve and shorts summer ride but rarely comes with a just above freezing, wet, windy, ten minutes before winter ride.
I went to work cleaning my bike up from the road schmutz. Then, because I was in the giving mood, I cleaned my wife’s. Every detail, right down to the cassette, wheels, tires, hubs, cables, brakes… they’re ready to go for today.
Dinner, while not traditional, was spectacular. Fried chicken breast, mac & cheese (Bella’s a pro at the mac & cheese), green bean casserole, mashed sweet potatoes… it was not easy to save room for pumpkin pie, but I managed.
I attended a zoom meeting with a couple of friends before watching a movie, the whole family on the couch. It was unbelievably cool, all of us curled up on the L-shaped sofa, just like when the girls were little kids. Man, how they’ve grown up. I fell asleep with a smile on my face and gratitude in my heart. The glow was still there when I woke up, and I’ll get to do it all over again today.
This is why I keep coming back. When I was in the little hell I’d created, using, I had an inkling life was supposed to be better than I was experiencing. Little did I know how good it would be once I’d finally quit. I had no idea. This is better, and simpler, than my wildest dreams back then.
Happy Safe, Sober & Cycling Thanksgiving 2020
Look at the bright side, my friends; less than a month-and-a-half to go…. 2020 is almost over!
Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends. Happy belated Thanksgiving to my Canadian friends. Have a wonderful day to my European and UK friends.
Second, a trigger (heh) warning: If you hate a person’s human right to be free, you will hate the following statement. Move along, lest you become apoplectic at reading words that mean something.
One small reminder this grateful season. The plaque on the Statue of Liberty doesn’t say “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to be lorded over by a vast sea of clamoring, knuckleheaded politicians and bureaucrats who believe “do as I say, not as I do” is an institution more sacred than the Founding Documents of the United States of America.”
If you don’t respect your freedom, don’t expect anyone else will.
This apolitical message has been a public service announcement from Fit Recovery.
Eat, drink (wisely) & be merry. And, for God’s sake, go for a bike ride, run, or walk before dinner (if possible). It’s a proven fact: physical activity makes dinner taste better.
The Noob’s Guide to Cycling: Tips for Riding Your Bike on an Indoor Trainer
7. Trainers are getting pretty hi-tech nowadays. It’s all good, but that gadgetry isn’t necessary for maintaining fitness through the winter. A good old-fashioned $200 turbo will do the trick (I prefer the CycleOps Magneto, myself… a little pricier at $250, but the progressive resistance is AWESOME). Smart trainers are great, but a dummy will do just fine.
6. Winter sucks for cycling unless you have a fat bike and enjoy slow speeds, being cold, and falling from time to time. Use the time away from traffic to your benefit. Spin easy before the first of the year to keep your legs moving, and enjoy some downtime. Then, ride hard in the late winter to build strength for spring… Trainer time is great for building leg strength and/or cadence. If you’ve always been a masher and want to train yourself to spin more, now is the time.
5. Use old, retired bibs/shorts on the trainer. The threadbare stuff that shows off WAY too much is for the trainer. Save the good shorts for outdoors. And, for the love of God and all that is Holy, keep the threadbare stuff indoors! Nobody wants to draft behind your butt crack.
4. Use a fan or sweat it out. I’m either hard-core, or stupid; I choose to sweat it out.
3. Zwift, FulGaz, Rouvy, old race footage on YouTube, or a good old-fashioned movie (like John Wick)… however you want to entertain yourself, whatever makes the pedals go ’round a little easier… do what makes you happy. I’m a movie guy. Star Wars, my Bose Surround Sound 5.1 system and my trainer makes me 😊. You don’t need Zwift. Zwift/FulGaz/Royvy are tools, certainly, but they’re not a necessity.
2. Never leave your bike sweat catching towel/thong strapped to, or laying on/over the headset of your bike. The sweat will weep into the headset and rot everything out. Trust me on this. ¡Es no bueno!
1. Never use the good rear wheel on the turbo trainer… the trainer is not for your ultra-posh lightweight ceramic bearing wheel… use the ugliest, heaviest, alloy-est wheel you’ve got, with a tire that has a season or two on it. Always save the good stuff for the road.
Silly Cycling Advice: “Don’t Buy Upgrades, Ride Up Grades”
Eddy Merckx once suggested that, to get fast one shouldn’t buy upgrades to our bikes, but ride up grades. Of course, he was also accustomed to riding the best money could buy, so there is that.
Is it good advice, though, for we weekend warriors?
I think context is incredibly important here, because a lot gets lost in glitzy wheels, buzzwords and simple truths. What I believe is most important to the discussion is to acknowledge, we fantastically fit cyclists don’t need the latest upgraded bikes or parts to enjoy cycling. To an extent, we don’t need the latest carbon fiber bauble, that last missing piece, that’ll have us cruising with the A Group, to have a good time cycling. First, that missing link part doesn’t exist. Second, what we want to avoid getting sucked into is the notion that you have to have a Ferrari, Porsche, Lamborghini or Bugatti to enjoy driving. Of course, as someone who’s got the McLaren of bicycles, the high-end steed absolutely adds to the experience, but I have just as much fun on my classic Trek 5200 as I do my all aero, all the time Specialized Venge. I simply don’t ride as fast, or I have to work a little harder to keep up. From that context I think it’s fair to say we can have a good time cycling on whatever we can afford comfortably.
However, there’s a flip-side to that coin.
Upper left is day one. At the bottom is almost today (I changed the saddle to something that is a tad heavier [30 grams] but doesn’t feel like I’m riding on a bed of nails after 40 miles).
Now, where this gets fun is Day 1 out of the box $3,100: 18-1/2 pounds. 3 months, upgraded wheels, still alloy but much improved: 17-3/4 pounds. Pedals, handlebar, crankset, stem upgrades: 16-1/2 pounds. It would have been lighter at that point, but I upgraded the rims to Velocity’s hoops – they were a little heavier, but vastly more reliable. Finally, I upgraded to carbon fiber wheels, then upgraded the chain, cassette, and drivetrain from 105 to Ultegra and dropped it to 15-2/3 pounds. I could make it lighter, but it’s good enough right where it is.
I loved that bike the day I brought it home, but now it’s vastly superior. The ride quality is immensely improved and I enjoy every minute on it. It’s also my bike. I made the base model Specialized Venge something vastly better and the upgrades mean there’s only one 2013 Specialized Venge Comp like mine because I built it.
So, with all due respect to Mr. Merckx, I choose a better option. Both.
I ride my upgraded bikes up grades. It’s very nice.
I like to ride stupid at least once a year. That was yesterday.
I wanted to ride my mountain bike so bad I could feel the grips in my hands before I rolled out of bed. It’s a rare day I’m hankering for that bike, so I wanted with everything I had for the forecast to be wrong.
Rain rolling in at 7am, possibly snow… and the temp was 2° above freezing (1 C). At 7:30 it started snowing, lightly though. Just flurries. A few calls between friends and we prepped to roll out, hoping it would stay flurries. We were on the damp road at 8:30, but the dirt wasn’t that bad at all. And I was in all my glory.
My wife had to ride her mountain bike because I messed her gravel bike up trying to fix a bent chainring (it came like that, very long story). I’d had it pretty close but had to get it perfect… alas I went too far and now the pros will have to fix it. Point is, there was no way I was going to ride my gravel bike while my wife had to ride her mountain bike, anyway. At 8 miles my wife said, “You guys are freaking nuts. I’m taking my toy and going home.”
She wasn’t wrong. It was nasty.
As we rode on the snow intensified and it seemed like all of a sudden the roads went from “not too bad” to straight up “baby $#!+”. We had snow caked on us from head to toe – actually, that says a lot about our gear when you think about it – if snow can stick to the outside of your clothing, there isn’t much heat escaping. With just over a mile left Chuck made a joke about Mike looking like he had an “ass-splosion”. I chimed in with a crack about being on the wrong end of a bean burrito. We were a mess and our bikes were absolutely smoked and grinding all sorts of grit. We were a sight.
I’d pushed it as hard as I could after my wife turned off early and turned that 10.8 average into 12 by the time we rolled onto my paved road. I was soaked to the bone, but from the inside. Now I remember why we bought those gravel bikes in the first place. That bike is work.
I didn’t even bother going inside. I took my bike straight back to the hose and rinsed it down before taking it inside to dry if off and clean and lube everything. I had to strip off my outer layer before my wife would let me in the front door. Her top layer lay in a heap on the floor, puddles formed under the tires on the wood floor.
We had a lazy day, watching it snow, and life was good. Every once in a while I like to ride stupid. Too often would get old, especially with the maintenance. Once or twice a year, though, makes me feel young and dumb again. That’s definitely a good thing.
Have Bike(s) Will Ride… For Sanity and Happiness. And Friendships.
I sent out the invite to our cycling friends Friday afternoon, hoping five would show up for our Saturday morning ride. It was due to be cold and quite breezy, so I figured it would be a small crew. The text list has grown in the last four years since I began putting rides together. It started out as a twelve-person text. The list has more than tripled.
My hope of five was vastly underestimated.
Friends started filing in around 8:20… Phill, Brad, Joel… then Mike and Diane rolled up. Then McMike… my wife and I made it a gaggle. We rolled out, heading west to unknown territory, roads most of us had never seen before – we ride paved roads out that way all of the time, never dirt. We were out for a straight up dirt road adventure.
We picked David up along the way, maybe five miles up the road, to make nine.
The ride was, for the most part, moderate and fun. There were times when it got a little fast, but as soon as someone fell off the back we’d hold up. We had almost every style of dirt bike there is, from mountain bikes to entry-level gravel bikes, right up to a $4,500 epic, a Crux and a Salsa Warbird. It was a diverse group, let’s say that.
Late fall in Michigan can’t be beat for dirt road cycling. Mountain bikes, gravel bikes, cross or fatties, and this autumn has been utterly spectacular. Cold, most of the time, with a few warmer days, but mainly dry. The “mainly dry” is the important part for me – I can ride in the cold, I hate riding in mud.
And so we rolled down the road, keeping a decent pace but certainly not crushing it. We laughed and caught up, told jokes and poked fun at each other as we rolled along. We simply had a good time in the cold sunshine.
Cycling makes things seem normal again for me. COVID, politicians, shutdowns, the utter silliness of politics, uncertainty… and the frustration of a nation, myself (obviously) included, that gets sucked into arguing the extremes to the benefit of politicians who consistently lie and flout their own rules and regulations to illustrate just how silly the rules, regulations and politicians really are… it all goes away for the time it takes to make it around a 35-mile dirt loop on my gravel bike with my friends.
Thankfully, talk of politics on bike rides is fading and turning to more pressing topics, like “where does that road go?” Here we were, nine friends out for a late autumn two-wheeled adventure. So it was yesterday morning for more than two glorious hours. When we pulled into the driveway, I couldn’t have been happier.
And I was so excited to see so many mountain bikes, I pulled mine out of the garage and got it ready to ride in case it was possible this morning. We’ve got a rain/snow mix moving in just about the time we’d clip in, so doubtful… but that mountain bike sure cleaned up nice. I just may pull her back out for a ride over Thanksgiving weekend.
Having so many bikes to choose from presents a fun problem to have; which one to choose?!
Dropping My Fear of Cycling in the Dark: Thank God for Dirt
Until this year, it’s been a rare day I’ll ride outdoors after dark. I do the annual club “night ride” without fail, but my headlight was the least used piece of cycling equipment I own. Most years I used it just that one time. Even with my fantastic Varia taillight/radar and a decent headlight, I still felt uncomfortable riding in the dark.
The strange thing is, with proper lighting and a little thought about reflective clothing, I’m more visible at night than I am during the day. Whatever it is, I just didn’t like it.
I’ve gone through a change this year, though. I’ve got more rides outdoors than I do on the trainer in November, and to ride outside during the week, after the time changes back on the first Sunday, it’s going to be in the dark.
With the gravel bikes and riding dirt roads so much the last few years in the postseason, my appreciation for a lack of traffic has increased immensely. Not enough to switch exclusively to gravel during the spring and summer months (I’d can’t give up the speed), but autumn cycling is vastly more enjoyable when we’re only being passed by a single vehicle every 20 miles or so.
Due to that lack of traffic, I’ve chosen to ride outdoors with my normal riding buddy, Chuck, after work. Oh, it’s a chore getting all of the clothes out and on – it’s not as simple as throwing on a tee shirt and an old pair of bibs to ride on the trainer, but my God is it fun. With some consistency I’ve managed to drop my fear of cycling at night.
Last night was a phenomenal example of a perfect ride in the dark. 24 miles (and some change), and I think we were passed by two vehicles. Chuck and I sat up for most of the ride talking about work and current events, letting our problems drift off in the wind as we rode. By the time I pulled into the driveway, about an hour and a half later, I was feeling so good I could hardly stand myself.
I did manage. And after dinner, I drifted off to sleep with a smile on my face. As could be expected, I slept like a brick.
This evening; rinse and repeat.
…And Just Like That, Another Year is in the Books.
Last night was pretty awesome. I’m giving a little away here, but most who have read this blog will have guessed this already, I’m just going to confirm it. My wife, as she always does, gave me my 28-year coin last night. A rarity, my anniversary actually fell on a meeting night this year.
Normally, a bunch of us would go out to dinner and have a good three hour meal to catch up. Sadly, in this mess that simply can’t happen… unless you’re Gavin Newsome. In that case, go right ahead and break all the rules you made and yuck it up. But I digress. For us peasants, we must follow the rules because most of us are in this together. Or something.
I took a moment to think about this last night, but just a moment; it was a bit of a bummer that COVID screwed up my night this year. Of course, on the plus-side, at least I was at a real meeting last night and not on a Zoom call. Now, I could be a whiner and complain about how unfair this all is, and maybe even blubber on about how life sucks just a little bit, but I don’t roll like that. $#!+ is what it is. I think the whole thought process lasted less than 20 seconds before I balled that stinkin’ thinkin’ up and pitched it in my melon’s garbage can and got on with enjoying the evening that I had.
And a fantastic day and evening it was. I took my daughters to Popeye’s for their world renowned chicken sandwich. I got to listen to my daughters explain how much better Chick-fil-A is for most of the ride there… until they bit into their sandwich and all conversation froze in the air. My daughter hadn’t even finished chewing her first bite when her jaw dropped. I just chuckled. Yep. It’s that good. Back home, I got through some work and got ready to ride. I changed my plan and rode indoors to keep time from becoming an issue. After my ride, my wife went to pick up our usual Wednesday evening pizza dinner and I got the table ready. We rushed off to the meeting, and the rest will stay there, at Crankin’ Rankin… except I got my coin and had a wonderful meeting.
There is a chance the church will shut down, leaving us without a meeting place indoors, but we worked around that. If need be, we’ll meet at one of the guys’ pole barn and bring in a couple propane heaters to warm the place up. It won’t be ideal, but it’ll do till spring. In my humble opinion, in-person meetings are worth the risk. I need that face to face interaction, even if face-to-face is 10′ apart.
So there went another year. I started out an hour at a time. A few times I went down to seconds at a time, minutes at a time, then one day at a time till I had 365 of them. Then 364 days at a time till I hit 2 years. Another 364 and 3 years, and so on. Then five, ten, fifteen, twenty, and twenty-five years… all, one day at a time.
Kept simple, recovery’s given everything back that I gave up as a drunk. And it is good.