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Cycling Performance and Stress; Work Stress Blasted My “Want To”, Probably My Performance, And How I’m Dealing With It.


I wrote about an article I read Sunday that held a couple of gems in it. The first, published yesterday, had to do with “living in the moment”. The second has to do with stress and I’ve been living under a mountain of it lately. This is not a bad thing. I don’t wake up dreading the day. I don’t drive to work thinking about taking time off or escaping. The stress is not “I can’t handle this” stress. It’s more, “I have a lot to fit into a little time, how do I improve so I can do this efficiently” stress (without the answer being “work longer hours”). I get to work 45 minutes before anyone else and I’m at it till I wrap up at quitting time – there’s barely time for anything but what’s next. I can tell you this, working like that sure makes the days go by fast.

Going back to that article, this is the second gem:

Professor Oliver says the biggest mistake he sees riders make is “overtraining and being too competitive while chronically fatigued”. If you’re in a high-pressure job requiring lots of concentration, you’re even more liable to hit upon problems. “Trying to be a high-level cyclist while doing a busy job… it’s just not possible.”

Now, it’s debatable about whether or not I’m a “high-level” cyclist. It would depend, I suppose on what how the levels are defined. If you go, low, medium and high, then I’d have to say medium-plus for me. I don’t necessarily think that’s how it’s supposed to work, though. I’d be willing to bet there’s low, medium, high, and elite. If that’s the case, I’m okay with putting myself in the “high-level” category.

With that out of the way, I’ve been quite open about my struggles of late. With both my new promotion at work, and, recently, in getting on the trainer to get ready for the spring cycling season that’s only a few weeks away. The quote above links the two in a way I hadn’t previously. I didn’t think the two would be inextricably linked… just, maybe, kinda linked in a way that could be pushed through for the person (me) with the right attitude and outlook on life. After all, real stress that effects the body is mental, right? Surely, if I fully accept where I’m at in this moment, then even though I’m busy, I should be able to develop a flow, yes?

I’m finding that’s not quite how this one’s working. I can tell you this, though; I’ll have this $#!+ figured out in three weeks or less! With spring (or at least, March) right around the corner, I have no choice! It’s not like I can, after a long, cold winter (it currently feels like -3 outside [that’s -19 C, folks] and we just got a fresh 10″ of snow last night), take all spring puttering about the neighborhood on my race bike – I have a Horsey Hundred and a long cycling season to get ready for!

I’ve taken seven days off in the last thirteen. I can’t remember two weeks like that since I started cycling (I’ve missed time on vacation, but even then we usually bring our bikes). After devoting some time to thinking about this, I pretty sure all of this is stress related. I’ve started taking action to calm myself down, but I want to make a point out of explaining something that’s very important here; I should have caught this weeks ago. Being Mr. Recovery, I should have seen the effects of the building stress. I live that $#!+, right? Well, yes, but. Sometimes it just doesn’t work like that.

In recovery, as they say, everything changes. As we grow, new challenges appear and we adapt to them. This is the way of things. One of the great lessons I learned early on is, when I’m feeling uncomfortable emotions (I learned with anger), I don’t have to fight it or stuff it down. It’s best to embrace how I’m feeling and explore it. Marinate in it, if you will. When I’m good and tired of feeling that way, I’ll be ready to take action and move on. Friday was my, “okay, that’s enough of this $#!+” day. I started with what always comes first. Prayer. Specifically, asking for the guidance, insight and inspiration… then calm and peace through the stress. Then, as is always the case, a clear path to work on appears and the stress starts to lose its grip. It works. If you work it.


10 Comments

  1. Sheree says:

    You’ll sort it out

  2. idlecyclist says:

    I guess recognising the stress is the most difficult and also the most important first step. Stay strong 💪

  3. lampenj says:

    Don’t sweat the days off. You probably needed them, anyway. I was shocked when I started working with a coach who set me up on a 3 week build, 1 week rest schedule. The rest week was not a total break from the bike, it was just a bunch of REALLY EASY rides. I also have 1 rest day each week that is totally off the bike. The physical portion of your body can’t handle sustained pushing if you’re trying to grow.I’ve found the mental side can be the same (though years of research would point to other reasons than your brain acting like a muscle for needing a break once in a while). Another example is that I recently dove into the world of power measurement and was thinking “here we go…I’m going to have my power numbers every ride and I’m going to dial every ride exactly as coach prescribes so I can build these muscles to their strongest yet…”. Only to have most of my base build workouts measured by heart rate. It’s not all about the legs. It’s about the system. Physical strength; blood flow; oxygen intake; nutrition; mental strength; and stress management. It sounds like you figured out an imbalance, which is a sign of strength, not of weakness. Just some thoughts that came to mind when I read this in my inbox this morning. Good stuff, man. Good stuff.

    • bgddyjim says:

      Thanks, Joe… it never ceases to amaze me how deep that rabbit hole can be. Great pointers. I’ve always had a rough go with those easy days (till last year). You know how it is, “I’m missing an opportunity to get stronger”. Deep stuff, man. Thank you.

  4. crustytuna says:

    If you’ve not already read it, Endure, by Alex Hutchinson (you know, when you have all that extra free time every day…). He talks about how mental fatigue affects physical performance, and cites a few fascinating studies done on cyclists and marathoners, with attempted strategies to try to overcome this.
    No shame in taking those breaks–just means you’ll be ready to come back stronger. 🙂

  5. Mr Shit50s says:

    I’ve another reading suggestion for you – just finished a book called ‘Chatter’ by a US psychologist called Ethan Kross, which is all about coping with our internal voice when it ruminates unhelpfully over stuff we’re worried about.

    Kross says that – although it’s generally a good thing for humans to be able to have this inner dialogue and check in on ourselves – too much negative ‘chatter’ can cause us to see life stresses as threats rather than surmountable challenges, which sets off all sorts of worrying anxiety reactions in the body (such as stomach trouble, raised heartbeat, and shortness of breath).

    He suggests a number of remedies – the efficacy of which will, I guess, vary with each individual – but the ones I like include talking to yourself in the second person (e.g. ‘You can handle this’), getting perspective by, say, imagining how unbothered you’ll feel about this in a year’s time, and finally (you’ll like this) getting out in nature, because studies show our ability to focus is replenished by trees ‘n’ stuff.

    Maybe this is at heart a winter thing and getting back on your bike in the spring will solve the problem for you?

    Anyway, take care!

    • bgddyjim says:

      My friend, I could have written that book on negative self sabotage! I fixed that a while back, but your comment is an awesome reminder how pernicious that can be. I agree with the fresh air remedy as well, though it was -17 this morning on the way into work… I’ll give the weather a minute to warm up!

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