For the the last few years, as befits the middle aged man cliche, I’ve not only being riding bikes a lot, I’ve been riding a lot of bikes.
Mostly the 6.67 miles to Brighton from home along a windy seafront road.
Then bigger rides at the weekend. Often up and down the trails of the magnificent South Downs.
And once from London to Paris. Gritting teeth in gales and hail storms with all the wrong gears.
Most of the time I feel good afterwards, but as I’m riding along I’m often struck by how different the experience is on different days.
Hangovers aside, sometimes its mood, its often the wind, or on the Downs it’s the mud.
The same ride, completely different.
On good days when the wind is behind you, the sun out, the track dry, the feeling becomes almost magical. You feel strong and powerful. Obstacles are skipped round. Momentum is built and sustained. Effort is satisfyingly rewarded. And you glide swiftly along. The closest you can get to flying without leaving the ground.
On other days its a fucking chore. The wind blows in my face. The mud clings on to my wheel for dear life. Traction is lost as the wheels slip and slide. Every turn of the pedal feels like a disproportionate amount of effort. And I expend huge amounts of energy, getting nowhere fast.
Having run several businesses over the last 15 years, with many many ups, and more than a few downs, I’ve often been struck by the similarities.
When things are going well, its easy to feel omnipotent. It feels like everything you touch turns to gold. Effort is rewarded. Mood and confidence is high. Momentum is sustained. Success breeds success.
When things go badly, it is incredibly easy to lose momentum and moral. Rewards become harder to find, and even luck can seem to be in short supply.
On those days, you just want to skip the ride and get a nice coffee and paper and sit on the train. Or in other words, get a proper job…
The thing is, whenever I get the train I always get to the other end and feel nothing. Lethargic and bloated. It’s functional – a means to an end, rather than an earned destination from a hard won journey of my choosing.
The truth is that the fitter you are the better equipped you are to face adversity. Wind and mud become manageable foes. And the more you do it, the fitter you get and the easier it becomes.
When it becomes too easy though, boredom sets in and you find yourself adding bigger challenges into the task. Bigger hills, faster times, new routes.
A bit, maybe, like work….
On somedays when I ride to work, and the wind is against me, I think at least I’ll have a fun ride home. Then when I ride for home, the wind direction has changed 180 degrees. And I’m back out into a headwind, slightly depressed. Luckily this is the exception rather than the rule.
For many people though it seems this happens on a daily basis. Banging their heads on the proverbial headwind wall. Continual adversity is not fun. But also, if you’re not careful, like the Stockholm Syndrome, where victims and captors become emotionally attached, you can become accustomed to it. Every day hard for no substantive gain is foolish.
Or as Albert Einstein (may have) put it:
‘the definition of insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting a different result.’
So if your daily routine is fruitlessly hard, perhaps ask first is it a question of fitness? Will new skills or practice make you more resilient, the journey easier and more pleasurable?
Or is it simply that you are living or working in the wrong place and you need to take stock and start thinking of somewhere else to live or work and choose your own different path?