Cycling’s Emotional Cost

Cycling’s Emotional Cost

Forget the financial cost of riding a bike (which can be pricey to say the least), there's also a significant emotional cost incurred with becoming entangled with this sport we love so dearly.  See?  There's a perfect example of it right there: “the sport we love so dearly.” What is it about cycling that reaches deep down into our soul and entwines our psyche into the sport?

See?  There's a perfect example of it right there: “the sport we love so dearly.” What is it about cycling that reaches deep down into our soul and entwines our psyche into the sport?

What is it about cycling that reaches deep down into our soul and entwines our psyche into the sport?  Why do we become obsessed with the thrill of the open road, the search for fitness and the company of friends and teammates?

Boundbrook race 2014Emotional Entanglement

For many of us, the bicycle is more than just a form of exercise or a mode if transportation; it's a way of life.  We plan our free time around or riding and training time. We follow professional and domestic racing, even to the degree of pinning on a number and racing ourselves. In our travels of the internet we end up browsing our favorite cycling websites, scouring them for any interesting tidbit we may stumble upon. We become so completely invested in cycling that our thoughts constantly turn to two wheels over pavement.  When we're suddenly torn from that lifestyle, through illness, injury or other circumstance, it can play heavily on our mind. It can even lead to a small amount of paranoia.

It can even lead to a small amount of paranoia.

I've been there very, very recently.  I've experienced it.  I'm STILL experiencing it.  As I sit in convalescence, a million things run through my mind.  From the obvious “what will my fitness be like once I get back on the bike” to the absurd “will my teammates want to ride with me again when I'm so slow and unsure of myself?”  At one point, I may have even asked myself “will I even be able to ride well again?”  Certainly, these questions sound borderline ridiculous, and indeed, I know that.  Deep down in my brain somewhere, I know the answers to each of these pieces of idiocracy.

Emotionally, the lack of activity to burn off stress, the inability to ride and feel the freedom of the open road, the inability to compete and the loss of most of my weekend social structure (save the incessant hanging around the bike shop, drinking coffee and writing blog posts and training plans on my iPad) has been difficult.  Looking back on photos of races past and thinking about the performances I SHOULD be putting in this season twists the knife a little more.  Watching the pros race the Giro d'Italia, seeing their feats of athleticism and being unable to go out and ride while being inspired in such a way is near heartbreaking.  Oh, there's a biochemical aspect to it all (after all, emotions are just biochemistry of the brain) which can't be addressed by the riding, training and racing, so there's that little issue to contend with as well.  To put it absolutely bluntly, everything that revolved around this way of life has come to a complete, grinding halt…

Until recently.

A few weeks ago I was able to ride again.  I was able to get on the trainer and start the comeback from the crash that broke not only bones but my spirit as well, if only for a little while.  I won't lie about it; that first half hour on the trainer was difficult.  It was depressing to see how far my fitness has fallen in the 5 weeks since I crashed.  But the important thing to remember was I was back on the bike.

It's time to reset my ambitions.  It's time to reset my expectations.  Compared to lying on the pavement with my collarbone in 4 pieces, I've come a long way.  It's undoubtedly a long road, but I've ridden that road before.  I've ridden it every season.  I've ridden from flat to fit in a few months time more times than I can count.  I'll get back there…

But to counter the emotional toll, I can't think of where I was, only where I can go from here.

That's how I'll relieve the burden of those ridiculous questions.  One day at a time, one ride at a time, as I start the ride back to fitness.  Before I know it, I'll be back to where I was and beyond.

The emotional rollercoaster is just part of that ride.

About the Author:

After graduating from Ithaca College with a degree in Exercise and Sport Science/Pharmacology, I continued my education with a doctorate of Chiropractic from New York Chiropractic College. As I progressed through my education, I was able to apply the concepts I learned in the lab to my own daily workouts and goals. At the time, I was following some of the principles of traditional coaching and getting mediocre results. Frustrated, I realized that if I could apply all my physiology, chemistry, nutrition and training knowledge, I could “build a better mousetrap” not just for my own training, but for other athletes. With this goal in mind, I started Tailwind Coaching, to help cyclists [with busy lives and limited training time] become stronger, faster, fitter and healthier. And while I may not be a ex-ProTour rider, an Olympic Coach or even a prolific race winner, I am something that most coaches are not: a regular guy just like you who has a job, a family and a desire to be a stronger cyclist.