CYCLING MINDFULLY

Has it ever happened to you that suddenly a particular segment is over, or that your ride is close to an end while asking yourself how time has flown so fast?

Isn't it amazing when that happens?  It feels as if we become one with our bike, and we literally escape from space & time.

While many athletes like to call it to "be in the zone or flow," which is that single pointed focus state that allows you to be present while flowing easily through your activity or race, i prefer to call it a "meditation in motion".
Meditation in motion

Let's think about the concept of meditation for an instant, defined as the act of quieting our mind and letting our thoughts flow without losing the awareness of each single moment, isn't it the same state we talked earlier?

And how amazing would it be if we were able to practice it when our legs hurt or when we're maxing out on a chase, or it's simply a bad day?
For those who aren't familiar with it, mindfulness is a simple meditation technique that brings focus on just one aspect or activity by breaking it down into tiny individual moments, thus by short-circuiting all other thoughts or powerful emotions and place them on the side.

Imagine a room full of furniture where you end up moving everything to the side to make space for yourself in the center. Your thoughts are the furniture.
This is what meditation does to you when you concentrate just on one thing. It's a simple mind trick to empty the space.
In the center you can enjoy the area all for yourself, you can stretch out and move around without any hassle.

That empty space is you at your core, it's a dimension where there's no right or wrong, no fear or assurance, no highs or lows.
It's a place where we can see clearly for miles from and where we are in a neutral position.

It's a place where we can see clearly for miles from.
Where're therefore in a neutral position.

If we're able to put into practice the following techniques, we can turn a bad day into a good one or an endless climb into a short one!
The secret is to concentrate on just one thing, be it your breath or your pedal stroke or the nature around you.
One thing only. Put your attention to it, feel it and let it flow naturally.
Let all the other thoughts or emotions pass by, acknowledge them but let them go.

If you choose to focus on your breath, try to make equal & regular inhales & exhales, if it's your cadence, try to push down as well as you pull up applying a round movement and paying attention to your knee, neither pointing towards the top-tube, nor outwards.
Focus on the rhythm of your cadence, try to keep it regular and consistent. Feel your feet being active around the full pedal revolution.That's it. As simple as this. If you do this you'll see that it'll get easier and easier to detach from negativity and stay present.

One other technique that helps me greatly to get out of the funk, is to use a mantra.
Coming from a long Kundalini yoga and meditation journey, i use Sat-Nam, which in Sanscrit translates to something like "I am truth" or "truth is my identity."
Try inhale Sat, Exhale Nam, but you can use any other type of positive affirmation, like "i'm fee" or "i'm limitless" whichever works for you.

The negative mind

What we're trying to do is to push aside those negative thoughts like "it's too hard, or it's too painful", "i'll never going to make it," that "i'm not good enough" and concentrate on each moment from a position of positivity.

The negative mind, which Steven Pressfield calls the resistance in his book The war of art, is that inner villain that keeps us from doing our best work or in this case our best performance. It's the voice of self-sabotage that aims at keeping us chained to the lizard brain. I suggest listening to Seth Godin who's a brilliant man and an inspiring mentor who clearly explains it here.
The truth is that the negative voice, the resistance, is lying to us, is deceiving us into thinking that we are less than who we really are.
The monkey mind is playing us tricks when in fact our body can endure a higher degree of effort and fatigue if we learn how to go past these false thought patterns.
The rationale is that we just need to trick it back and keep on doing what we are doing.

The Navy Seals have the 40% rule, which simply states that when you think you have gone through all of your physical/mental resources, you still have a 60% of untapped energy. In other words, your mind gives you just 40% of energy while your body has still 60% to go!

Tips

Let's get practical, here's how to apply these principles when these negative thoughts start surfacing during your ride:

  1. Recognize the negative voice, but keep pedaling (don't slow down)
  2. Tell yourself "Here I go again, but it's ok, I know I'm better than that" 
  3. Put your thoughts aside and focus on breath, cadence or a mantra
  4. Stay in each moment, don't think too ahead of you, just stay with each pedal stroke,or breath. Let everything else slide away from that one focussed thought.

If it's necessary, and depending on the terrain or situation, shift gears to ease pedal stroke. If you're in a group, shift up gears for a few seconds, and then back down so that you don't lose the wheels in front of you. Do it as often as necessary when you're getting out of breath or when your legs hurt.

Remember that the pain is not forever. You will reach the top of the climb, or the group will slow down at some point (and you'll catch breath, and your legs will recover)

Check your heart rate monitor or power meter to make sure that you're working within your training zone and threashold. If you're going at or above heart/power threshold, know that you need to back down soon to avoid running our of gas. Remember to be safe.

Always give your best in each moment, be proud of yourself, even when you get dropped by the others. Next time you'll do better, each time you "suffer" you are actually raising the bar higher and getting fitter.

Cycling is an endless journey towards getting in and out of shape and improving your skill sets.

You'll soon realize that all of these experiences & lessons on the bike can easily translate into your everyday life, projects, and relationships.
This is why cycling has an amazing therapeutic effect if you care to notice and practice mindfulness.
I hope you'll find these tips useful for your riding. Would love to hear your comments or experiences, please post them below here.

#nogodsnomasters #ngnmcycling

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