It’s all in your head

Aha! If you’re reading this that mean’s I’ve survived Quitter’s Day! The blog lives to fight another day and the resolution/not-a-resolution-but-a-goal remains unbroken!

Despite all the hoopla about my move to Calgary, there really haven’t been any particularly thrilling topics that have come to mind for this post. It took some rather serious pondering (read: staring at the wall on the treadmill/trainer) to think of something that I can spin in a way that generates a modicum of entertainment.

And as I usually spend too many hours a week on the trainer staring at the wall, I had a lot of time to think about how crappy my legs felt and how, relatively, off-fitness I was. Like the stereotypical cyclist I strive to be – it’s fun to play up the stereotypes, refuting them is too much work – I started making excuses for why my heart rate was sky-high and power was almost as low as the temperature in Calgary this past week (hint: it was cold enough that it didn’t matter if you were talking in Celsius or Fahrenheit).

  • “It must be the week off the trainer”
  • “This new power meter must be out of calibration, after all, it has been a whole 15min since I calibrated it”
  • “It’s probably the extra 1000m of altitude”
  • “It’s been an awfully long time since I’ve changed the battery on my heart rate monitor”
  • “Maybe FedEx broke my trainer way more than I thought”

…Excuses ad infinitum.

When I got tired of making excuses, I got to thinking about the effect that all these excuses were having on me. Being the good engineer I am, I tried to think rationally about these supposed issues I was digging up:

  • A week-off the trainer isn’t going to turn my legs into wet noodles
  • I’m using one of the most widely respected power meters on the market, it’s measurements are accurate enough
  • On average, the extra 1000m of altitude won’t take off more than a couple percent of peak aerobic power. Besides, the Canadian Zwift National Champ lives in Calgary, so it can’t be that much of a disadvantage
  • These aren’t the characteristic issues of a dying heart rate monitor battery
  • Sure, FedEx did a number on my trainer, but it’s pretty hard to do serious damage to a 40lb hunk of steel and aluminum

Making all these prototypical cyclist excuses reminded me of another classic cyclist adage: “If you think you look cooler, you’ll go faster”

In other words: “It’s all in your head.” I was taking the slightest negative feeling I was having on the bike and, by thinking of all the reasons I could feel that way, the feeling and issue was being spun out of control. What was, in reality, a difference of a few percent off of “regular” numbers was being made to feel like an abyss of fitness of which I’d ended up on the wrong side.

And the cure for this mental spiral? For me, on the bike, a good temporary patch is some pump-up music. I threw on the jams, got fired up, and tried to enjoy the rest of my ride. A rather longer-lasting patch for this mental spiral for me is to get outside and do something where you don’t think about your numbers and, frankly, your numbers just don’t matter. With the deep-freeze ending, the next day I loaded up my winter gear and drove off to find a mountain to hike up.

As for an actual cure for the mental spiral of excuses? Remind yourself when you start down that path that your “performance” is never “average”, it’s never “regular”. Your fitness and ability to perform fluctuates on myriad factors every day. You remember the activities/races/workouts with a good ending much more fondly; the pain you went through to get there is dulled and replaced by the elation of a good result. You remember the activities/races/workouts with a bad ending much less fondly; the pain you went through to finish is amplified and, even if your effort was comparable or better, it’s swallowed by the strong negative reaction.

So forget the excuses. Get your mind out of your head. And if you can’t do that, go outside, get some fresh air, and do something else for a while.

Cheers and Ride On!

-Evan

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