Riding Mindfully - Freeing Up Your Spirit

April 11, 2018

These days there are numerous studies that demonstrate an indisputable link between exercise and one’s mood. Cycling is a great way to not only get outside into nature and sunshine–another mood-boosting mechanism–but a highly effective way to trigger an endorphin release that will help ward off depression, anxiety and snap you out of a case of the blues.

You don’t even have to hit the asphalt and dodge traffic to receive the benefits. You can get an equally strenuous and challenging bike workout on an indoor trainer or during an indoor cycling class–hello SoulCycle! Any time you choose to move versus lounging on the couch it will not only burn calories, it will make you a happier you. WebMD states that “many studies show that people who exercise regularly benefit with a positive boost in mood and lower rates of depression” and Psychology Today writes that “increasingly, physical activity is being recognized as an effective tool for treating and preventing depression.” This has certainly held true for me throughout the years.

Cycling gives you a big boost of endorphins and other ‘feel good’ hormones!

I’ve always been an active and athletically inclined individual. I was lucky enough to grow up in a household with adventurous parents who enjoyed and engaged in all sorts of physical activities including tennis, skiing, running and cycling. As a child growing up in England, I climbed trees, swam in lakes and biked to get from Point A to Point B. In high school in the U.S., I ran on the cross-country team. In college, I played on the tennis team and ran recreationally. In my twenties, I pursued a Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do between stints of hiking, mountain biking, and skiing. In my thirties, my husband John and I snowboarded down most every mountain inside the continental U.S. And, at age forty, I discovered the sport of triathlon and was instantly hooked. I haven’t looked back since.

Always being active: Gymnastics at 12 years old; U.K. Cycling Proficiency Certificate in 1979; Swimming in England in 1980; High School Cross Country Award from 1986; Biking on Block Island in the 90s; Snowboarding with my husband John in 2006.

Since taking up triathlon and progressing from Sprint and Olympic Tris to Ironman distance racing, I have found that endurance sport has helped me even more in the mood enhancement department. In fact, looking back, I would say that I’ve always felt better when exercising the most. Once I started racing Ironman triathlon, more than one person has said, “That’s crazy!” upon hearing that the event consists of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike and a 26.2-mile run, all to be completed within a maximum of 17 hours. I usually nod my head in response as I used to think it was crazy too, but I have since realized that racing Ironman is actually what keeps me sane.

2016 IM Lake Placid finish line.
2016 IM Chattanooga finish with John.

I’m definitely of the Type-A variety and, as such, I can take life a little too seriously sometimes and start to sweat the small stuff. However, since taking up Ironman training, I tend to have bigger fish to fry than insignificant and petty things like why that random person just cut in front of me in the supermarket line. It helps put things in perspective and gets me out of my head. Making sure I complete my daily workout so that my husband (who is also my coach) doesn’t raise an eyebrow and tell me “the race date is what it is, they’re not going to reschedule it because you’re not ready!” is a nice anchor to have and a healthy priority for me. I’m typically exhausted after a 70-mile training ride or 18-mile run and sleep like a baby rather than tossing and turning while pondering the inner workings of the universe. For me, enduring and enjoying truly go hand in hand with the PEARL iZUMi motto #EndureAndEnjoy365 extending from the race course to everyday life in general.

Plus, there’s nothing like a long ride to put you in touch with your body. I recently read the funniest article in Peloton Magazine about a woman who went on an 80-mile ride with her boyfriend with her longest cycle ride ever being only 40 miles. She ended up bonking hard at mile 67 with inadequate training and nutrition on hand and taking over three hours to get through the last grueling stretch. John and I laughed so hard while reading this because I did the exact same thing back in May 2010 after signing up for my first century ride for charity with only a few 25 (!) mile training rides under my belt. After 80 miles, I was barely able to pedal anymore. John had to babysit me while I inched along groaning and complaining loudly until we finally crossed the finish line. At that point, my legs seized up and went into a visible spasm for the next half hour while I collapsed in pain in the middle of a busy bike shop.

Since that ride in 2010, I’ve completed countless Gran Fondos, century rides, eleven full Ironman triathlons and am now a seasoned long-distance cyclist. I know how much fuel to pack and when to intake calories to keep me rolling. My legs have strengthened to meet the distances demanded of them. I stretch and foam roll regularly to prevent injuries. I’m consistent in my training and revel in being race ready. I feel like my mind-body connection is stronger than it ever has been and my world outlook is great. I credit exercise with my typically sunny disposition and I always encourage others to suit up and get outside as it really does change your attitude. Anyone can do it! All it takes is standing up off the couch and getting out there! I know my dog feels the same way. Ziva won’t settle down until she’s had her long walk or morning run with me. She too knows what #EndureAndEnjoy365 is all about.

These days, thanks to Ironman training, I always feel ready to take on the day, smile at strangers, and rise to meet the hills, no matter how challenging they may look at the very bottom.

Enduring competing at the Penticton World Championships in 2017.
Enjoying IM Chattanooga 2017.

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