One of my favorite local trails finally emerged from the snow, and this morning I gave it a pedal. I was going fast – really fast. And I felt perfect flow with the terrain, not like I was risking life and limb. I figured I have just forgotten what it feels like to rip a favorite trail since winter in Bend, OR has been one of those, “100-year winters,” and time on the mountain bike has been sparse. Once home I loaded my ride data and, sure enough, I was riding that trail faster than I ever have before… even faster than that time I chased a Pro gravity dude down it (dumb; don’t do that!) and was sure I would either hit a tree or break my frame.
So, what changed? Time away from a technical sport leaves me rusty and needing a few weeks of “back to the basics” drills and practice to get my form in shape. On my ride I was practicing the nuts and bolts of riding with flow: dynamic body positioning, scanning ahead and momentum management. This cobweb-clearing should not have added up to a blistering pace on wiggly and sporadically technical single track. I was puzzled.
After a hot shower and a good lunch, I sat down for my daily meditation session. I reluctantly started meditating this winter as recommended by my physician to help manage my insomnia. Meditation is helping me reign in my wandering mind. In my practice today I did not do such a great job at keeping my thoughts on task. On one of my brain’s ambles it struck me that concentration was the new driver to my speed. Focus. On my ride this morning my mind gave undivided attention to the terrain as it approached. Thoughts about my to-do list, what I want for dinner, or if my Dads birthday present will arrive on time did not pop up to distract me. Nothing existed but the task at hand. Meditation: my new secret training tool.
Want to give it a try? I started by downloading some free meditation apps. I like Calm and Head Space. They both have an intro-to-meditation series, and each lesson is only 10 minutes long. That’s it. That will get you started. It’s a low time commitment, has nothing to do with religion, and you can do it anywhere (even at a quiet place along the trail). Meditate, and go faster.
As the new year approaches, I like to sit with the athletes I coach to discuss the highlights of the previous year and what changes we should make for the coming year. I coach men and women ranging in age from juniors to senior games participants specializing in anything from ultra-running to alpine ski racing. They come from many walks, yet what do they all have in common? In every one of the “new year” conversations, each and every athlete mentioned dissatisfaction with their weight, their body composition and appearance. Funny thing is that they all fall within the normal, healthy athlete body composition spectrum and yet they all feel they need to lose a few pounds!
It would be deceitful if I did not say I too find my inner monologue periodically chastising myself:
- “If you were two pounds lighter your watt to mass ratio would be higher.”
- “Your jeans are tight on your muscle bound thighs, and that looks bad.”
- “You would be faster if you skipped that slice of birthday cake yesterday.”
- “That competitor is thinner than you – she must be more dedicated than you are.”
When you hear someone else say this you think they are crazy, being unrealistic and self-deprecating. They have body dysphoria. But when you say these things to yourself you believe them to be true. How did we get ourselves into such a pickle? These untrue labels we give ourselves are catastrophic on our psyche and are defeating. This has got to stop, and each of us hold the power to end this tyranny of lies for ourselves. Take it as another task on your training schedule.
My New Year’s resolution is to start a revolution among athletes to celebrate their athletic physiques. Here is how to start; list ten things you love about your body. Be honest. Do not give back-handed compliments. Put this list somewhere that you will see it daily. Read it out loud. This is your mantra. Add to the ten. You are amazing, strong, beautiful, and can do things that your friends envy – celebrate it.
Here is my list of ten.
- My quadriceps power me up technical climbs that most cyclists walk.
- My feet are pretty, especially with bold polish on them.
- The scar on my ankle (my wishbone – thanks sis!) is a testament to my body’s amazing ability to heal.
- My spine is capable of serpentine motion that lets me swim butterfly, and a lot of good swimmers can’t do that.
- Thick, dark, perfectly arched eyebrows are mine, all mine.
- I have a super strong core that lets me demo super advanced Pilates exercises safely.
- My lady parts tolerate all fashion of saddles without demise.
- My arms react to a front tire going astray before my brain even knows there is a problem.
- Yeah, I look good naked.
- I have flexible hamstrings that let me balance one-legged on icy slopes while I pull skins off my skis and make it look effortless.
Send me your list. I’ll anonymously post them. We are not alone. What could you possibly have to lose by loving yourself more?