Today I had an interesting ride today - no drive, no intensity, no motivation and in some ways, no purpose.
The backstory to all this is that I cycle about 3 times per week, not including commuting. Saturday is a bigger ride and the early morning mid-weekers are about 1 ½-2 hours. Yes I’m a weekend warrior and I love it.
So I woke up early and easily with the alarm. My body felt soft and springy and my eyes weren’t stinging - I was well rested. But because I was going on my own it took me a while to get out the door – longer than normal.
After about 20 mins of focused riding, I stopped for traffic and suddenly realised I couldn’t be bothered. Couldn’t summon the energy and motivation to ride at my normal level – the place where I love to be - my learning edge.
I considered this for a few moments, surrendered to the feeling and kept riding to my original plan, but much slower, in what’s known as the granny gear (really it’s actually the best speed).
I started thinking why? Where were my intensity, focus, clarity and energy? The main reason I came up with was that, as I wrote recently, I did the Alpine Classic four weeks ago.
On reflection it must have been providing a major focal point and target.
Obviously I’ll do it again next year but now that it was finished, what was my purpose in the short to medium term? Questions, questions, questions. The answer was I didn’t have one and this is where I’m at right now with my cycling. This is especially the case if I’m riding alone. Riding with my mates is a different story. The group creates it own energy, distraction, entertainment and “micro-purpose” for me to fully engage, but on my own……………...
All this sort of stuff was flying through my head on the ride. Can you believe it? Surely one of the reasons we choose to be physically active is to get out of our heads and into the present moment in our bodies? I was experiencing the classic chattering, monkey mind Buddhism talks about.
However my interpretation of all this is that the lack of purpose is effecting my willingness to get into and stay in, my body during cycling – especially staying in my body when I'm physically suffering as it's known in the cycling world. The next main thought I had while riding very slowly and watching most other riders go past me, was that I’ve experienced this situation before in a big way.
13 years ago One of my main sports and influences growing up was baseball. I loved it and still do. I played with full commitment from 11 to 31 years of age when I moved interstate and put it on hold. I loved playing the game and was super hungry to be the best I could be. Depending on how you look at it I was a good player without being great. Among a few different achievements and many great experiences, the most satisfying level I got to was being a member of the Melbourne Reds National League team around 1997. Sadly for the world at large I never played a game with them.
What was interesting however was that as part of my training to improve I was spending a lot of time in the gym to develop my physical power. I trained with discipline, self-motivation and purpose. I trained hard and enjoyed it (In hindsight my emphasis in this part of my preparation was misguided, but that is another story).
After one season with the Reds and the time for invitations to the next pre-season approaching, I just knew that my time at the club was up. Over the next 3 weeks I watched myself go from fully committed in the gym to not even being able to train with any intensity at all. I reckon “75%” of my motivation for the gym dissolved in that time. It never really came back. Vanity was a short-term driver for a little while in the form of appearance based training but it didn’t last. To be honest, in this specific context of quality preparation for a sport or activity, I’ve never really been able to find a purpose as strong as I had then. There are of course significant factors like a changing life, different interests, other demands, broadening outlook, relationships with others etc., but purpose - the “why” - plays a huge part in what we do and how we go about it, whether we’re aware of it or not.
Coaching Part of what I do in my coaching work centres around purpose. The interesting thing is that clients never come to me and say “I want to clarify my purpose, can you help me work it out?” No, they usually briefly talk about something they want to change for the better, then start to move into what they want, sometimes exploring how they want it to be. However at appropriate times and with permission, I ask them why?
“Why?” It’s one of the hardest questions and sometimes the answer is a long time coming. My experience with myself and many clients - whether they be elite athletes, executives or people looking to really live life and get the most out if it - is that it’s well worth the effort. Once clarified and established it provides a huge, stable anchor and ongoing reference point for all thoughts, decisions, actions and outcomes. Of course it can also change and evolve, so there’s no need to feel it has to be perfect, set in stone forever. Rather, a work in progress.
So in the meantime, my solution is to choose another cycling event to work toward. But for you, go ahead, ask yourself the question………