by Vanessa McCracken
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I tore my Achilles tendon in early May, which means I’ve been off the bike for a few months now. When people find out, they invariably ask, “Oh, do you miss riding?” Yes, of course I do! But luckily, my bike has taught me a few lessons over the years, and I think I’m handling the situation pretty well.
Here are the Top Ten Life Lessons I’ve learned from my bike:
10. Every ride is a blessing. This isn’t the first time injury has forced me off the bike, and I learned the last time never to take a bike ride for granted. Every ride is truly a blessing. I’m thankful for every pedal stroke. The same goes for life, of course. Every day is a blessing, whether I’m hurt and off the bike or not. I try not to take my days for granted, even the ones that (gasp) don’t include a bike ride!
9. Constant effort pays off. If I am training for a big ride, I know that I need to ride consistently leading up to it, or it’ll be more difficult than it has to be. That means putting in some miles on days I’d rather hit snooze, or making riding a priority in my otherwise crazy schedule. With the injury, I know that I need to be consistent about my rehab in order to heal, which means doing the work I need to do even when I don’t feel like it, or feel like I can’t fit it in. It also helps me remember to diligently keep my attitude in check. Whenever my mind strays to the negative, I try to quickly reset it to something positive. This gets easier the more regular I am with it.
8. If you fall down, get up, dust yourself off and get back on. If there’s one thing I’ve learned mountain biking, it’s this (in fact, I’ve learned this one over and over and over again): Resilience and tenacity serve me well in life, too. Life is going to knock me down now and then, but I know that when it does, I will get up, dust myself off, and get going again.
7. Sometimes, even the most carefully-planned route will have detours. I have done rides with turn-by-turn instructions carefully figured out, only to run into a detour on the route. When this happens, I can only stay calm and find the best alternate route to get me to my destination. When detours in life happen, all I can do is stay calm and figure out my Plan B (or C, or D, or…you get the point).
6. You need to refuel or you’ll bonk. This is a hard lesson to learn on the bike. If you don’t refuel on a long ride, you will eventually feel completely depleted and run out of the energy needed to finish. I find a similar thing happens to me in life. If I don’t take time for myself to read or spend time outside in nature, then I completely run out of energy and struggle to complete mundane tasks. My spirit needs to be refueled, or I’ll fall short. This has been a big priority for me while healing, since riding is one of my biggest sources of fuel.
5. Rides don’t always go smoothly. Oh boy, this is a big one! I’ve been on a ride and gotten four flats. I’ve run out of water. I’ve cried. I’ve gotten lost. I’ve forgotten my winter apparel and froze. My back has gone out. The list goes on and on, but one thing is true for all of them: I completed the ride. I know that life will not always go smoothly, but I also know that I will endure and adapt and do what I need to do to finish.
4. Don’t forget to look up from your computer. It is easy to get wrapped up in my miles or my average speed, but I try very hard to not be staring down at my cycling computer all the time. I want to enjoy the camaraderie of the people I’m riding with, and experience every aspect of the ride to its fullest. I also want to be able to look ahead and anticipate any problems or dangers! In life, I can easily get caught up in work, work, work. It’s important for me to step away from my computer and my phone now and then, so that I can be fully present and live my life to its fullest.
3. Don’t go so fast you miss the beauty all around you. It is easy to get so engrossed in your performance on the bike that you miss things. I’ve learned on the bike to always take time to appreciate the way the sun is hitting the hillside, or the sounds of the river flowing as we ride by, or the wildflowers and dry grass dancing in the breeze. Life can get crazy, and I make an effort to slow down enough to appreciate the loveliness all around me. These small moments of gratitude help keep my perspective straight.
2. The harder the climb, the greater the reward. Climbing a tough hill is a mental challenge as well as a physical one. Whenever climbing a long, steep hill, I usually find myself asking, “Why am I doing this?” To which I reply, “Because you can. Because you like to challenge yourself. Because you want to get stronger. Because why not? Because when you’re done, you are going to feel amazing!” And it’s true; when I’m done, I feel amazing. And the harder the climb, the more rewarding it is. Same thing in life, right? The bigger the personal challenge, the greater the reward is waiting for us on the other side of it. We just have to keep going, and not stop pedaling until we reach the summit.
1. I Am Stronger Than I Think I Am. This is the biggest lesson my bike has taught me. I’ve done more on my bike than I ever dreamed I would. I am not a naturally athletic person, and yet I’ve ridden centuries, and climbed hills, and done hundreds of rides over the years. I’m not a daredevil, and yet I fell in love with downhill mountain biking a few years ago. I am shy to try new things, and yet I’ve raced cyclocross and done a triathlon. I’ve kept riding when I thought I couldn’t pedal one more stroke, I’ve refused to quit when I was scared to keep going, and I’ve pushed myself out of my comfort zone to share my love of riding with others. My bike has taught me how to silence the voice of doubt when it starts whispering in my ear, and it has reminded me over and over again of my strength on the bike and off.
I am continuously learning from my experiences and those of others. I’d love to know what are some lessons you have learned from your bike.
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