Friday, December 31, 2010

Staying Focused

Most of my quality thinking happens on the bike. It's often a big chunk of my day and I look forward to that time. Something about being on a bike, often alone, on a quiet road gives you the opportunity to just be alone with your thoughts.

I've been in Chicago for the past week visiting family. While it's has been a lot of fun catching up with people training has not. Partly because I'm a cold weather sissy and partly because the roads are icy and not totally clear (for my liking anyway), I've been spending some quality time on the rollers.

My teammate Sam is actually the expert in this area, but I'm going to go ahead and discuss it anyway. Riding rollers is tough. It's tough to get focused and stay focused while you're going nowhere. The feeling of being a gerbil on a wheel is definitely present- riding your bike, staring at a wall, or a TV, listening to your iPod and not covering any actual ground. Time slows to a crawl and you notice everything- the seam of your sock is twisted, your chamois cream is cold, bar tape isn't perfectly wrapped anymore. All these things seem to have neon signs drawing attention to the "problem" that needs to be fixed. Outside on the road, these things all go unnoticed.

I have two tricks that help me get through roller rides, and they're actually contradictory. First, turn your brain off. Get into a Zen-like mental state where you sort of turn your brain off and just ride. You're not aware of anything, yet completely self aware- you don't want to fall off the rollers- during your ride. The rhythm of your cadence, heartbeat and breathing all help to get into groove. Soon enough, you're done!

The second, is to think about everything! It's like going on an adventure in your head- Yes, that can be scary at times- but just start in one place and, like a conversation, follow the path. Don't force anything. Think about wherever your mind takes you. This method is how I get to thinking about outer space, the confines of space, how many other planets have life and why haven't we made contact with them, who are the people in my life that I should get back in contact with, what my grandmother is doing this weekend and so on. Everything leads to something else, and you may find that you get quite a bit of good, quality thinking done in that time.

Like riding your bike, it takes training to get to the point where you can either turn your brain off, or turn it on warp speed. If you're like most Americans, you'll probably have the weather for lots of quality roller time this winter. Stick it out, it'll pay off in the spring when you're out on the road and killing it. Happy riding!

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