CYCLING, AN EXPRESSION OF HOPE

By Dan Proulx, Head Coach for Cycling Canada’s National Mountain Bike Team

Given the rapidly changing landscape in every area of life, it’s hard to know if the words here will seem wise in a week, a month or a year’s time. For now, all we can do is control the controllable – so I’ll write to you with ideas about cycling based on where we are today.

The pandemic crisis gives everyone reason to pause and reflect on what truly matters in life. For many of you, there might be a sudden affirmation that cycling is one of the things that makes your life wonderful. It keeps you fit, allows you to reduce stress and maintains physical and mental wellness. It may even help strengthen your immune system. Beyond those benefits, you may have suddenly realized how much freedom and joy cycling gives you – even on your hardest days.

The current pandemic is a chance to reflect on all the good that cycling does for the mind, body and spirit. A friend of mine who is a very good cyclist and works as a nurse in an intensive care unit said, “Things are ramping up, but manageable at the moment…not sure what lays ahead. Trying to keep a training routine up for some stability and an outlet outside of the chaos of work.”

A National Team athlete shared, “Cycling has always been my way of coping with stress. I don’t know what I would do without it.”

In my work with Dr. David J. Smith (“Doc”) at the Canadian Sport Institute in Calgary, we’ve talked about the current situation creating a natural element of grief for some athletes; the events they had been aiming for are cancelled or postponed and the routine of daily training has been altered. It’s normal for athletes to experience some low energy right now. It’s normal to feel a little uninspired. The most important thing is to be okay with that – knowing that in a couple of weeks you’ll likely feel better and will want to get back to dreaming and planning for future cycling success. Don’t force things at the moment – if you need to take a break, do it now because we might have a jam-packed calendar when cycling eventually resumes.

At the end of the day cycling, for most of us, is so much more than racing and training. Cycling is in our blood and it’s a part of who we are. Cycling is something that brings us joy and creates positive energy that we share with others. The bike is an expression of hope – it’s our paint brush – a way to express ourselves on an endless canvas of roads and trails. Even in a self-isolation situation, indoor cycling is our mental escape and a connection to our dreams. It elevates our physical and mental well-being. It simply makes us feel good.

If you’re stuck indoors, use this time to gain fitness with some great trainer workouts. As our Mental Performance Coach at the Canadian Sport Institute Pacific, Sharleen Hoar expressed: “Revisit your goals. Maintain a schedule. Check in with teammates and members of your cycling community. Build belief in yourself by reviewing all the work you’ve done to get here. Look for positives in this situation. Control the controllables and let go of the rest.”

If there is anything that sport and cycling has taught us, it’s that we can get through anything. The lessons on resilience that we’ve learned in sport will carry us through life’s tough moments. Cycling has taught us to be strong, to believe in ourselves, to believe in others and to trust that everything always works out as it should.

Whenever the pandemic ends, I’m confident that cycling will be more popular than ever. The current situation shows us that life is precious and that it should be enjoyed to the fullest extent possible. When it’s safe to do so, there will be nothing better or more important than taking the time to go play on your bike.

My friend who works in ICU added, “I don’t think I took racing or training for granted before, but when this is over, it’s all going to be savoured more than ever before.”

With optimism things will get better. We’ll get there together!

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