Mental Health and Cycling

The excitement rises after being closed up indoors working, I feel the open air greeting me while I hear that satisfying clicking sound as I push my foot into the pedal. From that first push I feel the force of the air intensify, lapping around my face. Freedom forces any stresses of the day to dissolve, I take a deep breath savouring the nourishing country air. The sounds of wildlife flood my ears as I increase my speed, this is it, this is when everything falls into place. Experiencing the present moment noticing how my body is reacting to the exercise, recognising the clarity of my mind and the joy that cycling brings.

I am an advocate of mindful living, I wouldn’t necessarily say that I achieve this all of the time but I consciously work at incorporating it as much as I possibly can. I have learnt that the stresses we experience through life is created either from looking at the past and worrying about what has happened or looking towards the future and worrying about what will happen. All this culminates towards the attempt to control things that cannot be controlled. Although I learnt this years ago, there are times that worry and stress can overtake me, but now I am more conscious and have the ability to shift my focus.

What has this got to do with cycling?

Of all the sports in which I have participated, nothing compares to cycling. The relationship between the rhythm of breathing, the tempo at which you are rotating the pedals and the enjoyment of the speed you are travelling at keeps your mind present. During the time that you have dedicated to your ride, nothing else matters. Everything outside of your immediate ride dissipates. Whether I intend on pushing for a fast ride to test or improve on my time, or whether I intend on pursuing an easy gentle ride, for me the process is the same in that you have to be present in that moment. My focus intensifies and again whether I am intending on reaching a PB (Personal Best) or concentrating more on my surroundings the result is the same, reaching a postive state of mind and a sense of satisfaction. Overall, feeling more centred.

As many blogs about cycling will attest, the resurgence is a response to the last 12-months of Covid restrictions and it is no different for me. I found here in the UK that the last lockdown was especially hard, I had only recently received my road bike and the more I rode it, the more I was looking forward to that time I dedicated to cycling each day. It highlighted something important to my state of mental health and how it can creep up on you. Prior to cycling, I felt ok being in lockdown, I honestly didn’t feel any different. What I hadn’t realised is the state of my mental health, although not severe in anyway, was being impacted through those lockdown periods. Yet, immediately, I realised this as soon as I went out cycling. To this day, that sense of freedom is important to me, it also carves out a time period that is dedicated to me and align myself to what is actually important in this world. No other sport has achieved this!

I’m interested to know what cycling means to you and your experiences while out riding. Has it help change the way you see the world? Please leave a comment below.

2 thoughts on “Mental Health and Cycling

  1. As one who continues to deal with mental health issues I can certainly empathise with your comments and feelings. When I get on my bike and traverse the country lanes here on the West Wales coast, I can only describe it as seemingly losing yourself in another wonderful world! On returning home one’s body and muscles feel great after a shower and one feels happier and much more positive. Without a doubt my greatest discovery and highly addictive, Martina! I enjoy reading your blog. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

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