Winter is well and truly here and while not having an indoor training device, between working and the shorter days, my cycling is severely affected. My fitness has plummeted, although I am rapidly becoming an Olympic champion at comfort eating; Jealous-ridden at those who have the luxury to cycle through daylight hours and enjoy the crisp frosted landscape. It’s not surprising that I’m itching to get back out and tear up the tarmac once again. It should satisfy me with my brief outings on the occasional weekend, but frankly, it doesn’t satiate my desire to go exploring by bike like I once did.
Instead, I scroll through the online cycling shops and stare at the eye-watering prices of winter kit and how that price hikes up all the more if the kit is both wind and waterproof. Although I have warm attire, my bib tights are not as warm as I thought, since the temperature is now in the minus. I toy to upgrade, but I take a step back and weigh up whether they would be cost effective considering the little time I currently spend on the bike.
These obstacles raises questions of the work life balance, although frequently reported that it is vital for wellbeing and mental health. In reality, we dedicate a large percentage of the day at work, leaving little time to pursue personal interests. I found, while working from home during lockdown, that there was a much improved work life balance. There was a demonstrable difference during the commuting timeframe. Rather than passing the time sat in a car in traffic, it was at that point taken up by early morning walks, cycling and to focus on the things that I enjoyed. My day had become more constructive because of the spikes in my serotonin levels.
I am a big advocate for mental health, especially since modern living has become more complex, more demanding and since our recent financial burdens making our basic needs more unobtainable for some. At some point, I expect that most of us have experienced mental health problems on some level and, being one of those people; I am aware of the subtilty in which it can affect our wellbeing.
As an introverted individual, I value my alone time. Socializing can sometimes become tiring, but as they say, you can have too much of a good thing. Being isolated for long periods affected me even without being aware. I became more anxious about stepping outside and, when it was necessary; I took deep breaths in preparation.
I worked through lockdown, where I used a bike. That sensation of having the wind in my face, the sense of freedom and the pure enjoyment, I immediately became nostalgic and realised how I had missed it. Since then, I have noticed that mental health is rarely spoken about in cycling.
The main themes I have come across encompass environmental issues and the continual battle between cyclists and motorists. I cannot argue that I cycle for environmental reasons as I to own a car and I am also aware of the environmental impact of making and painting a bike. Comparatively, the same problems faced with hybrid and electric cars and the environmental problems incurred through making them.
Whether, over time, cycling outweighs the negatives, I’m unable to say. But what I can say from personal experience is that cycling helped me to regain my confidence in stepping outside once again. It took me away from staring at the four walls and while the sounds of nature, the enjoyment of watching the countryside during those rides provided me with serenity, it was, and remains, a meditative process. Now, I just need to get back out there away from those online cycling shops and those astronomical prices.