Forget The Gipper

"I hear the call to do nothing and am doing my best to answer it."
“I hear the call to do nothing and am doing my best to answer it.”

Things have been rough on the riding front this year. Lung infection, injuries, high work loads, family needs, etc. I’m about 1,500 miles behind where I was last year at this time. I don’t say this for sympathy; I say this because all the reasons mentioned are valid reasons to not ride. The problem? I feel guilty for not riding.

See, at some point, without realizing it, I crossed over to a dark road. Riding went from something I wanted to do to something I had to do. It became a requirement. Worse, it became a chore.

  • If I didn’t ride with the my race team, I felt like I was letting down the team; whenever I did ride with them, I felt I was just holding them back.
  • If I didn’t ride with my casual team, I felt like I was not being a good supporter of the other riders on that team.
  • If I didn’t ride on my own, I felt like I was wasting opportunities to ride, stay in shape, burn calories, clear my mind.

So every time there was an opportunity to ride (or even when I couldn’t) and I didn’t, I felt like I was letting everyone down, including myself.

Now, I grew up Catholic, and if anyone knows how to do guilt, it’s the Catholics. So it was easy to blame myself for not riding. But here’s the deal, folks: you can’t ride because someone says you should ride. You can’t ride because others are riding. There’s only one valid reason to ride, and that’s because YOU want to.

A large part of the problem is the new, digitally social aspects of riding. Used to be if you were sitting at home on a beautiful Saturday morning, drinking your coffee (maybe typing a blog post), you might think, “Hey, maybe I should go for a ride?” But your exhaustive week overrides this, and you say, “Nah, I’ll just relax today (and maybe keep typing).”

Let's give this some perspective.
Let’s give this some perspective.

By then your mind is on cycling, so you open up Strava. Can’t hurt to check out what your friends are doing at least, right? There before you is massive list of activities: riders doing little commuting jaunts, spirited team rides, epic tours, races in every state… it looks like it never ends!

Every @#$% rider you know seems to be out doing what you decided not to do. Your Strava feed becomes a list of everything you could’ve done, were you just motivated enough to get off your lazy ass. Before Strava? You’d have never known. Your decision to stay home insulated you from the decisions of others who chose to go out.

So, maybe you avoid opening Strava. Instead, you jump on Facebook. What are the top 1,000 posts? People tracking their walks, their runs, their bike rides, their stair climbs, their bowel movements. All with Likes, Kudos™, FistBumps®, High5s©, ThumbsUpsδ²… and none for you, sitting at your desk, drinking your coffee (and maybe typing a blog post).

The same mechanisms that were put into place as motivators are now taunting you. You’re not getting those little shots of dopamine with every supportive click. Like the Soup Nazi, “NO CLICKS FOR YOU!” We’ve been conditioned to want the clicks. To need the clicks. WE HAVE TO HAVE THE CLICKS!!!

[This post momentarily interrupted while the author goes to Facebook to post a cat photo so he can receive Likes.]

My bike is so aero, you can't see it head-on!
My bike is so aero, you can’t see it head-on!

Okay, I’m back. Where was I? Oh, yeah, not riding. Ever hear the phrase, “Do it for the Gipper”?

First of all, I’ve got no clue who’d want to be called “Gipper.” But ignoring that, don’t do it for the whoever that is. They can’t want it more than you. They can’t want it for you. You’ve gotta want it. We’re not paid to ride; it’s not our day job. We’re not letting down legions of fans, or fellow racers, or riders, or whatever. We’re not even letting down ourselves. It is a choice. And it’s one that we should never feel bad about.

If you want to ride, ride. If you don’t, don’t. It’s that simple. Let the rest of the riding world do what they will, and get back on the bike when you’re ready. Not before.