For the past few weeks, I’ve been running the marathon of daily life. And like the most challenging race courses, it’s had it’s ups and downs. Mostly, I’ve been heading straight into the wind, with a disc wheel, getting tossed, blown, and jaded as each mile goes by.
And a few Fridays ago, when I felt myself reaching the point of all systems overload and ready to shut down, I said that was it, headed home, and hopped on my bike.
It was time for some cyclotherapy.
I went out for a light, leisurely ride through low traffic, suburban streets, a place where I could find some peace, some quiet, some time to just be with my own thoughts.
With each pedal stroke, the problems of the day began to fade. My mind begins to empty and all of the unnecessary energy pent up in problems and other people gets redirected more appropriately, productively into my legs.
My Cannondale feels smooth and light. It is almost as if my arms are extensions of the bars and my feet are made of pedals. Riding this bike right now feels so right that I feel sad it will only last 1 hour, in a day of 23 hours often filled with the manic frenzy of the work, people, and workouts that make up my daily life.
I make the turn into the residential neighborhoods. They are quiet, they are still. Everyone is at work and I am taking possession of their streets as I take my turns wide and make uninterrupted loops around their lanes, drives, and cul-de-sacs. With houses lined in rows along the streets, I hide from the south wind and sneak in my ride before clouds signal a stormfront approaching.
I listen to my favorite sound – wheels on pavement. It is a steady rhythm that comforts and quiets my mind. I could fall asleep here, on these roads, in this position as the problems of the day melt away into 100 revolutions per minute at 17 miles per hour.
This ride was not about riding fast, or riding far. It was just about the ride. It was about the sanctity, the freedom, the feeling of being in control of my own body. It was about the power of pushing my own body through space and time without regard to anyone else. It was about me. There is no shame in the selfishness of this ride. If these 60 minutes make me 60 times more tolerable at work or home then it is worth my time. I think of how shameful, instead, it is when people do not sacrifice to take time for themselves and only end up hurting themselves or others because they are too overwhelmed, or overworked, or overdone.
When did our personal leisure and pursuits become only an expression of our self-centeredness? Why can we not leave work for an hour to recharge ourselves in whatever way serves ourselves best? Why does work on myself become construed as a waste of time away from my real work? And who’s to say which type of work is more or less important?
What if it is about the power of now – the power of being present in the now, in feeling the world around you, in being aware of yourself in the space you surround. What better place to find this than on your bike, as your balance yourself and find your way through the wind and along the streets.
My ride takes an existential turn as I try to resolve these questions and monitor for driveways, traffic, stop signs, and squirrels. With each mile, I get closer to myself, closer to solving these problems. And I get closer to home. My 60 minutes is up with the only cost being that of my time. And in exchange for peace of mind, 60 minutes seems like a small price to pay.
As I pull into my driveway and dismount my bike, I feel far more relaxed, energized, and ready to go. And though my cyclotherapy session has ended, my day has been renewed and has just begun.