Process, Process, Progress

Learning How To Ride [#2]

Can you become a good, but really good, cyclist when you didn’t start early or have a previous career in ski-jumping. That’s the journey we’re on. Within this series I will write about every step of the way. In the second episode I will discuss the goals I have in mind.

Training like a pro in order to turn pro. This seems very logical right?! But it’s not why I am doing it. Don’t get me wrong, I would absolutely love to race and ride my bike all over the world professionally. But it’s not the end-goal. Sounds weird? Let me explain.

The Stoic Dichotomy of Control

Stoic philosopher Epictetus once said: “Somethings are up to us and some are not up to us”. A seemingly straightforward observation. For example, while I am writing these lines it’s raining heavily regardless of my preference for the sun to shine. I don’t have any control over it. The same Epictetus would argue that you should only concern yourself with those things that are actually up to you. Again, quite straightforward. But how many times do we worry about stuff that is not ‘up to us’. We worry about the weather during our holiday. We worry whether or not our favorite sports team will win. -The latter applies to me A LOT-

Back to cycling. I can safely state that trying to become a pro cyclist also is not completely up to me. I can train my ass off but there still is quite a big chance I won’t make it. For arguments sake let’s say I still defined turning pro as my main goal and didn’t care about anything else. Let’s walk through the scenarios: 

Option one: Despite all my hard work and dedication I do not succeed in turning pro. 

This will probably leave me feeling quite upset. 

Option two: I get lucky, despite that it wasn’t fully within my control, I get what I wanted: I turned pro. 

Hurray! I won’t feel upset, amazing! However -yup there is a catch- during the process of turning pro I probably experienced some level of anxiety. Since I wanted something but wasn’t sure whether or not I was going to get it. So setting this type of goal will probably affect me even if I succeed.

Internalizing My Goals

Okay, dear Stoics, sounds good, however as examined before, trying to become a pro cyclist is not completely up to me. Should I therefore refrain from putting any effort into it?! No. At least, that is not the lesson I draw from it. No, I should put the effort in, however rather than focussing on the outcome I should solely focus on those elements over which I do have complete control. I should internalize my goals. – Note that I am merely sharing my own thoughts. So when I say ‘should’ by no means do I mean anyone else should do this as well. This is my mindset, this works for me, you do what works for you.

So the better option would be to internalize my goals. Since yeah, I don’t have complete control over whether or not I turn pro but I sure do have some influence. If I would only ride my bike when I can show off my freshly shaven legs in the sun I can forget it. But if I train as hard as I can at least I will up the chances. So I shouldn’t give up and I shouldn’t worry about the outcome either. Just focussing on what I can do is enough.

Therefore my goal is to train to the best of my ability. That’s it. Training to the best of my ability in order to become the best possible cyclist I can be. 

Instead of merely focussing on the outcome or my progress I focus on the process. The rest will follow. Process, process, progress. If I know I trained to the best of my ability no outcome can affect my mood. 

Fooling Myself

After you’ve read this you might be thinking that it’s just a psychological trick and that my actual -unrealistic- goal is to turn pro. To those I say: maybe. However even if it’s a mind game, it’s a useful one. It will help me lose any existing anxiety. Which will cause me to be more focussed and happier at the same time. Why wouldn’t I want that?! Moreover, isn’t that what cycling is about: fooling yourself. Telling yourself you can hang onto the wheel in front a little longer and surely the pace will drop. 

Besides, I admit that I would be over the moon if I still were to be able to turn pro. Nonetheless I also know that I actually love the process of training and learning about my body’s physiology. So whatever the outcome may be I sure am going to enjoy the ride.

So that’s the goal: merely training to the best of my ability. Next up I will discuss several tests I took in order to determine my real physiological starting point.

Ride Along!

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