Joe Nally and five other cyclists are keeping rider journals for The British Continental this season. The 20-year-old Scot, a former Great Britain Cycling Team Senior Academy rider, races for Vitus Pro Cycling p/b Brother UK. This is Joe’s fourth journal entry…
Going out on a bike presents a blissful opportunity to dip into the deepest depths of the imagination and escape the stress of daily life
Riding a bike allows the imagination to run wild.
That beautiful mixture of freedom and lack of interruption experienced while out on a ride is difficult to replicate elsewhere to the same degree. Quality personal time is elusive, but going out on a bike presents a blissful opportunity to dip into the deepest depths of the imagination and escape the stress of daily life.
Alongside the headspace, the sweet hit of dopamine that comes from cycling has many positive effects, one of which is increased creativity. An average club cyclist might get around ten hours of this per week, but professionals do consistent 25 hour weeks, so the overall time working the grey matter adds up.
Due to this fact, I have always been confused that the cycling world isn’t full of philosophers. So much time spent merely thinking should lead to some breakthroughs eventually? That must be the law of averages.
Don’t just take my word for it. It’s widely known that Albert Einstein came up with his ground breaking theory of relativity while riding his bike. This doesn’t surprise me. You often return home after a ride to realise that you were out much longer than you expected. In a way, I see similarities between myself and Einstein. During training I also ponder life’s toughest questions in a vague attempt to make the next scientific or philosophical breakthrough. What is the meaning of life? Why are we here? Why did the chicken cross the road?
Another fun pastime that keeps me distracted is when my brain decides to play an annoying song on repeat for an entire training session or relive horrible, cringy, teenage memories. An especially embarrassing one that reoccurs regularly is from when I was rooming with a team mate who I didn’t know particularly well at the time. On the first night, deep inside the action of an intensely vivid dream about my house being burgled I had to sound the alarm and, in order to do so, my in-dream consciousness decided to shout at the top of his voice. This resulted in actual, real world shouting which – I only found out when his dad questioned me in private the next day – woke both of us up.
Calum, if you read this, please know that it was a freak event and the memory has kept me awake at night for years.
In reality my rides are mostly filled with thoughts of how amazing/awful the weather is, as well as how much I love what I do or the occasional question about my sanity. When my imagination is allowed the chance to run wild it rarely produces anything useful. I guess I’m no Einstein after all.
For the past two seasons, I have accidentally let everything get on top of me and only managed to notice when it blew up in my face
As a full-time cyclist it’s easy to lose the magic every now and then. When cycling causes your stress, you can understandably struggle to get the same release as people with a more casual approach to the sport. For the past two seasons, I have accidentally let everything get on top of me and only managed to notice when it blew up in my face. It’s a bad habit – I’m working on it.
My coach would advise me to take a few days and do what I need to sort out my head. Both years I shot out the house on my bike the next day, pockets packed to the brim with food and followed my nose. What ensued were eight and nine-hour rides in which I planned to empty the tank and hit the metaphorical reset button.
The trick is to go solo, find some quiet roads in the middle of nowhere and start exploring. I’m not sure why it works so well for me, but I started those two rides with a head full of clouded thoughts and poor, illogical judgement. By the end, I was a noticeably happier, sharper person who could act rationally with some proper clarity on my situation.
All the uninterrupted time alone inside my mind eventually forces me to confront my true emotions face on
All the uninterrupted time alone inside my mind eventually forces me to confront my true emotions face on – not hide away from them. A scary task at the best of times, but made slightly easier as I coast through the Pyrenees on an adventure through both the real and imaginary world. As the tiredness creeps in, the noise settles down and I end up experiencing some minor exhaustion induced epiphany. When I finally finish, delirious and broken, I have vast amounts of newfound motivation and feel ready to build myself back up, stronger than before.
Your imagination is a magical thing – so whether you are uncovering the secrets of the universe, cringing from an awkward memory or just in need of a little head space, make sure to let it run free.
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