Facing the Uphill: This Sport Will Make You More Successful

Successful CyclistI do not know what is more prevalent, bumper stickers of Crossfit gyms or the distance someone have run. While I’m not discounting anyone’s’ poison, but there’s only one sport in my adult years that has influenced my professional life –I’m more successful due to it. It has also put to me to the ground, praying to a higher being to end the misery.

I’m talking, chest exploding, body buckling, questioning whether to call emergency services.

In my many years of being a dumb jock, cycling is the one sport that forced me to exert the explosiveness of strength and the endurance of slow-twitching. So, if you haven’t check Strava for who holds the “KOM’s” around you, benchmarked your VO2 max, or traveled distances in a single day usually left up to an automobile, you haven’t discovered the sensation of clipping peak performance.

The thought of riding a bike may seem childish and even weird with grown men in spandex. Yet, what you learn about yourself on the road can make the difference in your career:

Dealing with stress

I’ll spare you the science behind lactic acid build-up from high-intensity training or the nutrition needs to keep the body from “bonking” when going the distance. They are just at opposite ends of the spectrum when training, but on a bike, both graces its presence. And are applicable to the stress in your professional life.

Example: sprinting to meet a deadline vs. sustaining equanimity in an icky work environment. There’s a saying in cycling, “It never gets easier, you just go faster.” It’s not about the alleviation of stress or pain; it’s becoming more effective during these periods.

I think we can agree that work stress will never go away. But how you respond in the face of environmental factors influences the success of professional and personal objectives.

Learning to better manage myself while being exposed to either or both ends of the spectrum has enabled me to exceed previous performance. Cycling helps build the capacity to meet challenges in uncomfortable conditions.

Self-Awareness

The first and last time I “bonked” (where your muscles shut down from lack of glucose/sugar) I was on the backside of my first “long” ride (40 miles or about 2+ hours). About 10-miles to go, my legs felt super heavy. With 8-miles to go, I could barely peddle. The last 5-miles, I walked barefoot.

When I got to my car, I immediately called my sister –an Ironman. Told her what happened in an embarrassed sigh. Her first question “did you eat.” EAT!? You don’t eat when working out. I barely finished my water bottle. She laughed at me so hard; apparently eating (and drinking) is a thing.

As a cyclist, you become acutely in-tune with your body –being constantly hydrated and a focus on nutrition pre, during, and post. You will start to feel on and off the bike your body’s state.

If you start to ride in a club, you will identify what level rider you are and told of improvements needed to lift abilities. Cyclists are not known for their charm. Riding in a group in itself requires an acumen to be a safe and courtesy. Joining a ride outside of your talent will have you holding up the group as they wait or being “dropped” (left behind), miles out and in the middle of nowhere. Both suck.

The reoccurring principle is self-awareness. Developing the skill to be self-evident of your mental and physical state provides joy –confidence in contribution. Your performance will vary on any given day but to have self-assurance that you delivering your best will offer poise. This also aids to having equilibrium in group dynamics. Working effectively in a group setting is being conscious of where your strengths lie, when to allow peer support, and unguarded against feedback or input.

Preserving this balance was a turning point in my career and a major factor in building relationships and friendships. Whether leading a team or contributing as an individual, this approach is the footing of trust. I gained conviction in my POV but the respect for- and openness to the group.

Facing the Uphill

If anything, cycling we teach you to face uphill battles. The moxie of any rider will be shown when climbing. Give too much power at a low cadence, your risk having your legs fold before the top. Or low power, high cadence you chance prematurely running out of gas.

The anxiety of rides are any unknown hills. Ones that you haven’t ever ridden. You don’t know where the high gradients are within a climb or where it levels off for a quick breather. You have no strategy of attack. But at some point, every cyclist mismanages a hill and are forced out of the saddle to take a walk of shame to the top.

Your career is a long ride with a bunch of hills. Some are rolling and some are nasty, that offer no sight of the crest. Riding improves your ability to traverse; when to sit and spin, and when to stand, using all your power.

The advancing of cyclists to the next category is typically determined by hills. You can incrementally improve your holding speed on flats. But it’s to mutually increase cadence and power going uphill, is what separates riders.The thrill of a racing down a hill at 50mph on a wheel as wide a finger. And the agony associated with climbing back up. Riding the speed limit of motored vehicle on backroads. Or digging deep to fight a headwind. This sport requires no membership cost –just payment of pain.

If you need a kick in the butt or to push through a ceiling, clip-in. It’s an investment to your health but can also support career growth. But let me offer some tips to avoid looking like a noob:

  • Don’t wear underwear underneath your bibs.
  • Use water bottles, not hydration packs.
  • Rides over an hour, pack a lunch (or “gummies”).
  • Cyclists take reimbursement of advice and supplies by beer.
  • Apply butt paste.

If you have any other tips for new riders or ways cycling has proven to made you more successful in your career, leave them in the comments.

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