bike

Are you ready to take it to the next level?

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There are three killer hills at the end of my favorite bike ride and each one is bigger and steeper than the previous one. There comes a point, about two-thirds of the way up, when this phrase runs through my head.

You gotta put something into it to get something out of it….

It’s what gets me up the hills. I’ve talked to other people who ride bikes, and most cyclists have some version of this trick. It’s whatever gets you over the hard parts or up the last piece of the climb. Some people count strokes (“I’ll look up when I’ve pedaled 100 times”) some people go through the lyrics of a song before they look up. Whatever it is, it’s a way of marking the intervals in a difficult ascent.

I’m a strong proponent of having a life outside of work. It’s hard to do these days, when you carry your email around in your pocket and everyone’s sense of urgency is easy to absorb. Bicycling is a way for me to be out of touch for a while.

Interestingly, it’s often on a relatively flat stretch of road, while I’m watching the wind bend the grasses into rustling waves, smelling the cows and goats, and hearing the metallic ping of roof repairs on the nearby barn, that the answers to difficult questions appear most clearly.

I enjoy that feeling of calm, being out in the world, and working through things one wheel-turn at a time. With such emphasis on fast answers and immediate information, it’s easy to feel like success should also come in a click – like that good idea that pops out of nowhere. However, like a long bike ride,  we lay the groundwork for our larger ambitions and accomplishments in a million small ways. We have to put something into it.

How?

It helps to have some focus. I have a friend at work who said to me in jest, “my hobby is hobbies.” I knew exactly what she meant. I have a million interests and a million-and-one things on my to-do list at any given moment. It’s been difficult for me to learn to pare back to a more manageable inventory of “projects.” Instead of swearing off all projects, I instituted a simple rule: finish what you started. Or call it over and move on. I was overwhelmed by the number of projects and things I wanted to get to, as well as the things I’d started and didn’t really want to finish. Throw something off your to-do list. It’s liberating. I was not going to be a knitter. It bored me. No matter how many cute projects other people did. And just because I could knit didn’t mean I had to knit. So I donated my yarn and moved on.

Ask yourself: What old ambitions are you holding on to, even though they’re out of date? What do you really want to focus on now?

It helps to develop some habits to support your focus. I used to rush in the mornings to pull together lunches. I was pretty good at talking to my kids over the counter while they ate breakfast, but they weren’t getting my full attention and sometimes I’d forget to bring my own lunch (or wouldn’t have anything to bring.) So I’d plan to just deal with it sometime during the day. Of course, my days weren’t exactly conducive to pulling together impromptu lunches. In a pretty basic switch-up, we now make lunches during or after we make dinner. Note that I didn’t say I, I said we. Which brings me to the third, and most life-changing step for me.

What could you do to open some time for the thing you want to focus on? Can you stop doing something? Designate a time most days for your focus?

Ask for help. My kids are fully capable of making a sandwich, I just wasn’t asking them to. Once it became part of our evening routine, we were enjoying breakfast together and rushing less in the morning. It took more discipline on my part, at first, to ask for help and make sure it became a routine. Once the habit was established, we had an easier time of it. Having that routine set helped me focus on a more personal goal. My favorite time of day to write is first thing in the morning. In order to make that happen, I had to go to bed earlier, set my clock, and ask for help. My husband brings the coffee and gets up with me. His support of the habits I wanted to maintain has been the best motivator when I feel less than energetic (and that’s basically me, pre-coffee.). Find someone who has your back, wants to help you put something into it, and you’ll have double the oomph.

What are you assuming someone won’t help you with? Have you asked? What do you assume you cannot do? Why?

Changing something in your life can feel an awful lot like those last few hills of the bike ride. They’re big, they’re steep, and you’re tired. But each stroke of the pedal brings us closer. When I’m on the hill, the only thing I have to focus on at that moment is putting one foot down, then the other. All those movements together bring us over the top.

What gets you over the hills?

 

 

 

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I like to eat, I like to eat….apples and bananas.

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I needed to pick up some fruit this week for a morning birthday party at the office and I wanted to ride my bike.  I mapped out a route past the nearest grocery store (thankfully we have many) and backed out a little extra time in my morning.  Things went smoothly until I loaded a bag of oranges and a bunch of bananas into my pannier.  And the bike fell over.

Do you have any idea how much fruit weighs?

(hint: it’s heavy)

It made me wonder how my eating habits would change if I had to buy my family’s food this way all the time.  We’d probably eat less, shop more.

But we might just switch to dried fruit.

Strange Bird

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It was chilly this morning when I left on my bike.  I wore a fleece jacket over my tank top and long-sleeved shirt and I still balled myself up into the collar as the wind cut through my layers all the way down the first hill.  Lucky for me, there are a lot of hills, both up and down, between my house and my office, so I quickly switched into standing-up mode and warmed right up.

I’m lucky that I have access to a shower and locker at work – without those I just wouldn’t do it – I also enjoy the feeling of calm and peace of mind at the start of the day.  It’s wonderful.  But I think what I like best is the serendipity of the sites along the way.

Today, I saw:

1. a smooshed snake (small, baby copperhead? hard to tell)

2. a wood thrush up close

and

3.  a guy crashing out of a Magnolia tree.

Yup – that’s right.  A fully grown man came tumbling out of a huge magnolia tree in the yard of a small, white house, breaking several branches on the way down if the sound of cracking limbs was indeed tree-related, as I was inclined to think since he landed on the ground and proceeded to talk rather calmly, given his recent descent, to someone I could not see.

I did see a stepladder nearby, the kind you might unfold in your pantry to reach the old can of camper-stove lighter fluid you stashed three years ago on the top shelf, but no other clues stick in my mental snapshot of the scene.

Explain it?  I can’t.  We just had college graduation yesterday and perhaps he was still…coming down off that experience?  Or maybe he too was inspired by the sunny, cool feeling of potential accomplishment that this morning held and was going to do some yard work?

All I know is I would have driven right by without noticing a thing.

I love riding my bike to work when I can fit it in, which isn’t very often given days that require multiple trips and the general pressures of grocery-dinner-extracurricular-kid life.  But I’m always glad when there’s enough breathing room in my world to pump up the tires and take off.

The bike ride is uphill both ways, but worth it.