Why I energize… there is no scale of measurement but from within…
I ride for fitness, the sport itself, or an exhilarating thrill, or is there a more profound balance within that which actually benefits your mental well-being here? For me, I am convinced, excluding the science facts that exist behind it all, that cycling keeps my mental wellbeing in a state where I can actually cope mentally. Everyone wakes up in the morning with a different scale of balance between work, life, family, money, peer pressures, etc. Most of us have the balance weighted against us, none of us are equal and nobody should ever be judged by this. The balance is set at your level and only you can move it. It’s incredible how some people find a way, from inside, to just keep themselves at the same levels as they ended the day before. The imbalances can be weighty and there is no scale or measurement to this but from within.
So, is cycling the answer? After around 20 minutes into a ride, our bodies produce neurochemicals such as serotonin and dopamine that are attributed to painkillers. Increased blood flow into the brain helps its reactivity to stress as well as increased communication in the brain to the limbic system, which controls motivation and mood. Exercise also helps self-esteem, anxiety, and depression. And you know what, all you really need to do it get on a bike to achieve all of this. No gym or apps can really replicate a short ride on a bike on a regular basis with all that free fresh air and a chance to just empty your mind of the stress and strain of life itself. You get a chance to hear yourself. The chance to clear through all that noise and hear what your mind really has to say. Yes for me it’s that deep as I’ve found many routes through complicated issues for work-related issues on a cycling commute. Well let’s be honest here too, it takes some willpower to actually get on the bike too some mornings before 7 am, but once I do, there are zero regrets. And you know what, you don’t even have to commute. A lunchtime ride, an evening ride, or even a regular weekend spin is enough.
I won’t forget finding CMHA’s Calgary’s Ride Don’t Hide event in 2019, where I signed up for the 105kms (there are varying lesser ride distances, but I am a keen road cyclist and therefore am able to do physically achieve that distances). It was my first long ride of the year and yes, I had trained for it, mostly indoor due to the snow, and I could feel the pressure and dark clouds in my head again after a long Winter. This supported ride was more than just a physical challenge, it was my mental toughness pouring out over those kms to a point when I hit the 100kms mark, exhausted as I’d given it everything, my emotions let off that pressure relief valve. It was that release that cleared those clouds. It was that release that bought back the balance that had pushed me under my bar through the Winter. I arrived at the finish line a different person, literally. It was like pushing through an invisible barrier inside my head. So I get the science and I get the facts and I apply them to my ride them out to help me keep things in perspective.
Let’s be honest Winter was a struggle. No riding and the loss of that vent mechanism for me was a real challenge. Those dark mornings and evenings… my personality changes, literally. And you know what, this year I joined a group called Bike Calgary. They are like-minded cyclists working for the people of Calgary as an advocacy group, but with a difference, in that they are so diverse in what they do and how they do things in the Winter! They made me realize that Winter cycling was indeed possible and for next to nothing in cost too (a road bike rider that couldn’t see through anything other than my road bike!). So I bought a cheap mountain bike off of Kijiji and within a week I was riding again. That week I was back to doing what I love, I felt great, my mind was relaxed and for the first time in February, I could feel the stress of life wash around me. There are so many groups out there willing to help you start-up in so many communities. It’s amazing the help that’s out there to get anyone started and this can be found by just using a search engine or the Bike Calgary forums.
I can tell you from my life experience that cycling is better than any drug, any treatment, and can be so easy to do with little assistance or cost. The only thing stopping you is you! The side effects are a work-out for your brain, your core, a possible soaking from the passing shower (this can be avoided let’s be fair) and some fresh air and of course our wonderful scenery. The benefits are amazing and there is a sense of community within cyclists that you just don’t see elsewhere. The nod of the head, a thumbs up, and even a “hi” in the mornings can just lift you to another level. So, if you are struggling to balance that mental well-being if the clouds are gathering or are already there, reach out, give it a try. There are many community programs there to help you, including CMHA, who can get you started, with no stigma, marks, badge, or stains, just welcoming help. What have you got to lose by moving that internal bar up?