I started planning and writing an article a few weeks ago, but then the world decided to unfortunately turn on its head with the outbreak of COVID-19. No one could have forecast or understood the global impact this has had so far.
Ironically the article I started writing was about indoor training, how to get started, a range of turbo trainers and training tools to help improve your performance when out on the road. I’ll save that for another time as we have more pressing matters right now.
Speaking to a friend of mine who is an excellent mechanic in a cycle shop, they have sold a significant amount of turbo trainers, far exceeding normal sales levels, with many cyclists ensuring they had some form of training before the lockdown commenced.
While indoor training is important (certainly to cyclists at all levels), training requires motivation, and if we are not in a mentally good place then there is a strong chance it isn’t going to happen.
To my generation and a few generations before me, this global challenge is unprecedented, only those who lived through or have been involved in a war and are still alive to tell the tales today understand the hardships of such chaos, although as tragic as this global epidemic is, it’s nowhere near the scale of previous world wars.
That said this doesn’t take away the struggles we are facing, going from such freedom and now to the very necessary lockdown, which is undoubtedly having an impact on our mental health or potentially will do as the weeks carry on with travel restrictions in place.
Cycling can be a real fantastic mix, from some who choose solo rides, to others who look forward to their weekly fix of meeting with their fellow club riders at the weekend with their intake of coffee and cake at the halfway point, to the hardcore racers, or the amazing selection of British cycling events and other Sportives that happen throughout the year.
This has and justifiably, all been placed on hold, ensuring we abide by the government rules, social distancing and preventing the spread of the virus, most importantly taking the burden off our many front-line heroes such as the NHS.
Due to this, it has significantly changed our weekly routines.
With this change at the forefront of our minds, I wanted to focus on mental health and how do we maintain this.
Did you know that approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem, and in England alone 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem (such as anxiety or depression)?
How do we combat this, and despite all the issues, how do we as cyclists maintain some form of exercise and/or the motivation behind it all?
Humans are all very individual and it’s a case of different strokes for different folks, but one key commonality as human beings (in my view) which unites us, is we like routine.
While our normal everyday lives have been completely flipped, salvaging a level of normality and routine has never become so important.
When Boris Johnson made his announcement on the lockdown, but still stating people should go out for a walk or cycle to maintain fitness and mental health I almost leapt from the sofa. I punched the air with my fist shouting YES! While the wife just looked at me like I was an idiot (she’s partly right, but then knows I am completely obsessed with cycling and the abundance of bikes for different seasons).
The normal routine had been changed with not being able to cycle with friends, hitting the cycling cafés, racing at the weekends or attending this year’s local cycling club Time Trial event, but I can still get out, once a day and put some miles in. I was relieved!
We take a lot of things for granted, worrying about problems which in the grand scheme of things can be trivial and aren’t really problems, certainly in the current climate, or in this case just going out when we want to.
Lockdown can be hard, but it’s never been so critical to get out now, solo of course.
While indoor turbo training was continuing, the importance of riding outside had suddenly been elevated.
Our routines have changed but salvaging something and staying partly on track can give a huge boost to our mental wellbeing.
After being in the house, working at home, I realised I hadn’t been outside my door for 4 days. During this time I was still adjusting and trying to digest so much information that was being presented on the news and various social media sources. Many others such as friends, family and fellow riders were also experiencing the same.
Routine needed to happen, with that in mind my Garmin and lights were charged, bike prepped and out I went. A perfect although unusually warm sunny March afternoon, away from work and social media doom and gloom, I have never appreciated the outside so much, just me, the bike (quiet roads) and enjoying the views.
I came across the odd cyclist on my route, giving the usual nod or wave of my hand as I always do, as we passed each other almost telepathically agreeing that this both felt great to be outside.
Amidst my excitement of getting back home, making sure my ride uploaded to Strava of course, that sense of normality and routine instantly flowed, immediately lifting the stresses of being so heavily confined.
Having such a good ride I shared this on a Facebook cycling group, only to realise so many others had got out also, sharing the same level of enthusiasm, excitement and a sense of normality had been achieved.
Routine had been maintained and I felt mentally recharged.
These are challenging times, and there is no doubt we will get through this together, but look out for your family, friends and fellow riders.
If you don’t do so already, start to engage in cycling groups on social media, chat with your cycling friends on WhatsApp, even setup up virtual racing on Zwift or other training tools, it can be a great source to have a laugh. Whatever it takes to make things feel normal, be social, as human contact even virtually is proven to create positivity and wellbeing.
If you do need more help a great place to start is the Samaritans. More info can be found here www.samaritans.org
Keep talking and stay safe.
Column by Cycling Advice