A bicycle story of resilience…

Where sitting with negative emotions can help you grow.

The relationship with my bike went on a little rollercoaster ride this weekend just gone. On Saturday, after an energising and exciting week in London; I hit the start line of my Cyclocross league race rested and full of confidence – too much confidence. I started really well but when my lap 2 lull arrived and then I took a corner too sharply and fell off, slightly twisting my knee; my lack of mental race preparation kicked in and my inner critic took over and told me not only was my knee hurting more than it really was, but that I just wasn’t doing very well and what was the point?

Taking a tumble on Saturday.

Now I’m a big believer in the principle of ‘what you focus on grows’ as you may well know and so this line of thought just got bigger and stronger until clearly I thought my knee was going to explode with pain and pulled off the race course. 

Of course, as soon as I’d made that ‘can’t go back’ decision, my knee stopped hurting, the regret emotion kicked in and I felt horrific. I’d let myself down and I knew it.

Luckily, my daughter was there to distract me initially and I was able to stop crying and pull myself back to reality, it was only a race right? Well yes, but to me it’s an important part of my life. So I knew I was going to have to unpack what happened later that night. I spent the rest of the afternoon being helped by my team mates to stay in the fun zone and help cheer the boys on round the course. 

Being cheered up by the team!

Once at home, I settled into a nice hot bath and allowed myself to sit with my emotions for a while – it’s not dwelling, it’s allowing yourself to feel what your body and mind wants you to feel. For me this was huge disappointment and frustration in myself.

I don’t often let my inner critic get the better of me, and I’d even had some people say to me “aren’t you the psychology guru?” as if my expertise and knowledge in the subject matter made me perfect when it came to mindset games with myself – yes I do have an insight into the tools and the know-how to help myself a lot more than some, but I’m not super-human, I have difficult days and like everyone else; I have moments of struggle that I don’t always win. Often, people’s perceptions of me lead them to believe I’m tougher than I am.

I think that’s down to my resilience as I try my hardest not to let the negative settle on me unless it’s something I really need to let settle because it deserves a harsher lesson (Like when I really hurt a friend with an off-hand comment – that deserved more reflection than normal).

Anyway, sitting with your emotions can be quite uncomfortable sometimes, as it can bring all sorts of thoughts and theories into your mind but simply follow these steps to help you move through it:

Stop & turn inwards

Take a deep breath and simply sit with the feeling, don’t try and suppress, inhibit or try and conquer it – just be with it with an attitude of curiosity and openness. See what comes up. For me I realised I was sincerely disappointed in myself because I always aim to do my best. I also felt angry that I was unable to access resources in me to help me keep going. 

Identify the emotion and the trigger

Acknowledging the emotion is there is half the battle. Working out if the trigger was an action or a belief is also useful – in my case, the action of giving up made me believe I wasn’t good enough. I know that’s not true so I can remind myself of all the times I achieved. 

Accept what is

You know, Saturday happened; I’m aware that I felt I let myself down but by being compassionate to myself I am able to ease my distress and learn from it. It allows me to notice these feelings again and hopefully take action earlier. 

Know that emotions do ‘calm down’ 

Emotions are impermanent – they show up, stick around for a while and then start to disappear. Knowing this can help you simply be patient in feeling the current wave of emotion wash over you. 

Investigate & respond

Once you’ve calmed down you’re able to look at the situation more pragmatically to understand what caused your discomfort – for me, I didn’t prepare well enough for my race and give myself the acknowledgement that I was pretty mentally exhausted for the week. If I had done that I wouldn’t have gone into the race with such confidence that I couldn’t live up to.  

You can then make a choice of how you respond, remember – we cannot CONTROL how we feel, but we can control how we respond…. My response is to get back on the bike as soon as I can, with a kinder attitude to myself. 

Luckily for me, there was a race the next day pretty locally, so in the morning we packed up early and went off in the rain to sign on. I have to say I was pretty anxious about the race but after chatting with my coach, he always manages to share a few words of wisdom and this time he told me:

  “Aim to get a good start then sit in and simply take each feature as it comes”.

Coach Yoda….

What coach yoda prescribes, coach yoda gets. I’ve found having a coach utterly life changing to be honest – my mum thinks it’s hilarious but I quite like being told what to do! Anyway, I lined up on the start line with a smile on my face, I knew only one or two racers around me so I took the pressure off, I had no idea what to expect. 

Anyway, I loved it, I got a good start then sat in behind a fellow competitor until I felt strong enough to pass. The course was epic, technical with loads of great features – like a scary off camber and a ‘bombhole’ – my kind of course.

Conquering the Bombhole…

On the second to last lap, I put some distance down between me and my closest competitor then on the last lap I just concentrated on nailing every turn, corner or feature and even tried a no handed finish (which went rather wrong!) I smiled the whole way round and even on lap 2 when I felt the ‘pain’ start to creep in, I just switched back to enjoying the features of the course. I need to remember that for next week. I’m 38 years old; yes it’s nice to remain competitive, but I still need to enjoy my time on the bike. 
I finished 11th which is a great result for me. I was totally buzzing. 

What an epic pic!

So what’s the point of the story?

For me, resilience is about picking yourself up and moving forwards. Recognising when you didn’t act or deal with a situation in the way you’d have wanted to but you’ve taken on board.

Photo’s by: John Lloyd, Me (selfie!), Anne Tur & S. Blackwell