To give my legs a break from all the running I’ve been doing recently I decided to mix it up and go biking as a bit of cross training. It’s crazy how your body can get used to one particular sport, and no matter how in shape you are for that activity, you can feel completely inadequate when attempting something different. Needless to say, the hills of the normal loop that I ride seemed much steeper than I remembered them to be. I felt like a slug slowly crawly up the mountain of asphalt ahead of me. A few minutes into my ride though I got used to my steady pace and rather than focusing on how slowly I was going or on how much my legs burned, I started focusing on small improvements that I made throughout my ride. Actually managing to gain enough speed to create some wind became a huge success and psyched me up for the next challenge. The biggest moral booster of all was when I actually passed someone while going up a hill!! Granted it was very tiny compared to all the others, but we’re ignoring that fact. All I needed to do was switch gears, both figuratively and literally, for my workout to take on a totally different vibe. Once I shifted down and changed my focus from being the fastest to simply improving upon my own abilities, I turned my ride into something that was not only a manageable, but also enjoyable. Each incline was a new challenge and I played a game with myself every time I reached the base of a new hill; how quickly could I move my legs and what gear did I need to be in in order to get up the hill as efficiently as possible.
In addition to my biking adventure, today was also the first time I took my brother’s stick shift out on my own. I’ve spent the last few days learning to drive his car and today was the first time I felt comfortable enough to hit the streets solo. I spent most of my time driving up and down fairly crowded streets, which meant LOTS of gear changes. The constant speed up, slow down, and stop action forced me to practice flipping from third to second then back to third again depending on how fast traffic was moving. This was something I’d never done before, having only previously practiced shifting up then all the way down to come to a full stop. I think I managed it fairly well (not to toot my own horn or anything). I found that as long as I remained calm and focused on feeling the engine, rather than staring at the numbers, I instinctively knew what to do. I only stalled once all day!! And that was just because I was accidentally in gear 3 instead than gear 1 when starting up again after a stoplight; an easy mistake that anyone could make.
So in summary, today was definitely an example of how a slight change of gears, both physically and mentally, can be the difference between success and failure, between fun and frustration, or between ease and struggle. Sometimes all you need to do is calm down, try taking a different approach, and see what results follow.