“If you’re coasting, you’re either losing momentum or else you’re headed downhill.”
– Joan Welsh
In the beginning of June, when I was preparing for RAGBRAI, I wrote about my uphill climbs – the physical climb up Long Hill Road in Morris County, and the philosophical climb from one point in my life to the next. I’ve continued climbing hills, both tangible and intangible, for the past month and a half. This week, I am finally heading to Iowa for the full 7 days and 406.6 miles, and there’s no way I’m going to coast through it!
In the days and weeks leading up to my upcoming journey, I have constantly challenged myself in new ways. Whether I biked a new terrain or a new distance, every time I’ve been cycling recently has been a test. However, a recent 45 mile ride proved to me that the greatest challenge is learning about myself.
This ride was different than others I have taken. Usually when I go cycling, I take my Garmin with me. That wonderful device not only works as a navigational system, as Garmin is best known for, but also feeds me useful information about the state of my ride. With the aid of a chest strap, it monitors my heart rate, has a cadence monitor, and tracks how long and how far I’ve been riding with a built-in odometer. On this ride, however, I left my Garmin at home.
At first, it was difficult to adjust. I had nothing to tell me if I was going a steady 13 miles per hour or if I was fluctuating between 10 and 16! I had nothing to count my heartbeats and let me know when I was pushing too hard! I didn’t even know how long I’d been on the bike, let alone how far I had been traveling. I just followed my cycling partner, wondering if she had a better grip on her surroundings than I did.
After a while, I realized that the Garmin, however useful it is, had tricked me! I didn’t need the machine to tell me how my heart was beating, because my body could do that. I didn’t need it to help me keep a steady cadence, because I was alert and paying attention to my muscle movements. I started to figure out time based on how fatigued my body was feeling, how strained my muscles were, and how thirsty I was becoming. I soon understood that the Garmin is a convenient shortcut to understanding my body, something that I can do by myself.
Once again using my cycling journey as a metaphor for life, it’s just as important to listen to your body and understand your capabilities in daily life as it is when you are exercising. You cannot always rely on technology or other people’s opinions to figure out how to move or how to think. Always rely on yourself before relying on others – even when relying on others may be so much easier. Even in a stressful situation, communicate with your brain center and figure out when it’s okay to push yourself, and when pushing onwards will actually send you backwards.
This Friday, I am heading to Iowa to complete the final step in my RAGBRAI journey, but it will not be the completion of my personal growth. After all, I listened to my body, and I discovered that I am always willing to face a new challenge to meet my goals.
“A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.”