I created a mental check list of places I wanted to bike during my last few months living in Germany, and I have officially completed this list. Anything else is extra, and at this point I am feeling a bit ambivalent about biking long distances. It’s not that I don’t enjoy my long bike rides, they have been indescribably wonderful, but I found myself feeling a bit dogmatic with regard to biking.
I had to go far, or the bike ride wasn’t “worthy.” How quickly I can fall back into addictive behaviors that damage both my physical and mental wellbeing.
I am thankful for my ability to recognize this behavior, but I usually have to slip off track momentarily to noice. I went for a bike ride a few weeks ago to a town called Mittenwald, when I noticed my motives for the bike ride were skewed. I didn’t want to bike to Mittenwald so I could see the town, I had seen it twice prior, I wanted to bike to Mittenwald to challenge myself physically.
A physical challenge in and of itself is by no means a negative desire, however the day I chose to embark on this adventure was a day I wasn’t feeling my best. It was a day I should have listened better to my body telling me she was tired, and that she didn’t want to go for a long bike ride. It was a day I ate too much peanut butter with my breakfast – and suddenly my inner food critic began screaming at me to move my body.
I sometimes wonder if the little disordered devil on my shoulder will ever fully retire, or if I will always have recurring thoughts of needing to “make up” for something I have eaten through exercise. I am lightyears away from where I used to be, but I still struggle sometimes. For most people, having a dedicated workout routine is sought after, it’s praised, but for me it can be more destructive for my body because I push too hard.
Alas, the anxiety of stillness kicked in, and off I went.
The ride to Mittenwald was beautiful. I rode on new bike paths I hadn’t seen before, and I felt the surge of energy I get when I find new landscapes. This was great for a while, but at one point the distance of this bike ride proved to be further than I expected. I began feeling fatigued, but I didn’t want to quit. I felt like biking far had become my “go to” while I was on leave from work. What else was I going to do with my day?
Heaven forbid I actually just…rest.
The first time I visited Mittenwald was March 2019. I attended a Fasching celebration that was supposed to be family friendly, yet I found myself terrified by the children running around cracking whips in traditional Fasching masks.
I did however enjoy the most elaborate tea experience including a tea light and a timer.
The second time I visited Mittenwald was December 2019. I came for their Christkindlmarkt, where I drank a glass of Glühwein, ate goulash out of a bread bowl, and split eine bratwurst mit mein Freund. All in less than an hour. I didn’t feel so hot after.
This bike ride was the third time I visited Mittenwald. It took me four hours round trip to bike 37 miles, with 2935ft of elevation gain (kill me.) What I got this day was attacked by the above pictured cat and a raging post bike ride headache. It’s safe to say Mittenwald and I have a love hate relationship, and third time was not the charm.
I love the beauty of the town, but hate how my body feels every time I leave (my own doing. Except the creepy kids.)
I never regret a bike ride, they always show me new places and/or teach me something. I had to learn an uncomfortable lesson on the ride home. I chose to bike back a different route, which ended up taking me higher in elevation than the route I took into Mittenwald. I was annoyed, exhausted, and anxious.
I knew I had pushed my body too hard and I was scared of the repercussions (I really hate feeling out of commission for days.) These thoughts made it difficult to enjoy the surrounding views as I was biking home. I took an amazing bike path, with endless rolling hills, but I was so preoccupied with my mind I had a hard time stopping to smell the roses.
Not to mention my body kept telling me “I told you so” when I was struggling up the hills.
I had to dig deep into the mind over matter thought process to get myself back home. I told myself on this ride, that I was done biking just to bike. I need to ensure I feel well enough to endure the miles, and I need to ensure my mind is well enough to appreciate the discoveries. I don’t regret biking to Mittenwald, but I do wish I had waited until I was in a better physical and mental space before I did it.
My headache lasted nearly 24 hours, which was to be expected (despite drinking extra water.) My fatigue was at a high the next few days, but I made sure to rest. I sometimes forget that I will never be able to live my life the way I used to when I was elevating my heart rate to its max capacity all the time.
I took about three weeks off from riding longer distances after this ride. I know my happy place is somewhere between 15-35 miles at one time. I have also resumed working, which was a choice I made when I realized my two months of LWOP were starting to come as a cost.
I know myself, and the desire to go, go, go with too much free time is inescapable. I either push myself too far, or I fall prey to negative thoughts.
My time away from work was amazing, and I am thankful for all the adventures I was able to embark on in those two months. My plan for my final few months in Germany is to continue biking, but never to force it. I don’t want biking to become my enemy.
This post is not to say I won’t push myself again before I leave, my human nature makes me akratic at times, it’s just a reminder to myself and anyone who needs to hear it that we remember to listen to our bodies more. I think one long bike ride per week is much more sustainable than every day/every other day. 🙂
Q: Do you ever push your body when you know you should rest? I suppose for “normal” people this wouldn’t be a big deal…but I often ignore that my body is not “normal.”