who doesn’t like a little challenge? after a month off the bike in October, doing nothing but physical therapy and coaching clinics, I wanted to get back on the bike, add in some yoga (more on that in another post), and just find some consistency in my riding, my energy levels, and my mood. during October I’d also been focused on weight-loss and my caloric deficits, combined with the end of Daylight Saving Time, seemed to be affecting my sleep patterns. I needed balance. I needed energy. I needed a goal — something that was consistent and achievable and that would motivate me.

so I gave myself the goal of riding at least one hour every day in November and December. I set no parameters besides time — I could go long or short, flat or hilly, road or dirt. I would listen to my body, vary my intensity, and keep it fun.

I started a day early, with a challenging mountain bike ride with Team Velo Girls at Waterdog on October 31st. it hurt — mentally and physically. in the 12 years I’ve been riding, I’ve had some extended periods of time off the bike, but usually due to illness, not injury. when you return to the bike from illness, you expect to be winded and to feel weak. I didn’t expect this after my hiatus in October. this first ride was a wake-up call for me.

so, November 1st came and I rolled. pretty easy at first. road + dirt. 7 days in a row for a modest total of 10 hours. and on the 8th day it rained. and I was tired. really tired. I ramped up a little quickly, I think, with 10 hours on the bike that week as well as 2.5 hours of yoga and swing dance. so I gave myself permission to take a nap instead of a bike ride. it was the correct decision.

week #2 went well, but again, I had one day that I was just completely exhausted. so I gave myself permission to nap instead of ride. I decided that I hadn’t failed at my goal by missing 2 days. I was still out there riding and being consistent, and that was the intention of my goal. in those 6 days I was able to ride 10 hours and also danced for 1.5 hours. I was learning how to manage my time to add in the riding and yoga. I was making time for myself!

week #3 and my body was happy (as was my mind). I was sleeping well, the weight-loss continued, and with the exception of one significant bonk, I was having great rides! I started doing some more challenging rides. most of my rides have been solo. I was having fun riding by myself, something I haven’t done in years. I was listening to my body and going easy on days I needed recovery and hard on days I wanted challenge. and I was mountain biking a lot. all is good.

week #4 and I planned to ramp up my yoga. I finally found the time of day and styles of yoga that really worked in my life. my goal was to practice 5 days this week. life is good and I’m finding balance. I’m really happy. I’m smiling so much that I’m starting to annoy myself. unfortunately, a silly sleeping injury (seriously) kept me off the bike and out of the yoga studio for 3 days. on Thanksgiving day I got back out on the road for 3 hours in freezing cold. and I’m proud that I was able to maintain my caloric deficit in the face of Thanksgiving dinner. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday included more rides (road and mountain) and my first ever double-header yoga day.

November was a good month. I got on the bike 24 of 30 days. I rode almost 40 hours for a total of more than 400 miles, including 5 mountain bike rides. I practiced yoga 6 times and took 4 dance classes. I feel consistent. and happy. and very mobile. my head is in a really good space. I promised myself at least an hour a day — just for me — and I was able to achieve that.

one of the ways I’ve been able to fit this all into my schedule is to combine my bike + yoga time. no, I’m not stretching on the bike, but rather I’m riding my bicycle to yoga class. I have this silly 5-mile rule — I don’t drive my car if I’m going somewhere that’s within 5 miles, so this fits right in with yoga class. I can ride the short way (only about 15 minutes), take class, and then take the long way home, the scenic route. the road less travelled. I’ve enjoyed riding through the hills and canyons of Hillsborough and Burlingame. I’m rediscovering roads I haven’t ridden in years. I’m swearing under my breath at the 15-20% grades that pop up out of nowhere and then applauding myself at the top of those hills. I’m admiring the mansions. I’m noticing the subtle changes of fall: golden and red leaves transitioning from tree to ground. and I’m enjoying every single moment on the bike.

how often do you go out of your way to discover a new road, climb a new hill, or check out a new vista? too often in the past, I found myself “training” and forgetting what it is that I really love about the bike — the same thing that I loved as a child — the freedom! I was so concerned with the destination that I missed the journey. so I’ll encourage you to give yourself the gift today of freedom. and fun. and cycling. go ahead, take the long way home!