Sunday, 1 March 2015

Fear and flow

Last weekend I went to Hillingdon for a coaching session with Kerry Bircher at Revolution Cycling, the first in the buildup to RideLondon 100. Going at all was actually quite a big thing. I find myself reluctant to travel far from my daughters physically, it's not a conscious thought process and I don't sit and worry about all the things that could go wrong in my absence. But I definitely struggle to be geographically too far away from them.

Hillingdon isn't exactly miles away but it's the other side of London and far enough to feel significant. I almost didn't go. But I also desperately, desperately wanted to go. RideLondon 100 is my commitment to myself (and to Tommy's, and to Kerry!).

Last year I really struggled with fear on my bike. I had a brief flirtation with cleats that just made me more fearful and anxious, and I had to go back to ordinary pedals. I struggled with balance, something seems to have happened to my body since having Violet and I just don't feel as centred, I get dizzy really easily and I just don't feel as content and settled on a bike as I used to. I struggled with descending, fear on busy roads, and just a sense of all not being well.

I had lost the ability to get into that state of flow whereby I stop thinking and just do. Every time I rode I was thinking too much, worrying, my mind constantly whirring away, never still. Riding my bike used to be a great way to just forget everything and lose myself in the moment. But for obvious reasons I find it very difficult to just 'forget' my children, and I was finding it doubly difficult to forget myself and my fears, and just go with the flow.

I don't know if it was being on a closed circuit or being in a group or just the very powerful motivational effect of Kerry - who is most definitely in the right career. But by the time I was halfway through our three-hour session I just wanted to fling my bike about like I was 10 years old again. There's a really tasty corner on the  circuit down a fairly gentle descent, anybody who has ridden there will know the one I mean, and I wanted to ride that corner ALL DAY LONG. I was on the drops most of the time, without even thinking about it.

I wasn't thinking, full stop. Even during the group riding, something that's pretty unfamiliar to me. There was eight of us in total and we spent the last 10-15 minutes riding as a peleton. Initially I had absolutely no idea how I was supposed to stay in the middle of a group of riders, keep pace, not crash, not run into anybody, and so on. But as it turns out it's as natural as breathing, and once you're in it, everything flows.

I'm so grateful to Kerry and her lovely colleague Holly for the coaching, and I can't wait until our next session which will be a group ride in March. Every month we will all ride together and I love the idea of forming a little group, us all becoming accustomed to riding together to become something bigger than our parts. Group riding relies on communication. There's so many analogies for life in the process. Apparently I'm feeling quite deep and meaningful today.

That's what flow does for you. It opens your eyes, and your heart. It makes you see things, yourself included, in new ways. Flow is a lynchpin of progress. You can't experience it and not move forwards. Fear can't exist in flow. Fear runs screaming. And flow leads to anticipation of more flow, which creates motivation. I have been desperate to get out on the bike again, and on both my training rides this week I have felt far less fearful, and far more confident. I'm pretty sure I've been faster too.

But I've also felt much more centred and together this week. I have felt more motivated, more energetic and more creative. I have found myself able to give more of myself to Cherry and Violet, find more traces of flow in our interactions together.

Sometimes it's hard to just be with them, without thinking about what we're going to do next and what's for lunch and does Violet's nappy need changing and when am I going to get a chance to do the laundry and I really want to write another book and what am I going to do with the rest of my life. You know, just the usual.

But sometimes, like this week, it just flows.

There's still a couple of spaces left on Revolution Cycling's women-only coaching programme for distance challenges, which includes monthly group rides, a personalised training plan, dietary advice, one-to-one coaching support and event preparation. You can find out more by contacting Kerry at or check out her website.

No comments:

Post a Comment