4 Life Lessons from a Bike Ride

skyeTeam Leadership Development

I recently bought a mountain bike and have started riding easy trails and dirt roads in the area. Last night, I was on the hardest ride I have done so far which included a very long hill climb – I barely made it! As I was huffing and puffing and wondering several times if I should just quit and walk, I thought about what the moment was teaching me. Don’t worry – I’m not that well adjusted – there were also a few interspersed expletives (most of them using my inside voice). Following are some insights gained when I wasn’t freaking out:

1. Try something new. 

As I was pondering yesterday about what I should write for this post, I couldn’t come up with a thing. However, within the struggle of my bike ride, I essentially wrote this entire article in my head. I realized how important it is to continually engage in new experiences; this is how we grow and learn and change. If I hadn’t gone on my bike ride, I would still be sitting here thinking about what to write!

The Lesson: What is one thing you have put off trying? What new hobby do you want to explore? Is there a business book sitting on your nightstand to read? Do you want to learn a new language or start socializing with different people? Whatever you choose, you will be a better (and certainly more interesting) person for it.

2. Get out of your comfort zone.

This is not easy, and it is usually not pretty. It was ugly last night on the trail – hot, mad, tired, totally out of breath, and complete lack of self-confidence that I could actually make it to the top. As hard as it was to climb, I realized that the only way I will ever get up the hill is to just do it. If I continue practicing the ride up that hill, eventually it will be easier and I will be tackling even more difficult climbs. One day, it will seem like no big deal.

The Lesson: What are you avoiding that you are afraid of or think you cannot do? It is time to get out there and do it, even though it will not be pretty. Start with a small hill.

3. Just keep going.

As I was climbing the hill on my bike (still breathing hard and almost passing out), I kept approaching false summits. So, just when I thought we were at the top, I looked and realized the climb continued much further. My heart sank each time. These were the most overwhelming moments of the bike ride. Essentially, I had to just keep going – even when I really wanted to stop. I just kept pedaling – each revolution of my pedals took me a bit further along the path and up the hill. I wasn’t going as fast as I wanted (and it was really hard) but I was still headed in the right direction. Eventually, I made it to the top where I was blessed with AMAZING views of our Colorado mountains and meadows.

The Lesson: Each step you take gets you there, no matter how small it is – no matter how low of a gear you are in. You will get there, if you just keep going – AND the views at the end are going to be spectacular.

4. Find balance.

With most bikes there are several gears, which you change in order to make it easier or harder to pedal given the circumstances of the terrain. If it is harder to pedal (higher intensity), you are using more muscle strength. If you are pedaling faster (higher cadence), you are usually increasing your cardio workout. If you overwork the muscles, your legs will tire out and you can go no further. If you are breathing too hard, you will maximize your heart rate and can no longer breathe. The key is to find the perfect balance between cadence and intensity, so that you are not overtiring your muscles, nor increasing the heart rate to a point that you cannot breathe. If you find this physical balance, your body begins to maximize its productivity and efficiency. As a result, you can go further and have a much smoother and enjoyable ride. For the record, I did not “find the balance” last night! However, I will continue to make adjustments as I become a better cyclist.

The Lesson: Where are you pushing too hard in your personal or professional life?In what parts of your life, are you going too fast? What is unbalanced? This could be a project, a relationship, or a big and audacious goal. Keep in mind that life and work doesn’t have to be so intense or difficult. There are adjustments that can be made in order to find balance.

In summary, it’s time to get out and challenge yourself! It will most likely not be easy or pretty, but you will certainly come out as a different person on the other side.

This post was first published on LinkedIn