Home
How to avoid being overwhelmed by the blubber of doom

Glory be! I managed a 100k ride this weekend for the first time since March. Just when I thought this year was going to turn into a complete write-off.

Remember the opening scene of Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark? When Indy escapes by the skin of his teeth being crushed by that massive boulder as he flees some dark cave or other with some artefact or other? Well I see this as the perfect metaphor for my struggle with fitness this year - and more generally as my sixth decade inexorably approaches.

In my metaphor, I am the disheveled but charming whip-wielding adventurer (well, if the cap fits...) while the huge rock is a life of lard-bound inactivity. If I proceed at full pelt I might just avoid being overwhelmed by the blubber of doom but if I lose my concentration for more than a moment or two I will be lost - possibly forever.

In years gone by this metaphor wouldn’t have worked - or at least the blubber boulder would have been a lot further away. But this year, for reasons that are as dull as they are irrelevant, the bloody thing has been bearing right down on me for months. I’ve noticed jeans getting tighter; baggy T-shirts getting more appealing; staircases getting more daunting.

I’ve not even been particularly enjoying exercise. It just served to remind me how far I’d fallen and how much work there was to do. I could just about manage a 25-miler on the bike but the prospect of a 100k ride was about as appealing as base jumping without a parachute. That terrible negative momentum thing was in danger of winning the day.

Then, a few weeks ago, I watched this video about the remarkable Danny McAskill, in which he reflected on the old days when he used to ride every day - not for fitness or to improve his skills but just for fun. And it struck me that I have become so dependent on cycling as a fitness preserver, a sanity saviour, a meditation aid, and a mental clutter-clearer that I was in danger of forgetting why I starting doing it in the first place: just because I love it.

So the next time I managed to persuade myself to go for a ride, I didn’t reflect on how hard it was to get up the hills; I didn’t try to go further or faster than the last time, or to reach a certain point in a certain time. Nor did I try to process any difficult emotions or solve any thorny problems. Instead, I just savoured being on my bike, enjoyed the view, and came home again when I was tired. And of course I had a great time. And of course riding became more appealing. And of course the more I did it, the easier it became. And yesterday I rejoined the 100k club and although the final 10k was hard, it wasn’t that hard. Thanks Danny.

Thanks also to Dennis Eagles, for allowing me to use his excellent photo.

Lifelong lover of most things cycling-related, from Moulton Mini adventures in the 70s to London bike messengering in the 80s, commuting in the 90s, mountain biking in the noughties and road cycling throughout. Editor of Simpson Magazine (www.simpsonmagazine.cc). 

6 comments

Avatar
Tony Farrelly [2868 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

"blubber of doom" Just when I'd managed to forget about this…

I'm going to have nightmares now

Avatar
Martin Thomas [380 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

*Exactly*!  1

Avatar
notfastenough [3665 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

I've been off the bike with injury for a month, and I find that the fitter I am, the more I enjoy exercise - this means an ever-building momentum when things are going well, but conversely I find it tough to get back on the proverbial horse after a period of abstention.

First ride (yesterday) was hard, reminding me not of legs/cardio effort, but hard-won flexibility and core strength that I now need to build back up so my hamstrings and back don't shortchange my overall fitness. The off-bike exercises are a slightly boring, tedious price to pay, but once I'm back to 60-70 miles and doing the club run I'll be glad I paid it.

Avatar
Martin Thomas [380 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

I've been trying to ignore the need for off-bike exercise altogether, which probably isn't the wisest course of action for a tall 48 year-old with a history of back pain. You're right of course, notfastenough, [sigh] I have another psychological mountain to climb.

Avatar
notfastenough [3665 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

I find that the trick is not so much to devote time to it, but to do it while watching TV or whatever. That way, rather than being just another chore you have to fit in, there's a feeling that even watching TV is doing you good!

Avatar
Martin Thomas [380 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

Hmmm, I like the cut of your jib notfastenough. Might have to swap telly-watching places with the missus though - I don't think she'd appreciate me eclipsing her view in the name of cycling fitness.