While reading the blog of a fellow racer recently, I came across something interesting. She talked about the book “Base Building for Cyclists” by Thomas Chapple and included the following excerpts:
“Commitment to being the best possible athlete must go beyond following a schedule and completing workouts. Commitment is the details of how you live your daily life, how you track your training, how you listen to and take care of your body, and how you act to change whatever is holding you back from reaching your goals.” (p. 243-244)
“The athlete who attempts to train through an injury rather than adjust his goals always believes he is committed, but he is not. He is acting obsessively rather than remaining committed to his objectives. Remaining injured is not the way to progress, and by not resting he creates long-term setbacks. This is when obsession is mistaken as passion or commitment.” (p. 245)
This made me think. When I came home from the hospital, the first thing I wanted to do was get back on the bike and resume training. The back injury was serious and the pain was significant, but I needed to stay on track with my riding and not be derailed by anything, even if that meant prolonging the overall recovery. I saw that determination as a good thing at the time, but maybe that single-minded focus isn’t actually healthy.
After Sunday’s ride (in which I did extra intervals as “penance” for the tequila and chocolate cake from the previous night), I sat down on the couch intending to watch something deep and meaningful on Netflix and ended up watching snippets of every episode of the first two seasons of TLC’s My Strange Addiction. Those are like documentaries, right? Documentaries about very strange people who like to eat house cleaner, keep dozens of hairless rats as pets, or the hair from shower drains. In a nutshell, they are obsessed and unable to control their impulses. As one concerned family member helpfully advised a devout eater of toilet paper:
“You should really consider not doing it…at all.”
While I cringed and laughed through the episodes, I can identify with the underlying impulse. I love cycling and racing, but sometimes that love feels more like a compulsion. I have to ride, I have to train, I have to add extra intervals and work harder. In reality, I don’t have to do anything except pay taxes and die. But I imagine my compelling need to ride sometimes feels very similar to one of those Strange Addiction people’s need to dress in a fur suit.
On a normal, non-injured basis, this obsessiveness is fairly harmless and has been instrumental in helping me be a tougher racer. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right? I think it’s good to feel compelled to work hard and face suffering head-on. And if I have a few more glasses of tequila than I should have, then yeah, I’m going to feel the need to add extra work to the next day’s training. If that makes me cry from pain, good. Tears are just tequila leaving the body.
But I sometimes worry that these obsessive tendencies are going to burn me out either physically or mentally. There have been times where my body is nearly dead from fatigue and I can’t help but be furious at the inability to keep going. There are other times where the idea of having to reschedule a workout due to life obligations leaves me nearly consumed with anxiety. Nevermind that I can see on my calendar that I will still do all the required rides; maybe if I do those intervals a day late, they won’t count and I’ll shrivel up and be slow.
It could be worse. There was an episode all about a young woman addicted to taxidermy.
“I love finding dead animals and stuffing them…in my apartment are dead animals, everywhere.”
[The woman, Divya, is shown walking through a park and looking under bushes while carrying a backpack for collecting the carcasses.] The narrator says, “Divya is constantly hunting for dead animals.”
See? At least I’m riding my bike and not bringing home dead animals. Oh, wait.