The Less Than 20 Mile Experiment.
Sunday was a beautiful day. Dry and just cool enough. I took Saturday off from exercise, and I felt that I needed to do something, otherwise I could move into my, “I’ll do it tomorrow,” mode.
My riding circle is limited. My friend Tom had been up all night, on vigil, at his son’s campout. My wife had other plans, and my kids were busy in various way. Those are the people that I ride with, and that is why I rode solo on Sunday.
There is a different atmosphere when you ride mid-day. A less friendly one. On early morning rides I get acknowledged when I greet people. A big smile with a hello almost also gets me some sort of positive response. That was not the case on Sunday afternoon.
I think my acknowledgment rate was under 10%, a sad state of affairs. Most of the people that I passed looked right through me, and some actually looked away from me when I smiled at them. It is odd to think that my cheerful hello could be interpreted in a negative way.
What concerned me most was the looks on many of walkers, runners and cyclists. They had an unpleasant look that went beyond determination or grit. Many had a tortured look about them. Doing what they had to, as if they were taking some bad tasting medicine.
I peddled on, and got caught up in the moment. I entered part of the bike path that I had last been on 25 years earlier. During my last attempt to get fit. During the time that I injured myself. During the time that I gave up on exercise.
After 25 years the path looked familiar, to some degree. I had remembered that there was a little park that you could access from the Prairie Path, and I thought that would be the perfect place to stop and have some water and my squirrel snack… a bag of nuts.
I peddled on and on, but the park was no where to be found. I looked at the odometer on my bike and I realized that if I just went a bit further I could meet, and likely exceed, a 20 mile bike ride. For a moment I was stoked, but then I came to my senses.
I was out to enjoy a bike ride and I was out to get some exercise. These two facts were dependent on each other. Enjoyment + exercise = today’s bike ride.
Going 20 miles meant nothing to me if I didn’t fulfill that equation. I thought back at all of the miserable looking people that I saw on my ride. Frowning, looking sad, some looking outright angry. Were they enjoying their exercise? It certainly didn’t seem so. It appeared like they were trying to reach an artificial goal. Doing what they had to, not liking it and letting the world know. Something that could have been fun had just turned into another miserable job for them.
I was determined to not let that happen to me last Sunday. My artificial goal had become 20 miles or more. My real goal was to get some exercise and enjoy a bike ride. To break the pattern I deliberately decided to ride less than 20 miles. I decided to remove the artificial goal from my agenda and focus on what was really important. I turned around and headed back. I thought my total travels would be about 19 and 1/2 miles. It turned out to be just under 20.
I don’t want to become an individual who looks at everything as work. “I had to call my family today.” “I had to go to a party.” “I had to make dinner and eat it with my family.” “I had to drive my kids to___ and spend time with them.” What a way to NOT live!
Today my goal is to celebrate the fact that I have free time, and to realize that non-work activities are to be enjoyed and celebrated.