Lesley Pinder
Jul 3, 2017 · 4 min read

Giving up racing happily and healthily

A few months ago I wrote about giving up racing my bike and what it had meant to me (here! https://medium.com/@lesleympinder/relfections-on-training-racing-and-bike-riding-5ee50db61e25). This weekend just passed saw the annual Masters National Track Championships which was always a big goal for me so it seemed like a good time to revisit the theme!

I’m glad to say four months since I wrote my first blog on the topic, I am certain that I made the right decision. But it has resulted in some adjustment and I’ve learnt some lessons on how to bow out gracefully (and healthily!). As a few people told me how my last post resonated with them, I thought I’d share some of said thoughts!

  1. Social media doesn’t always help

When I wrote my post in February, there was still some lingering guilt/self-flagellation about my decision to give up racing. Was I just too weak or too lazy? Why couldn’t I be good and fast like all the other girls? Was I giving up? (There could be a whole other post on guilt and self-sabotage — especially for women!!) Comparing myself to others was one of the things that stopped me enjoying racing and I didn’t want it to stop me enjoying not racing too! To aid my ‘recovery’ from comparison I unfollowed any of my fellow bike racers that I knew who only tweeted about racing and training. It sounds harsh but those that are friends I knew I’d stay in touch with in other formats. We all know that we present an edited form of ourselves on social media and its important for riders to promote themselves, teams and sponsors but constantly reading tweets about amazing training sessions, great results and trips to the gym didn’t do my head any favours. Having a break from it all gave me the chance to focus on the positives.

2. Staying involved does help

I was incredibly aware that I didn’t want to cut myself off entirely from the brilliant people I’ve met and friends I’ve made through racing, especially at Herne Hill Velodrome. So rather than avoid the races I would normally have raced in case I came down with a bout of FOMO, I signed up to volunteer instead. The first race was the Women’s Track League at Herne Hill. I just did the lap board (mainly right I think!) and loved it. The combination of seeing pals, paying back all those volunteer hours others had put in so I could race and helping out some new racers with some tips made volunteering at racing more joyous than I found actually racing! This last weekend, when I would have been at Newport Velodrome, I also helped coach some members of a fast growing South London cycling club helping to build confidence in bunch riding and ride leading. It feels good to help others enjoy riding more.

3. My body changed and it feels a bit weird

I’ve been fairly active since I quit racing and am well chuffed to have now got to the point that I can run a whole 10km. I’d say I am still pretty fit but I have recently noticed the changes to my body as a result of losing the more intense end of my training. I’m not so fussed about putting on a bit of weight and getting squidgier but I miss having a body that feels aligned and powerful. When I was training to race I naturally did more varied exercise with strength work, power session and threshold intervals working every bit of me. Though 85% of my training was on a bike, my whole body was involved one way or another and I think I underestimated the work out I was having, and the muscles I had! I’m miss that internal power you feel when you are really very fit and I realise now it affected more than just how I felt on a bike but also how I felt every day. I feel more confident and mentally strong when I am physically strong and “on it”. I also miss that amazing exhausted feeling after a training session that was so hard you thought you might pass out and vomit all at the same time! I’m starting to get that edge back I think as I ramp up the running for my first 10km event and train for an upcoming hilly sportive in Scotland but I am also aware that I want to find a way to push myself physically without having to get involved in competition (and then unhappy comparisons!) It’s still a work in progress!

The short version of this is that there is life after racing…but you shouldn’t forget about the bits that you loved and that made you feel great.