“The grand essentials of happiness are: something to do, something to love, and something to hope for”
— Allan K Chambers
It’s been a funny couple of months since coming back from the #GreatNorthRide.
Arriving home my body was, to say the least, in a bit of a state. I knew it wouldn’t be a quick fix — having pushed well beyond reasonable fatigue for the final few weeks, my body really needed some rest. Which, in theory, was absolutely fine because the final project for this year (arguably the toughest yet?!) is to write a book. I had glorious visions of what this project would be like: peaceful mornings spent with fresh coffee and my laptop — it was beautiful.
Alas, the reality has been considerably less romantic. After only 1 week home, I went into a frenzy — completely unable to adopt a slower pace and settle into a new rhythm. Alarms were set at 4am so I could go for sunrise bike rides - the sheer volume of admin felt overwhelming and, starting to miss the simplicity of life on the road, I was desperately trying to cling to it. I knew early morning rides weren’t in the least bit physically restorative, but mentally I felt I needed the space and stillness they brought.
Unsurprisingly, this approach proved to be unsustainable and I soon crashed. My already weakened immune system had had enough and demanded a rest. No longer able to literally out-race my feelings on coming home after so long, they caught up with me.
Post-adventure blues aren’t a new phenomena, yet they seem to catch me by surprise — every single time.
It’s now 2 months since I’ve come home and I finally feel like I’m recalibrating. There have been 3 key elements to getting back on track:
Accepting that I needed to slow down and give myself time to adjust was huge. I had to accept that I couldn’t fast forward to feeling mentally better any more than I could speed up my physical recovery. Floating amidst a sea of well-intentioned “What’s next?” questions, I also had to gently stand up for my own need to assimilate all that had happened over the past few months before rushing on to another challenge.
It’s been a process of getting comfortable with the uncomfortable — sitting with it, knowing that some things just can’t be rushed. Take time when you need it!
2. SOMETHING ELSE TO FOCUS ON
The time comes when it’s perhaps time to stop sulking over the fact that you used to be living a simple life with your bicycle/eating ice cream several times a day and find a new project to get excited about. I think it’s really healthy to have a project to focus on and I’ve always found having a goal, especially a physical goal, a really important pillar for me — with that in place, everything usually slots in nicely around it.
However, even professional adventures can’t perpetually disappear off on adventures for months at a time —it just so happens that my next project is a book and not an endurance adventure.
With no physical challenge on the horizon for the rest of the year, I felt lost and it spiralled. What was the point of training? What was I even training for? Sitting down at my laptop for hours at a time exacerbated the problem — motivation for training waning and excuses flourishing — the priority was firmly on writing now anyway so I told myself it didn’t really matter if I skipped a training session (or 5). It was a vicious cycle — the lack of exercise making my head foggier and foggier. The pizza calling louder and louder…
Unarguably, the human body is designed to move — not stagnate at a laptop for hours on end. I needed to find a balance.
I’ve recently been adopted into the F45 Stratford family — and I really do mean family. From the hugs to the high fives, with (obviously) lots of sweat in between, this place is special.
I reached out to them to explore a professional partnership and what I’ve ended up with is a whole new fitness focus and a renewed enthusiasm for training. Over the years, I’ve gotten pretty used to spending hours/days/weeks slogging away at miles… but this a totally new way of training for me and — we’re all friends here so I don’t mind admitting this — it’s been BRUTAL. Sweat pouring into my eyes, lungs burning and arms screaming — all the while, being cheered on by the legends that run the place. Which brings me on to….
One of my biggest challenges during #GreatNorthRide was loneliness, especially when I hit the European section. It wasn’t that people weren’t beautifully kind and warm wherever I went, but the various language barriers made communicating that much trickier. I’d often go for days without a proper chat with anyone — during the 70 days it took me to cycle from Scotland to Norway, there were times when the sense of loneliness was palpable.
This can so easily become a vicious cycle — it’s too easy to hide away when we’re struggling, when often we actually need to reach out.
Coming home, this naturally improved as I reconnected with friends & family but being self-employed and in book writing mode, it’s been very easy for me to get isolated all over again! Tapping into the amazing community at F45 Stratford has provided a balance to my days. I train in the mornings and the rest of my working day follows on from there.
It’s taken me a while to accept that I’m going to be staying put for a while and that writing a book is very much a long term challenge — one that requires infinite patience. Having a strong community behind me and a fresh focus ahead of me has made all the difference. Here’s to coming home, to writing a book and to embracing a different kind of adventure for the next few months!
In between training/writing, I’ll be sharing adventure stories — come say hi!