Learning to Take a Step Back by Melissa Wong

“This sport is just wonderful in what it gives back to each person who puts their heart into it”

This quote has never rung truer for me as it has this semester. Thank you to Aubrie de Sylva for sharing it on her Instagram! This semester has been an adjustment with online school and a lack of any structure to my day rather than the packed schedule I am accustomed to where I would spend all day on campus. It gave me some time to re-evaluate my relationship with cycling and redefine how I personally put my heart into the sport and why I bike.

In September, I felt the strongest I’d ever been on the bike and I was very focused on numbers as I watched them go up quickly and gained confidence. I was constantly challenging myself doing longer, fast-paced rides with a few of the Queen’s Cycling boys. Looking back, I peaked even though I wasn’t really training to do so, and eventually I started falling down from it. That hit my motivation, because suddenly the hours I was putting in on the bike wasn’t giving me any results – if anything, it was doing the reverse. In addition, I started feeling some fatigue on the bike. Prior to this setback, I had always seen cycling as a safe space, or a bubble where I could always go to take my mind off of things. This metaphorical bubble was popped when I wasn’t feeling great on the bike; if I was stressed with school or life I was suddenly unable to simply hop on my bike and clear my head because I was facing a mental uphill on the bike too. The lack of progress in my numbers and the feelings of fatigue on the bike led me to take a step back to reflect, and to rediscover my motivation. I took a few days off the bike to let myself recover, although at the time it was difficult to because it seemed like I would lose fitness or valuable training time. After that break, I did a couple rides where I just didn’t look at any numbers, and just rode by feel and by listening to my body.

After this break, I switched my focus from always pushing my numbers to simply monitoring them to ensure I was still properly recovering. I also took more time to do rides that weren’t strictly for the sake of training (lots of sunset rides). Instead, I wanted to focus on other aspects of why I love the sport; the memories, the community, and adventure.

Some of the rides I’ve done have involved not even looking at numbers, and just enjoying and soaking in everything else about the ride. One of my favourite adventures was riding to Frontenac Provincial Park, doing a hike, and riding back home with Kaitlyn and Matt. How I managed to find two friends equally as keen as me to do a 100km of riding with a 15km hike in the middle carrying bikes beats me, but I went to bed with a smile on my face that night.

Because of the pandemic, I was only seeing the small group of people I was riding with and this led to strengthened friendships. Cycling is so much more than the activity itself; it’s also the people you meet and the awesome times you have with them. Many of these friendships have transcended the sport, and we are there for each other off the bike too to support each other with school and life. Equally, I’ve also found support through my cycling community through these times, which I’m incredibly grateful for.

Mid-ride Timbit stop!

Recently I’ve taken to learning some new skills (bunny hops), riding more gravel, and off-roading. If anything, I’ve come to realize there is no better time to just enjoy the bike and do adventures I wouldn’t usually have time for – and I have my teammate Kaitlyn to thank for that! I decided to take a break from Strava as I found myself getting too caught up in comparing myself with the training others were doing, when the best thing for me personally was to just get out and enjoy cycling as a break from school or to hang out with friends. I’ve come to realize that cycling is a lot more than just training or a sport for me; it’s also an outlet for my emotions, and what’s happening off the bike.

 

 

 

Without any in-person races on the horizon, it has been an especially great opportunity for me to re-evaluate why I love the sport, and to realize there’s so much more than just the numbers. The connections you foster through cycling are truly special, and I’m incredibly grateful for and look back fondly at the memories I have made this semester! I’m excited to continue pursuing my training next year with Evolve Training Co, while not losing touch with the other aspects of cycling that I love. This semester has been a great reminder that from time to time it’s nice just to be able to really soak in where your bike takes you, appreciate the time you get to spend with others while biking, and the adventures it lets you experience.