My wife was coming off a particularly difficult week, both personally and professionally, and was glad to go for a Saturday morning ride. We pulled on our cycling shoes and helmets, and got the bikes out on the driveway in front of our house.
“Oooh!” she squealed. “I feel better already, and I haven’t even turned a pedal yet.”
She’s like that. Whenever she needs to be rejuvenated, she goes for a ride. It doesn’t even have to be a long one. One of her favorite routes is an 8.9-mile out-and-back in the neighborhood which she finishes in about 40-45 minutes. Whenever I do it, I feel unsatisfied. She, on the other hand, has “filled the brain with oxygen” and she’s ready to tackle work again. (She owns her own business and works from the house.)
But then, Pat has always been more in touch with her body than I have. Just a little exercise in the fresh air, and her endorphins start firing. I don’t have anywhere near that kind of reaction to a ride. For me, it’s exercise and recreation. For her, it’s exercise and that feel-good feeling.
That’s why I found it unusual when, halfway through that same Saturday morning ride, she wasn’t getting her endorphin rush.
“How you doin’?” I asked, when she caught up to me at the halfway point.
“Ugh,” she replied. “It’s not happening for me today. It’s just work.”
We had ridden up a .4-mile hill that isn’t very steep, but is always a challenge for her. After being off the bike for a week, she was really feeling the effort.
Later, at home, I asked her again whether the endorphins had ever kicked in.
“Not this time,” she said. “I just had too much going on in my head to relax and let it happen.”
Yeah, that makes sense. Outside pressures can make themselves felt, even when we’re engaged in some strenuous exercise. But those outside pressures stay out of my head. I do a pretty goo job of compartmentalizing, and when I’m on the bike, I’m on the bike. When Pat’s on the bike, her mind might still be at work, or dealing with extended family issues.
It’ll pass. Another weekend is fast approaching, and I expect she and I will hit the neighborhood streets and roads again — and this time, she’ll feel much better for it. Gotta fire up those pesky endorphins, ya know.
I too have a stressful business I run from home. That and 2 elementary school age boys to help take care of and I can work up plenty of stress. The actual task of riding helps shut down my “monkey mind” and will reduce my thoughts to just shifting, watching out for traffic, focus on form, breath etc. After about 45 minutes on the bike the endorphin buzz will kick in. Whatever I’m stressing about doesn’t seem so bad or I usually come up with a plan to cope. As a bonus it seems like the more I ride, the less I drink… that’s not a bad trade-off. Now if they could just bottle endorphins!
Good post. I’ve found that a ride is a good way to clear the mind after a stressful time at work. A good solo ride is also a good way to clear my mind and work through problems. Often I’ll be better prepared to face the intricacies of life after a ride. Conversely, it also works the other way around. It has been tougher to deal with stress while I’ve been injured, but that makes coming back that much better.