Anyone who knows me knows that I get sick fairly often. Actually, really often. In fact, I might be harboring some germ right now, who knows? If the Apocalypse happens one day because of the development of some mystery disease, I’d definitely be one of the top picks for a potential patient zero. I’m what Elizabethans would have called ‘sickly,’ and what some people might call ‘bad stock.’ It’s extremely frustrating when it gets in the way of life, specifically, cycling.
I overcame a nasty case of bronchitis this past week, which meant that I couldn’t really ride (and I also had to croak my way through a children’s musical I do). It was really frustrating, but made me think about what I’d said before about when to push yourself, and when to concentrate on self-care. Bronchitis is definitely an occasion that calls for self-care. Any kind of of exercise while you’re under respiratory duress is a big no-no. I’d planned to cycle a bit last Saturday, at least, but in the less-than-a-mile cycle to my boyfriend’s house I found myself coughing like crazy while my throat burned and I got light-headed. So I made the annoying decision to put off cycling until the cough was completely gone.
To be honest, these past weeks have found me in a big pit of feelings about my limitations when it comes to fitness and health.
The thing I’ve found with cycling, is that if I stop doing it, even for just a little bit, it’s all the more difficult to start again, both mentally and physically. Cycling is an adjustment, and something that you have to work your life around. It’s super convenient to spend less on public transit and get your workout while you’re commuting, but less convenient to lug a bike around the city. People get judgey if you take a bike on the subway, but sometimes it’s a necessity. Sometimes I bike too far in one direction and hit my wall, and other times I might go out drinking with friends and I don’t want to risk riding home. And yet every time I’ve taken my bike on the subway some stranger has decided to say, “Why not just ride it?” Or something along those lines.
But I’m getting off topic. I went for a ride when I was feeling better, this Sunday. I rode from Washington Heights to Long Island City, which is only about 10 miles, but goes over the Queensboro bridge, my Moby Dick. It’s funny, but when you drive over a bridge, or even walk over one, you don’t think about the fact that bridges are essentially just hills. Believe me, you never forget it when you cycle. Half of your time is spent in burning pain and then the other half is spent hurtling down at break-neck speeds while riding your brake for your life (if you’re me, and get bit freaked out by going downhill really fast). Still, ten miles shouldn’t have knocked me on my arse, but it definitely did.
To be fair, I rode a little further than 10 miles, I’m sure. We rode around Long Island City a little, and then rode back over the bridge of Eternal Suffering and back into Manhattan, but from there I could only make it to Columbus Circle before I gave up and had to get my bike on the subway. I’d estimate I only rode about 16 miles that day, and not always at an intense pace, and yet I felt awful, like crap. I nearly cried. This was towards the end of the day, and I felt like I’d failed. I couldn’t even get myself home on my bike. What good was I?
It’s hard to deal with the feelings when they come up like that, when I feel like I should be better, fitter, stronger.
I also had another incident that made me feel pretty inadequate as a cyclist. I was cycling home on the West Side Bike path and I got a flat. I got off the bike, inspected my poor little flaccid tire, and walked my bike along until the next exit at 125th street, where I got the subway home.
You see, I didn’t know how to change a flat tire. I didn’t have a patch kit with me, and I felt stupid, walking along with my bike. I disrupted my boyfriend’s night, because when I got back he had to take a break from his work and show me how to fix it.
But listen to what I just said (wrote)! I learned how to change a tube, and not only that. I learned how to patch one too. Every time I feel down I have to force myself to remember what I have already achieved. A bad day for me now is stopping at 16 miles.
Self-care goes beyond drinking tea when you have bronchitis. It goes beyond taking your bike on the subway when you’re tired. Self-care is about kindness. I need to forgive myself for not automatically being the best cyclist in the world, and for not being able to ride 26 miles (my longest ride so far) everyday. I need to be patient, and I need to remember that I am doing well.
I ride, I cycle, and I care for myself. I will get better. But I am doing well now. The world is my Greenway.