Full disclosure: I do not have it all together. I’ve been feeling like lots of the stuff on social media is making it seem like I’m the only one, but I know that’s not the case. People are trying to be helpful, I get that. I appreciate them putting on their bravest faces for us, but I think those messages would be more effective if they kept in mind that some of us can feel alienated (i.e. me) by all of their seemingly endless productivity. How about prefacing indoor workout/sourdough baking/dinner preparation/art project making/home renovating/yard revamping/vegetable gardening tips with something like: “Hey guys, honestly, I have my ups and downs, but here are some things that I have been doing to get through.” So, I’ve decided to be that person. Please let me know if this resonates, what you’ve been doing and how you’re feeling.
For me, the hardest part is the uncertainty and the lack of a fixed timeline to shoot for in terms of my next race. Racing has been a big part of my life for a long, long time, and has shaped my years with the known factors and structures that periodized training and a concrete competition calendar give. It has taken me quite a while to normalize our new situation, and I’m still struggling. It has also made me realize that this maybe hasn’t been the healthiest way to live, but I’ll tackle that another time.
- Be Gentle –
I have found it useful to be gentle with myself when I start to get frustrated if I’m not being overly productive or focused. I often catch myself getting annoyed or stressed when I feel like I’m being “lazy” or I get angry at myself when I am unmotivated to train. All of these thoughts and feelings are normal and it’s okay to have them. Just like in a race, I need to focus on the things I can control and let go of the things I can’t. And there are things I CAN control – even if they’re small.
- Routine, routine, routine –
The most important strategy for me to navigate life right now is to set a routine, which includes fresh air and exercise every day. It’s okay if it takes a while to get into a routine… allow time to ease into it, perhaps adding something each day. My daily list of things I do to put me on the right track is basic, but accomplishing each one gives me a sense of achievement – even if it’s something tiny – and I think that’s really important.
Here’s an example of my routine, but I’m still playing with it:
- Make my bed as soon as I get up. Even though I didn’t normally make my bed every day (Shh! Don’t tell my Mom!), this is something I have started doing to give myself that first victory of the day, however small. Also: “Successful people make their beds.” – Catharine Pendrel. (Believe it or not, there is lots of research out there that supports this claim!)
- Make coffee and a healthful breakfast. (Coffee is extremely important.) 😉
- Get ready for “work.” (I have always worked from home in addition to being a pro bike racer, so I make sure to change into “real” clothes as a signal that I’m going to be productive, rather than staying in PJ’s all day.
- Do 10 minutes of mindfulness/meditation to get myself into a good mindset. I had been doing this on and off, but I think it’s extra-important now to train my mind regularly each day and I’m noticing a difference in my mental well-being. I like the Headspace app (no affiliation). They offer a free trial, plus a series called ‘Weathering the Storm’ they’ve made available for free during this time. Do you have a favourite mindfulness app or resource?
- Do 10 minutes of core strength/stability training. This practice has made a huge difference to my riding and general core strength/stability for injury prevention, ability to stay comfortable on the bike for hours and hours, as well as use my body more efficiently these past few seasons. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but it sure adds up if you do it consistently. I like the free apps by Fitify and Sworkit (once again, no affiliation).
- Start work. I am a professional writer, so most of my work is done at a desk on a computer at home (or wherever I happened to be in the world before we were all “grounded”). I give myself a progress goal that’s achievable instead of telling myself I just need to get a whole bunch done at once.
- Write in my journal at the end of the day, listing three little things I’m grateful for our that I feel great about. It’s amazing how content and optimistic I feel afterwards!
Outside of this, my routine is more free-form (it’s still a work in progress). Fitting in a workout is vital, and if that workout isn’t outside, I make sure I also get out for a nip of fresh air, whether it’s a short walk or just sitting outdoors and soaking it all in. I’ve never been much of a “walker”, but I’m really enjoying the simplicity and serenity of walking in the forest right now.
I challenge each of you to create your own daily routine, if you don’t already have one. Yours will probably look very different from mine, because you are unique. Also, don’t fight yourself if you don’t manage to stick to it 100% of the time. Be gentle and kind to yourself and do what works for you.
- Make time for yourself –
I have also made sure I add in chunks of “me” time to keep myself grounded and take my mind off of the stressful things going on in the world as well as my seemingly unending list of things I should do. I’ve started enjoying jigsaw puzzles after not having done one in decades. It’s so satisfying when a piece clicks into place or when the image emerges! I have always loved cooking, but I’ve been cooking more lately and trying out new recipes. I’ve also been baking. I find all of these activities particularly enjoyable, because they involve a process and you can see/taste the result within a pretty short time — and that feels really, really good when other goalposts are currently out of sight.
- Keep in touch –
I have found video chats to be awesome for staying in contact with friends and family. If I ever feel down or lost, I reach out to someone. On the flip-side, lately if I think about someone and wonder how they’re doing, I’ll send them a quick text or give them a call rather than put it off, because I figure it’s always nice to know someone is thinking of you.
On a final note, it’s completely normal to feel vulnerable, sad, stressed, and anxious, especially during challenging times like this and it’s extremely important that you ask for help if you need it.
Let me know what you do to manage uncertainty!
Liv Racing pro rider Sandra Walter’s first time competing for Canada was in 1998 as a junior at the World XC Mountain Bike Championships. She has since flown the maple leaf at 11 more World’s. Her competitive career spans two decades & is fueled simply by a love of the sport. She aspires to achieve new sporting heights, while inspiring women & girls to discover the joys of cycling.