Today’s blog is somewhat of an interesting topic. It’s not really exercise-tip-related and has little or nothing to do with endurance, intervals or strength training yet is often part of every champion’s identity. Passion - applies to an emotion that is deeply stirring or ungovernable (Merriam-Webster definition).
As I was out on my bike today I got thinking about the importance of passion and discovering what truly drives each and every one of us. People often say that they are 'passionate' about something...
While pulling myself up and down a few hills on my bike, I was trying to figure out why every time that I rode I needed to be fast or it wouldn't be enjoyable. As I pedaled a little further I began questioning what ‘drives’ me…why is this so all-or-nothing for me and is it a good thing?
Furthermore, a week or so ago I had a girlfriend ask me to go for a bike ride…seemed simple and pretty straight forward but it felt complicated and threatening. I couldn’t make sense of why I wouldn’t want to go for a leisurely bike ride and just ‘have fun’; neither could she.
This brings me back to passion. Passion is something that drives us, it fuels our will to achieve or accomplish something. A burning desire that is so deep that nothing can thwart our attempt to be the best. I realize that there has to be some level of physiology as a cyclist to win a race and that it’s not all passion or obsession but just how much does one’s will to succeed account for? If there are 2 athletes side-by-side and both equally talented at their respective sport which one will win?
Today was the first day in a very long time that I decided to go out on my bike and ride. The first 30 minutes seemed pretty easy then it started to sink in that I hadn’t been training for over 2 months and physiologically, I ‘should’ be tiring. Riding a little further, I hit an hour, then 2 hours, then 3 hours and finally 3.5 hours. I was amazed, yet again at how someone (me) could just ‘jump on a bike’ and ride the same way that they would if they were in serious training and average almost the same speed. Could it be passion?
I’m no expert when it comes to sports psychology, nor do I work in a physiology lab. So my ability to explain why I was able to achieve this kind of stumped me. I felt myself fatiguing today and knew my muscles and heart were tiring but there was something inside me that was “driving me” to push harder, ride faster and ignore the lactate that had begun to accumulate in my thighs. I would like to think that I’m ‘passionate’ about riding and that whenever I do ride it’s with every ounce of my being; or I simply don’t. When coaching clients I always stress the importance of doing something, anything but getting it done to bring them closer to their goal. I don’t’ talk about passion and I don’t tell them to train only if they feel passionate about it. Which brings me to my ultimate question; if someone is passionate can they exercise for fun? Take Lance Armstrong for example; when he retired he didn’t ride his bike. Now wouldn’t you expect that the 7-time winner of the Tour de France would still ride his bike everyday ‘for fun’? Well the answer is ‘no’.
Passion is a funny thing. Coupled with my all-or-nothing attitude, I can’t help but wonder whose better off, the exerciser that wakes every day and does something because it’s ‘routine’ and may or may not enjoy it, or an athlete that spends 10 years training and competing in a sport then stops completely? Exercise adherence also plays a role in making exercise a lifelong habit but I’m reaching deeper here and wanting to explore why some athletes that were at the very top of their game never play the sport again once they retire. It’s funny, these people spend years of their life training, competing and winning to shelve all of that and walk away. Is it because they run out of passion or because they cannot settle for being less than their very best, hence the all-or-nothing approach to exercise. I find myself with the latter camp of people who simply cannot exercise in a sport that I’ve competed in for ‘fun’.
I know some people will never understand why someone won’t go for a leisurely bike ride and why it’s such a big deal to do something ‘less intensely’. However, it’s those same people that will never know what it’s like to careen down mountains in the Alps with tears streaming from you eyes and sprint across a finish line at speeds of 60km/h. You see, when you’re passionate about something there is no substitute. There is no fun in mediocrity, normalcy or being less than your absolute best. Fault me for this way of thinking but personally, I find it very difficult to not want to be my best when passion is part of the equation.
Putting one leg over the top tube of my bike ignites something inside of me, I feel like a thoroughbred. The idea of having fun gets muddied with the desire to ride my fastest, be my best and pull on every ounce of my being to be who I truly am: a very passionate bike rider.
So are far as those leisurely rides to the beach… forget it. It’s not ‘fun’, I’d rather run or rollerblade and save my rides for days when i'm ready to give 110%.
Think I’ll go eat some grapes; for fun…