Breaking a journey down into manageable steps

I went away over the Easter break to The Netherlands and toured across the country on my push bike.  The phrase ‘When in Rome’ springs to mind as The Netherlands accommodates 17 million inhabitants and 23 million bicycles, (around 2 million are e-bikes).  I don’t own an e-bike so had to rely on my own fitness to get me round.  It was however, a pleasure (most of the time) to cycle in The Netherlands as a) it’s flat.. very flat; and b) everywhere you go there are fit for purpose cycle paths so I felt safe cycling in most places. Amsterdam was a little more challenging, but generally speaking it was great experience once we got our heads around riding on the other side of the road from the UK.

I rarely cycle in the UK these days as the roads around the area I live in rural Buckinghamshire is very poorly maintained to point they are too dangerous for anyone on two wheels and unfortunately the attitudes of some drivers is negative towards cycling and I don’t feel safe. So, one of my issues was my fitness as I haven’t cycled any decent distance at home since COVID times so felt bad that I was holding my friends up.

The last day of our break we were due to cycle from the east side of the country to the west in one hit to catch the ferry back home.  The distance was 60 miles (around 100km) and the weather forecast was not good with a band of heavy rain and head on winds hitting the country from the afternoon. So, I had a contingency plan to catch a train if the going got too tough for me.

It became clear that fitness was less of any issue and mental attitude was the biggest.  I had to change my mindset. Rather than my story being, ‘I’ll never be able to do this’, I had to change it to ‘I CAN do this’, and quite frankly it was a game changer.

Also, rather than thinking I have 60 miles to cycle I broke it down into six lots of ten mile sections. Stopping for a short break and ticking off each section as we went by.

The main train station I considered stopping at was around 35 miles in, but when we got to it, I had kept my story positive and was enjoying the journey, plus we were making good time to beat the bad weather.

Unfortunately, the weather did close in on us with around 15 miles to go and but with most of the journey now under my belt I made the decision to keep going. I kept my mindset positive by saying out loud ‘this is fun’, (a little ironically, but nevertheless it worked. Fake it till you make it!)

I looked to the end of each road, or section of cycle path to reach and counted down the last few sections.   Even with the now awful weather I knew the going was so easy in this country as there were no hills and I did not want to waste this opportunity.

The sense of achievement was amazing! It left me confident I could and would do this again.

So, when you are looking at doing a journey be it long or short, don’t think of it as a whole.  Break it down into bite size manageable steps or sections.  Stop for a break and move onto the next section.  If the going gets tough within those sections then micro-section it, to the end of a road, a tree or a sign.  The biggest challenge is in our heads.  Mental attitude is everything.

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