Yesterday was the 1,051st day in a row I went for a bike ride, not that I’m counting or anything.
My daily bike ride is an exercise (ha!) in self-care, and it’s really not as hard as it might sound.
While I’m talking about bike riding your version self-care might be something different - walking the dog, gardening, kite surfing - anything that involves some “you” time with some physical exertion is the key.
“But I lead a busy life! How can I take time out every single day for self-care?” you say.
An answer is if you commit for long enough a habit will form and your self-care will become as much as part of your daily life as eating and sleeping.
Using me as an example - in late 2017 I had lost my cycling mojo. Mountain biking had been an important part of my life since 1993 and I was struggling to get motivated to get out riding, which meant less fitness, which meant bigger barriers to going out for a ride.
So I made this commitment to myself at the beginning of 2018:
I would go on a bike ride every day - even if it was just around the block.
While this is setting the bar pretty low (around the block is a bit under 2km for me) it still meant that every day I needed to find the time and a bike to go for a ride.
Three months in and I was struggling - the days were getting colder/ darker and getting out for a ride felt like a chore rather than self care. There were a couple of days where I had to drag myself out for a ride after dark because I hadn’t got around to riding a bike during the day - at the point the struggle between continuing my commitment and giving up was real.
Almost three years later I’m still riding a bike every day and (mostly) loving it. Workdays I ride to work, some days just I ride around the block, sometimes I ride all day (current record is 122km).
What 1,051 days of riding looks like in around my home town.
In those three years I’ve faced the following challenges to riding a bike every day:
I’m a not-that-fit middle aged dad.
I have ankylosing spondylitis - a chronic inflammatory arthritis.
Busy work life.
Busy family life.
Attending a no talk meditation retreat.
Rain, wind, ice & snow.
Two ex-tropical cyclones.
New Zealand’s largest forest fires in over 60 years.
A global pandemic.
A country wide lockdown.
That I’m still riding came down to a change in mindset not long after the three month mark. Quite simply the bike ride became an ingrained habit and while I gave myself no choice on whether I rode or not I could give myself choice about the nature of my bike ride.
Once the bike ride was locked into my brain as a permanent daily fixture I could simply focus on how/ where I rode bikes. Sometimes this became an exercise in creative logistics - but that in itself is a lot of fun.
For example, how does someone ride a bike everyday if they are travelling overseas on business? Well, I got up early in the morning in Portland, Oregon used the app I downloaded earlier to unlock a rental bike and went for a rainy ride along the riverfront in the dark of a Portland winter. I then got cleaned up, had a business meeting, Ubered to the airport, got on a plane, flew to San Francisco, got on another plane, flew 10,500km across the Pacific Ocean to Auckland, New Zealand. I then got on another plane and flew home to Nelson, got picked up at the airport by my family, got home and before I even unpacked went for a bike ride on a sunny summer Nelson afternoon - feeling strangely discombobulated, but very much alive.
What I’m trying to illustrate is if I can do it - almost anyone can. It comes down to committing to a mindset of daily self-care - no matter how small - and making space for that amongst all of our other commitments.
So - if you’ve made it this far I have a proposition for you:
Work out what physical activity you can do every day that will make you feel better - and commit to doing it every day. Soldier on through the first few months because sometimes it will seem like a trial and come out the other end with a habit that makes you healthier inside and out.
What 1,051 days of riding looks like in New Zealand (L) and a business trip to the USA (R).