Layers of Bad Habits

My sister just recently finished a meditation course that consisted of eight days of non-communication, including verbal dialogue, sign language and eye contact. Even touching someone on the shoulder to ask for passage room was frowned upon. The practice is in part designed to remove the layers of bad habits we develop when interacting, thus allowing space for our mind to focus on our inner selves and recognize these habits and how they handicap us.

When I started mulling over blog topics, I realized I had developed layers of bad habits surrounding my bike riding program that if not exorcized tended to dampen the fun experience bike riding can provide.

Eating habits play a big part in how we feel when riding and my worst bad habit by far. So often you hear people say if you’re riding, you can eat anything. What, and when, you eat is vital to a good ride. I’m a sloth in the morning and try and keep my morning routine as short as possible. If I’m commuting, there’s rarely time for breakfast until I’m at the office. I’d try and shovel down a bagel on occasion to provide fuel, but that would sit like a lump. It didn’t take long to figure out that the trick was to fuel up the previous day, or build up over several days if planning a long ride. I find that carbohydrate foods such as wholegrain breads and pasta, fresh fruit, and veggies are good fuel sources. For breakfast, I can then eat light; granola or a peanut butter sandwich, for extended energy and not worry about being sick from a heavy meal – or sick form skipping a meal – on the ride.  Practicing this routine not only helps your body fuel up, it also encourages the rider to commit to the ride. Sometimes getting myself on the bike can be the biggest obstacle. Making excuses is a bad habit we all suffer from to some degree. If I plan properly, once I’m on the bike, things fall into place and I have an enjoyable experience.

amanda riding on Ohiopyle rails to trails

Hydration goes hand in hand with eating right and I’m a failure at this too. Drink water, drink fluids, drink lots and often and stay hydrated they advise. I know the dangers first hand if I don’t practice this mantra, but still I have skimped and regretted it time and time again. Most commonly I’ve suffered from foggy eyesight, cramps, and nausea, but severe dehydration can lead to more serious issues and it’s never something to fool around with. My issue with hydration is carrying a water laden reservoir on my back during riding—so I’ve tried to regulate most of my water storage to multiple waterbottle cages on my bikes for short rides, and for longer rides I have a lightweight pack that carries a small reservoir to supplement the waterbottles. I’m happiest on the road bike were I can load up my panniers with water and be on my way.  Just remembering to drink frequently, even when you’re not thirsty is a good habit to get into as dehydration can sneak up on you quickly.

My last great bad habit is not prepping my muscles appropriately before riding. Jumping on a bike cold makes the first mile feel like I’m pedaling through sludge, even on a slight or moderate grade. I find it amusing, in a dark way, that the small incline coming out of my neighborhood requires gritting my teeth and forcing my legs to keep at it. Later in the ride, I have a much longer, winding elevation climb that is actually easier to crest since by that time my thighs, knees and calves are warmed up and ready to go. Sheer laziness is the culprit. Just a light stretch the night before and again just before the ride, would alleviate some of the warm up time on the bike. It’s not bad idea to stretch a little after the ride too, but that’s even less likely to happen. Breaking this bad habit and falling into a good stretching regime would not only make the commute better, but would go a long way to prevent excessive sore muscles post ride. It’s too bad I rarely take the time to do so, but after all, it’s hard to give up ALL of ones bad habits!

[Photo by Dan Zimmerman]

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