There’s a great old movie about a rock band in Ireland called The Commitments. The soundtrack is awesome and I’ve used some of it for Spinning® classes. This spring, one song has been sadly appropriate: “I Can’t Stand the Rain.” It’s a great song, but during a wet and rainy season when we’d like to be outdoors, it is all too true.
OK, it’s one thing when you have a ride planned and it rains and you can still venture forth with little harm. It’s quite another when those nasty weather cells keep circling about and shooting down bolts of lightening, high winds and even hale. Yup, that’s what we’ve had for far too many days here in Vermont this spring. I lead an outdoor cycling group once a week and we’ve had only two dry sessions so far. When the weather forecast threatens “dangerous” lightening, well, duty calls, and – no ride.
I don’t like to ride in the rain. I don’t like to get wet – the kind of wet when my feet squish in my shoes, the rain drips down the back of my neck, and I feel the water pouring through the spaces in my helmet and down my face. That’s the kind of rain I rode in last week.
I had jumped into my narrow window to hit the road after work and headed out of town in clear weather. By the time my ride was done I had ridden through a 35-minute deluge – twice – as the storm clouds circled back. Once again, however, my Spinning® training came to my rescue. How many hours have I spent in the Endurance Energy Zone? Plenty. I have practiced keeping a steady pace, moderating my heart rate and maintaining my focus. What better way to approach getting caught in the rain?
Let me back up a bit. When the sky turned black and I realized I had no option but to turn around and finish my ride, I put on my super light-weight and easily compacted rain coat, turned on the flashing LED light on my saddle bag and revised my training plan. Hoping that my tires would hold on the slick pavement (and avoiding the painted lines), I decided to scrap the intervals I had hoped for and focus on a steady, consistent ride that would get me home safely. Visibility was poor and traffic was heavy so I knew that holding my line, riding consistently and predictably, was a safety mechanism. Once I locked into my journey, I was able to deal with the mental aspects of my ride.
I needed to relax my upper body and breathe. Tension would be more than counterproductive; it could be downright dangerous. I needed to establish and maintain a steady cadence. I thought of all the times I have coached my Spinning® students to realize that cadence and resistance determine intensity. I wanted to keep my effort level manageable and yet move forward deliberately. I needed to match the appropriate gear with an efficient cadence. How often in Spinning® class do we do so with our resistance knobs?
Watching the water fly off my front wheel, I needed to avoid letting my mind wander, falling victim to its mesmerizing effect. I needed to consider my grip and remind myself to soften my elbows. I needed to manage the flow of power from my legs to the pedals and I needed to take my training ride to another level – a level at which I became one with my bike working with and not against the elements.
I became so aware of the synchronicity of my movements as cause, and my bikes response to those movements as effect, as forward motion, that I forgot to worry about the traffic, the puddles, the threatening rumbles, and the remaining distance to my parked car. My ride was stripped to the bare essentials.
But isn’t that what we do in a Spinning® class? We remove problematic distractions, connect with our Spinners® and refine our training? And, speaking of the rain….how fortunate are we to have the option of coming inside to ride? Disappointment is one thing, but needing to fulfill a training or fitness goal, and being unable to do so, is quite another. With the advantage of highly effective cycling training waiting for us in the studio or the gym, as part of a class or on our own, we can move forward without missing a beat.
We may feel that we “can’t stand the rain,” but we can use the rain to dump a bucketful of real life on us. At least we have options!