The pain-euphoria phenomenon is an incredible thing. Twisting up a challenging climb, crawling along each mile, sweat cascading, quads throbbing, back aching, praying for the next turn to reveal the top of the mountain… then a more powerful feeling washes over you. It’s a feeling of relief, of exhilaration, of pure appreciation for the beauty of your surroundings. In addition to serving as a perpetual suffer-fest, cycling is the experience of genuine gratitude for your body’s ability to accomplish challenging feats and an openness to the stunning surroundings of our world that can easily be missed.
No, not every ride is this grand. Especially, if you are solely focused on cultivating your ability to endure pain rather than enjoying what’s around you. But hopefully, more often than not, you reach a point in your ride where you feel as though you have escaped the mundane of everyday life. When you do, it is as if you have crossed over to another dimension of time and space where everything that was stressful, worrisome, or impossible in your life no longer matters.
Last Sunday was one of those rides. To my tenacious other half it probably didn’t seem very difficult. Let us note that in the past 5 days this Strava* fanatic has already ridden for 15 hours. But to me it was exhilarating, challenging, fun, and a great chance to get some quality time with my best friend!
Enjoying the lifestyle of being a triathlete means incorporating great road rides into my week. My cyclist room-mate-for-life certainly rides more and harder than I do – but our common ground is this: cycling can elevate your sense of accomplishment in your own life and if you embrace the lifestyle it will bring you a lot of joy. I love to ride not simply because it makes me physically stronger, but because it makes me FEEL powerful! If you have ever entertained the idea of utilizing your weekend morning by pedaling around, I really encourage you to give it a try!
Still not convinced? Okay, here are 5 reasons cycling will increase your quality of life:
- Cycling makes you smarter. According to The Think team researchers from Illinois University: improving cardio-respiratory fitness by 5% with biking correlates to improved mental capacity by 15%. The attribute this to the idea that cycling generates new brain cells in the hippocampus (the part of the brain that controls memory).
- Cycling strikes your creativity bone. The boosts of oxygen and blood flow to the brain that cycling provides lends itself to breaking through mental blocks and steering ideas to new places. Neurons in your brain are sparked during bike rides, which allows for unbelievable brainstorms and innovative problem solving.
- You’ll sleep better. And not JUST because your exhausted. Riding daily actually helps you to get a better, deeper night’s sleep (that is, if your girlfriend doesn’t keep you awake snoring all night…). This one is backed by Stanford University School of Medicine, the circadian rhythm is able to sync with much more ease with outdoor exercise. In addition, stress hormones that thwart regenerative, deep sleep are reduced with a 20-30 min cycle.
- Cycling gives you MORE energy. A study published in Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics found that riding a bike actually lessens feelings of fatigue by 65% and boosts energy levels by 20%. That means trading in agonizing bursts of stressful cortisol for invigorating bursts of dopamine. (Riding 3 days a week at a low to moderate pace is enough to do the trick!)
- Your heart will thank you. Scientist at Purdue University say that cycling decreases a person’s risk of heart disease by 50% if enjoyed regularly. Even biking as little as 20 miles per week can decrease your risk of heart disease to half that of a sedentary person. Considering illness takes a major toll on happiness, the preventative benefit of cycling speaks for itself!
That about sums it up! As the weather continues to turn for the better, why not plan a fun bike ride for your sunny day!
Want to read more about the benefits of cycling? Check out these links:
*Strava : The ultimate compilation of all you rides (and other forms of exercise) as well as your achievements, your rankings amongst others who have completed the same routes (aka: segments), and all kinds of diagnostic data to help analyze performance and track overall fitness (and freshness). 10/10 would recommend.
Check it out: https://www.strava.com/