It’s World Mental Health Day this Saturday, 10th of October and it’s a cause we’d love to draw people’s attention to.
Looking after your mental health is always important, but even more so in such a tumultuous year of change and disruption.
Unfortunately, many cyclists can’t simply ride like they used to, and when you’re restricted from competing, riding long distances, with mates or you’re just dealing with 2020 in general then you may feel trapped and unsettled.
We’re no experts in this, so we’d like to share the 10 tips that Mental Health Australia has recommended to help maintain good mental health. We’ve then compared the tips to our experience and adventure riding. While we make light of some content, the tips are genuine, and you can find them and other resources here.
Exercise increases wellbeing and helps reduce symptoms of common mental health concerns...
Ride whenever you can: outside, in the rain, online, in the morning or at night, heck even go for a run. Maybe you can’t do a long ride right now, but try to get out for a little while every day to maintain both physical and mental wellbeing. Don’t beat yourself up if you slip a little, remember that cycling is meant to be enjoyed!
Eating a nutritious diet is great for both your physical and mental health. As much as possible, try and stick to a healthy diet despite changes to routine and environment.
Imagine it’s Day 3 of Race to the Rock, you’re 637kms in and you manage to get to the servo just before closing time, if you don’t fuel up on enough food, you might not make it to the next town. Food is fuel for both body and mind, so make it a priority to keep up a tasty and nutritious diet. In a bikepacking race, that might mean 7 potato cakes, 1 tub of hot chips, and 2 Veggie Pasties. For the rest of us, lots of fruit and vegetables and home cooked meals are always a winner.
Physical distancing is crucial right now, but the social connection is more important than ever! Use technology to talk to your friends and family, using video chats to talk face-to-face where possible. Reach out to your neighbours and community. Share how you’re feeling, and invite others to share with you.
Apps like Strava and Zwift make it easy to stay connected with your cycling buddies online. Share pics, plan adventures or chat about your next N+1 and remember to give lots of Kudos to your mates for getting out safely!
The fastest indoor bicycle in the world
Ryan Flinn on Zwift
Try to do things that make you feel physically and emotionally comfortable, engaging in activities that make you feel safe and calm. Continue to do the things you enjoy as much as possible.
Ok, we all know riding is fun, see Tip 1, but we can’t do this all day. At Curve, we get plenty of kicks out of planning a #Flashpacking ride, check out our rides here… Scouting your local neighbourhood take a #BAAW shot is fun too, or spend an afternoon cleaning and detailing your pride and joy so not only will it sparkle in the next pic, but it will run smoother and quieter too.
Choose how often you engage with news and social media, and be sure to find news sources that are trustworthy and factual. Add in some content that makes you laugh and feel comfortable wherever possible.
Get away from that 24 hour news cycle when riding outside by putting your phone on silent, airplane mode or turning off notifications. Your ride will be safer and more enjoyable with less distractions. When you get home and start scrolling again, fill your feed with quality content such as the RACE RIDE SEEK or the G!RO Podcast, The Hidden Athlete and the Overland Archive to help inspire your next adventure.
The Hidden Athlete Podcast
The Overland Archive
Keep to your regular routine as much as possible, including exercise, sleep, daily chores, work, recreational activities and connecting with others.
Routine and planning can make or break a ride. If you’re having trouble motivating yourself to get out in the morning, have your bike ready and kit laid out the night before. Remember to include things like a multi tool, nutrition and packable layers. Make this part of your routine and soon riding everyday will come naturally as brushing your teeth.
Prioritise getting enough sleep each night, to help you feel more energised and focused during the day, and to protect your mental health.
Ultra endurance cyclists know the importance of sleep. Even though they don’t get much during a race, they plan it very carefully. Kristof Allegaert, of the greatest endurance races in the world, always gives himself time to rest, soak in his surroundings and will often read a book mid race to help sleep.
Kristof Allegaert while leading the 2016 Indian Pacific Wheel Race
Taking a moment
Remind yourself that there is no right or wrong reaction to what is happening right now. Allow yourself extra grace as your productivity is likely limited and your environment has changed a lot.
While this is an uncertain time, try and view these changes with openness and acceptance. You may have more downtime to pursue your hobbies or learn something new. You may be able to connect more regularly with friends and family.
Like every race or long ride, it’s normal to experience a wide range of emotions. In one moment you’ll be on a high, “that 60kms didn’t take long at all”! The next you're hating that the last 10kms seemed to take 10hrs, "ugggghh!". But forgive yourself, keep pedaling and almost laugh at yourself for the emotional roller coaster that you're on.
It is likely and normal that you will experience some anxiety and stress during this time. Talking to trusted friends, family or your GP is a great starting point. There are also many online and telehealth resources available.
Click here if you need help?
*This is an Australian resource, please check for your local resources.
Many cyclists refer to their bikes as “Mental Health Machines” and for good reason, we are loving to see so many people using and taking up cycling for exercise, transport and their adventures. Keep it up people, we can’t wait to go for a ride with you all when we can.