Commute of the mind

Autumn is glorious. When leaves turn golden brown and blizzard against deep blue skies, there are few finer sights in nature. Riding a bike through these conditions is blissful and I miss it terribly.

Two years ago my organisation moved its Headquarters from the coastal fringe of Cardiff to the valley bottom of Sirhowy. I left behind the Taff trail, Bute Park Arborteum and lunchtime rides through the Bay, for wooded slopes, mountain tops and twisty singletrack. A fair swop perhaps, were it not for the loss of the morning commute. It’s 15 miles to my new workplace, a distance eminently rideable but very unappealing. The route is either along narrow country lane rat runs and 50 mph carriageways with cars whipping along like it’s Formula 3 or a  1hour 45 min offroad ride that crosses large hills and two valleys (lovely, but aside from an occasional treat, impractical when family considerations are dialled in). Trains are infrequent and require connections. Buses non-existent.. So mornings are now spent travelling in….<shudder>….a car and my fitness levels are noticeably lower.

But I think I’ve hit on the answer. The commute of the mind.

When you’ve spent most of your 29 year career cycling to work – yes, I was an early starter – you become hooked on quite a few things:

  • The convenience of arriving at a nailed on time.
  • Breathing in fresh air and being part of your surroundings.
  • Pumping the blood around your veins.
  • Having some time to think.

My commute of the mind, is precisely half of that list. While I can’t enjoy the external benefits of (1) and (2), I can set up the internal benefits of (3) and (4) by hopping on my turbo trainer for half an hour and spinning moderately while listening to a podcast. Any will do. My current favourites include the BBC’s Tech Tent and The Food Chain, but I surf the podcast lists looking for mental stimuli to match the physical ones.  I sit listening and spinning, spinning and listening. I finish enlightened to something new. I stretch for 5 mins and re-hydrate, then I get on with my day.

It’s difficult to fully articulate how much of a difference this makes. It feels like wrestling back a bit of control. I’m fresher, more alive, more awake, arguably – and ironically – in better nick to drive a car. Over time, my fitness will creep back up to its previous level (despite training regularly the 3 hours per week commute time is clearly missed). I guess the message here is don’t let life wrestle things away from you, especially (especially) cycling with all of its physical and mental health benefits. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

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