A ride doesn’t just clear my mind, it fills it with fresh ideas. If I go out for more than an hour then often answers appear and new ideas flash into my mind. This might sound like spurious justification but for me it’s true, issues I might have been weighing up can often get resolved. Some say sleeping on a tricky decision helps, I say go for a ride.
Tour fever might be building but ahead of daily previews, TV, L’Equipe and more, it’s time to go away for a few days riding.
One theory is that cycling helps the brain produce “alpha waves”, a relaxed state of mind you might get whilst sitting relaxed with your eyes closed yet still awake, something close to daydreaming. Is this possible when riding given you’re often alert rather than close to sleep? It’s not as strange as it sounds given things like potholes, passing traffic and effort can get managed on autopilot.
Great minds think alike
“My mind only works with my legs”
– Jean-Jacques Rousseau
It’s not unique to cycling. 18th century writer Jean-Jacques Rousseau said “I can only meditate when I walk… …when I stop, I stop thinking… my mind only works with my legs“. Similarly, Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard stated “every day I walk myself into a state of well-being… I have walked myself into my best thoughts“. Rousseau and Kierkegaard didn’t live to see the bicycle but there’s every chance they would have enjoyed the simple act of cycling too.
There are less poetic reasons to explain how a ride can clear the mind. After all, once you are riding you can’t do much else. Even on a group ride you might not talk a lot. There are no distractions from ringing phones or incoming emails. I suppose it’s easier to think when you escape these things.
A healthy mind in a healthy body
There are the simple benefits of exercise. 2,000 years ago the Romans spoke of “a healthy mind in a healthy body”, today the modern day benefits of exercise are better known. Relaxation and well-being contribute to a sharper mind.
If you’re lucky enough to ride a lot you can get a mild addiction. There’s the comfort of routine but the endorphins too. These brain chemicals aid relaxation but there can be a downside, missing a ride can bring feelings of frustration and cold turkey.
- This piece is a re-work of an old piece but from when the blog started and so people read it. I’m away for the next few days – riding – so content on here will be light
- The photo at the top is by Mavic. Visit their site at mavic.com and you’ll see plenty of inspiring scenery which, if you root around to find the file, make a good desktop background