Picture this: you’ve got the day off work, no plans in your diary, the sun is shining and you’ve got the house to yourself. Perfect day for a nice long bike ride, right?
But somehow, for whatever mysterious reason, you just don’t feel like riding today. What do you do?
If you’re on a training schedule, your coach or Today’s Plan or whatever software might be ordering you to ride – so you’ll ride anyway. As for me, I don’t have any training plans at the moment, so I don’t have to ride if I don’t want to.
That’s how I’ve felt on my last few days off. I’ve written before on this blog about motivation. Sometimes, I just don’t feel like riding. I’m lethargic, my quads are faintly tinged with fatigue, and I’d rather pretend to do some chores around the house. Yet at the same time, a voice in my head says I should ride.
Sitting on the couch won’t make you fitter, it says.
You’ll regret it when you’re stuck in the office all week.
It’s going to rain this weekend – today’s your only chance.
So, after much internal wrangling, I drag myself to the wardrobe, pick out my cycling kit, grab the bike and head reluctantly to the front door.
But where should I go? Somewhere nearby; I want to be back within an hour or two. I’m not in the mood to do hill repeats, so Bobbin Head is out of the question. I commute through Sydney Olympic Park twice a week, so going there again would just bore me. What about wandering my neighbourhood streets? Nah, I need something a little farther away, something that gives my ride a goal, a purpose.
More often than not, I end up in Parramatta Park. At 20 minutes away, it’s close enough for a quick trip, yet far enough to be a destination. It’s safe for cyclists, with a dedicated lane and minimal traffic. That takes away a great deal of stress and anxiety – the last thing my mind wants when I already don’t want to ride.
It’s a short loop, so I can do as many or as few laps as I wish without thinking about it. It’s mostly flat, so I don’t have to exert myself. It’s a pleasant green space, with plenty of trees, a river and people out walking their dogs and doing leisurely things. Sure, the speed limit is just 30km/h, but I don’t intend to push the pace anyway. It’ll be a gentle cruise to clear the mind, get some kilometres in the legs and feel like I’ve done something healthy today.
Rides like this are nice. They might not do very much for my race fitness, but they’re spontaneous, carefree and relaxing. They take me back to the reasons I started riding in the first place – to go outside, to see the world at my own pace, and to get a bit of exercise. A ride like this is fundamental to cycling.
I’m thankful for a place like Parramatta Park. Sure, it’s not perfect, but it’s great for when I need it. In my mind, it’s a safe place, a comfort blanket, a place I know well. That’s why I find myself riding back there time and time again.
Where do you ride when you don’t feel like riding? Share it with us in the comments below.
Feature image: Douglas Liu