It’s that time again. The end of the year, and that time when we naturally look back at the last 12 months and reflect on all we have, and haven’t, achieved. It depends on your perspective whether you see success or disappointment, and your mood at the time of reflection.
Social media can have a part to play in helping you to look back. Facebook loves to show your highlights, quite often with a yearbook of favourite posts. Strava creates a reel of your exercise stats for the year, which can be interesting for data nerds like me. In 2021 I cycled 2800 less miles than in 2020, but then 2020 was quite exceptional for me. And in 2021 I rediscovered the joy of off road riding, and that equates to many less miles travelled in the same time as a road ride. So, all about perspective.
Why do we reflect?
An optimist might argue that it’s pointless to look back, after all, the past is done and it can’t be changed, we should focus on the future. And to an extent I’m inclined to agree. If we look back at the past and only see the failures, disappointment and things that haven’t happened, it can be a recipe for very poor mental health outcomes, and depression. But if we look back at those things with an enquiring mind then we can learn from them. We can learn how not to do things, so that we don’t repeat past mistakes. We can observe what we did, or didn’t do, and make changes to ensure better outcomes in the future. We can reflect on what activities we didn’t enjoy, and then instead find new ones.
But reflecting also helps you to notice those small incremental changes that you might not notice on a daily basis, but that build up over time. Once again, Strava (other apps are available) can be a great tool for reflection. Contrary to popular belief it’s not all about QOM’s, and beating your mates on the road. It can be a great way to notice your improved fitness over time. With my cycling group, we have a number of local Strava segments as set as favourites which help our riders to notice how their fitness is improving. One of the most telling things about building up a record of these is that they can make you feel much better about a ‘bad’ day. When you ride more, you usually get fitter and stronger, maybe faster. But how often do you return home from a ride thinking that it was really tough and you felt weak and drained? Then you check back on your segments and realise that you were still really close to your normal times, but considerable improved on your times from a year ago….on a ride that might previously have been considered a great ride. It’s all about perspective and those small incremental improvements that have built up over time. When we take time to reflect, we can notice those improvements.
12 months is a good time frame, a lot can happen in year. But sometimes our reflection might just highlight that the last year was a good year, and that you’re just fine as things are. Sometimes in life, we don’t always have to move forwards. At times, just staying still is the right thing at the time.
I’ve reflected back on the past two years, as the change in the world was probably the biggest that our generation has every encountered globally – certainly in the western world at least. How I tackled 2020 is very different to how I approached 2021. The first was full of highs and lows. The highs were massive (LEJOGLE World Record). But the lows left me on a precipice . I discovered a lot about myself, and not all of it was very pretty. I achieved loads from a health and fitness perspective, but emotionally I was a mess. But somewhere along the way I found myself inspiring others, and I was very grateful to be in a position to do so.
In 2021 I sought to be kinder to myself. I went to counselling in the early part of the year and finally laid 40 years of demons to rest. And then I took the rest of the year off, at least from a training perspective. I had no real goals to strive for, and whilst it did leave me feeling a little aimless at times, I did rediscover a long lost love for riding off road. I entered the odd event, and found that the determination I learned in previous years hadn’t gone away. Every off road ride, no matter how mucky, brought a smile to my face. Unlike road riding, getting out in the rain didn’t bother me, as it added a new dimension to the ride. My body thanked me for off road too, as it used so many more muscles more of the time. I actually started going on a short off road ride as recovery for longer road rides.
The Pandemic helped me to kick start the change my career path too. Previously I had been focused on courses, and coaching, but I discovered the world of virtual events by joining one to keep me motivated to ride during lockdown 1. I loved it so much that I started creating my own, and these have proved popular, with many riders coming back for more each time. My third one starts in a couple of weeks, and you can find out more about it at Be Your Adventures – Park Park Adventure
My final reflection of the year relates to my health. As a woman in her mid 50’s, my body has started to break down. I can be honest in admitting that it’s partly due to neglect, and partly due to the passage of time. Whilst my diet is on the whole pretty healthy, I go off piste more often than I care to admit. This and a smattering of genetics have lead to some health complications that I need to kick into the long grass. My reflections have helped me identify some of the areas where I’ve been going on, and that I will need develop more discipline around food if I’m to alter my health trajectory. All the weight that I lost during 2020 has come back on, mostly due to a lack of activity over the last year or so. Dropping my cycling mileage, and continuing to work from home, have lead to a pretty sedentary life when I’m not on the bike. This all has to change.
Write your own future
Reflection has no real purpose if you don’t learn from it. For the most part, although the last two years have thrown up some challenges, I am thankful that I took the ‘year off’ approach this year. I decided to take a longer Christmas break than normal to give myself time to perform an annual reset and I’m already seeing dividends.
I am ready now to approach the next year with more gusto than the last. I am creating events, both virtual and real, and very excited to see how they pan out. With any luck I’ll get accepted into a huge off road challenge for later this year, which will give me the goal that I’ve been lacking for a while, and I’ll continue on working towards health improvements that will enable it all to be possible. I haven’t yet decided how much road cycling I’ll do, as the lure of gravel is pretty strong right now. But if I can manage to find the time for both, then that will be great. I certainly plan to do more bikepacking in 2022, and will undoubtably be sharing my experiences in these pages. You will see a lot more cycling related posts coming up
Maybe I’ll even get my half written book finished – now that would be a real achievement.
When we look back at our own experiences, and also those of others, we can begin writing our own new adventures. No experience, good or bad, is a wasted experience. There is always something to learn.
So when you reflect on the last year or two, what will you learn from them?
- What will you improve?
- What will you avoid in future?
- What new experiences do you want?
- What needs to continue?
- What brings you joy?
- Are you ready for a new adventure?
And so it’s time to bring this year to a close.I wish you all a very happy new year, and a FAB-U-LOUS 2022