Last Tuesday afternoon I saw this tweet from Steve Magnus, the author/co-author of some of my favorite books— Peak Performance, The Passion Paradox, and Do Hard Things:
“When does your best thinking occur? I’m going to take a guess that it’s not when on your phone or scrolling through social media? Give yourself time and space to think. Going on walks, sitting quietly, at a whiteboard, or with a notebook. Plan it in your day.”
YES. Ironically, I had an experience earlier that day that validated this tweet X100.
That morning, I had woken up with a prolonged Ironman weekend emotional and mental “hangover.” It wasn’t only due to the two full days of empathetic spectating and cheering. The days, weeks, and months leading up to this annual “home course” event are full of physical, mental, and emotional investments into my athletes.
The adrenaline had worn off and the letdown was in full force. I had a mild gut and headache, and was tired as hell. I was also feeling quite anxious over all of the things I needed to sort out that I had been putting off “until Ironman weekend was over.” To be honest, the last thing the part of my brain demanding comfort wanted to do was go on a three hour bike ride.
But, I knew I physically could. I was planning on taking the time. And there was that little voice in my head reminding me that it could possibly help me feel better. So I packed up my nutrition and headed out early, before I could talk myself out of it.
And I am beyond happy that I did.
First of all, after two days of nonstop rain and darkness, the sun on my face felt nothing short of incredible. Although it was still cool, the wind had calmed down to basically nonexistent. The details of my workout—that I had purposely not looked at until I started riding—were simple, mostly just telling me to ride along (on hills, of course).
I typically ride alone, and I never listen to anything other than the voices in my own head (sometimes I converse with them a bit too). On that Tuesday, I started with prayer. And then quiet reflection. My thoughts stopped swirling and answers to my long list of internal business and personal questions started to flow clearly. I felt like my brain had suddenly become an organized, mental filing cabinet. My anxiety lifted.
I enjoyed every single minute, whether cruising on a flat road or climbing a big hill. It was absolutely fascinating.
It took a little over three hours of quiet, alone time to find some clarity. I came home feeling both calm and energized, even though I had just ridden 55 miles. I didn’t have all of the answers, but a big part of my inner peace stemmed from the fact that I was reminded that I didn’t need to know or control all of the processes or outcomes. But, I did made some quick notes of all of the things that I had realized, considered, and came to conclusions on during the time out on the road.
The physical exertion, shot of endorphins, and beautiful sunshine had helped my physical symptoms dissipate. But my mind was at ease because I had given it some undistracted, unstimulated time to be present. To settle down and just think.
And I absolutely know it was some of my best.
Schedule some time in your day to think quietly. You don’t have to have a long list of big decisions to sort out.
But if you do, I highly recommend a solo long ride. Ironically, it ended up being the most productive three hours of my entire week.