As far back as I can remember I have loved riding a bike. It probably stems from my childhood when I could frequently be found gripping tightly to my Dad’s jacket on the back of his Harley Davidson or circumnavigating the yard on the small trail bike he’d bought me when I was just four years old.
As my dad’s attitude to motorcycling changed with maturity, I transitioned from engines to pedal power. From riding to school to cycling around Thursday Island on my budget sparkly purple Sportsworld roadie at age 20, to cycling from Sydney to the Gold Coast, riding has been a constant source of joy and energy in my life. But it was very nearly permanently derailed when I became pregnant in 2009.
At 42 I was obviously older than your average mum. While I knew I was fitter and healthier than I’d been 20 years earlier, the geriatric mum label I’d acquired seemed to resonate with my obstetrician who made more than a couple of comments about my advanced years. When he discovered four months into my pregnancy that I was still cycling he said “I recommend that you give it up, this will be your only chance to have a baby”. I was bewildered.
Initially, I decided to ignore him because stopping riding then was not part of my plan. I had a vision of me cycling well into my pregnancy inspired by a woman I knew who cycled almost until her waters broke, only a slight exaggeration. But the seed he planted in my mind started to haunt me.
Despite never feeling nervous riding I suddenly sensed the other riders in my bunch were too close. I felt anxious and thoughts of falling off started crashing into my mind. Perhaps I’d handle the situation differently now but at the time I decided to stop cycling.
Once our son arrived my life as a cyclist faded in my memory as I juggled family and career. It felt impossible to re-introduce into my life with my partner leaving for work at 5.15 am six days a week, exactly the time we cyclists hit the road.
I suspect that this happens to many of us. As we juggle different parts of our lives, we lose touch with activities that engage and energise us. It can sometimes take years to reconnect with them if we ever do.
Luckily for me after seven years off the bike, a business coach picked up on my love of cycling, commenting “wow, your face lights up when you speak about that, why don’t you cycle?”.
He challenged me to ask myself “How am I going to get it back into my life?” Often it’s about asking ourselves the right question and “How” is one of the most powerful there is. Our brains get to work on a solution and it blew me away how quickly I found mine. Within a couple of weeks, I was cycling regularly again and I’ve never looked back.
I had to ask for help from family to make it work but it was so worth it. Spending time doing what I love allows me to show up better in every other area of my life.
As we inch closer to 2022, is there something that you’d like to introduce or re-introduce to your life? Try hitting it with a “How” and see what you come up with.
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Donna Thistlethwaite is a Brisbane-based speaker and trainer specialising in mental health and resilience. She is an accredited Mental Health First Aid Instructor and Resilience at Work Facilitator with a passion for suicide prevention and for helping individuals, teams and organisations to THRIVE. You can find out about her next Mental Health First Aid courses here.