January 17, 2023

Ride Like A Girl: Be Strong

For the last month or more I have been inundated with weight loss ads and getting a flat tummy through social media and email.  This marketing definitely keeps me on my edge working through the mental clutter of weight loss and diets that like many of you I am plagued with.  It is also a New Year which means many of us are setting New Year’s resolutions or goals for the next year.. And even that is tainted with being reminded by other ads that most of us will fail at the goals we set for ourselves right now.. Can you say mixed messages? And anxiety inducing?

It’s no secret that most women - even women who look amazing - constantly think about how we look and what we could be doing to have the ‘perfect’ body.  Men also have to sort through this for themselves; they just seem to talk about it less around me..

Our bodies are one of those things that make each of us unique.  There is no perfect body or ideal weight that is the same for any two people. There is no gold standard.  There are ranges we should strive to be within for our body type, age, metabolism, joint health. That is a conversation for you and your doctor - not social media ads targeted to make you feel bad about yourself so that you sign up for the latest trendy gimmick.

When I am riding with most of my lady friends, what we should be doing to combat ‘the inevitable’ seems like it makes its way into almost every conversation at some point.  And, like most of my friends, I struggle with body image when looking in the mirror.  I have a lifetime of mental conditioning that I work through every single day when I put on clothes.  I imagine most of us do.. 

A goal I have had for the last several years is to be STRONG in my body. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about my weight. When my focus is on strength - looking strong and feeling strong - the byproduct is I feel good. I eat better because I feel good. I have the energy to do the things I want to do. I eat better. I go to more places. I see more friends. I ride my bike more. It’s a win in every way.

For years, I swore off resolutions or setting intentions for the coming year.  I am a BIG fan of achievable goal setting - meaning I am not currently planning to ride my bike up Mt Everest, but I DO have the goal of riding my bike up Mt Currahee sometime in the future..  And who knows, once I manage to get all the way up Mt Currahee a couple of times then I’ll start looking at other mountains that will challenge me. I doubt Everest will ever be on my bucket list but it is an ongoing evolving entity, my beloved adventure list.

In goal setting I have to have incremental goals to reach that help me get to the big goal.  This takes some planning.. Now, I know not everyone loves planning, but it can be useful, it can also be fun if we let it help us realize our dreams. It also helps us stick to our plans.  The key is to be realistic with what you can do without it being stressful or creating anxiety that causes you to be resistant to actually succeeding.  Thus, if you’ve got one day a week you can ride your bike for one hour then that’s the hour you ride your bike or you read a book or you draw.. eventually, if you stick to it then that one hour a week becomes more miles, it becomes more books, more doodles.. it becomes habit. 

Once it becomes a habit you go back to the planning stage and add a layer. Maybe you ride a different section of greenway once a month during your hour.. or maybe you choose to go up a hill that you usually avoid to challenge yourself. Doing something is better than doing nothing.

If your plan doesn’t become habit easily you have to assess your goal. If the easy thing isn’t working then how will you ever get to mountain climbing? Is this a goal you want to achieve? Is it really?? And if the answer is yes then what is actually keeping you from succeeding? Is it will power? Is it how you’ve planned to accomplish the first layer of your goal? Is one hour a week too much? Too often? Could you switch it up and do one hour every two weeks? Do you need to do it with someone? To be excited about it? This process is almost as tricky as getting to the goal itself.

It is pretty satisfying to manage to ride that trail you’ve been avoiding and succeed.. or to make it up and over a mountain without dying or worse walking - I am joking - we all know there is no shame in walking.. 

So? How will I climb MT Currahee? Well, I will probably fail a bunch of times first.. I’ll berate myself for not working hard enough, but that won’t last long enough to deter me.. I will eventually stop avoiding The Waffle House climb to take ‘the scenic route’ through the Oconee Hills Cemetery section.. I will willingly let my ride buddy talk me into the Full Nelson and I won’t be mad at her for thinking it was a good idea when I’m half way up and I feel like I’m dying..

Essentially, I’m going to allow myself to do hard things at my own pace but also in a way that keeps me moving towards that mountain. I’m going to find ways to make it fun for me. I will survive when it isn’t.. or when I fall a little short because my end game - to be strong, to feel strong, to look strong - starts with my willingness to be uncomfortable.

Not everyone thrives with goals the way I do. Some people like having a big goal that pushes them to really dive deep. Some don’t thrive with goals. At the end of the day, you have to do what works for you. No matter what, I hope you find ways to keep it fun while creating new habits that improve your world through 2023.

Sarah Hubbard