(Finding Form Amidst) Stygian Amorphousness

A dismal little ride, for the sake of it, on sodden roads past saturated fields, on a route partly determined by which roads aren’t impassable.

Doing it means I’ve done 4,400 miles this year – the same as last year. That means I’ve met what’s been a moving target. I started out aiming for 4,500 but cut it to 4,250 in the light of the miserable start to the year and subsequent soggy summer.

I upped it to 4,400 towards the end of November when I was thinking I should easily meet it. Then December’s rain happened – and continues to happen. Add to that a couple of bouts – one still continuing – of feeling quite lousy with throat/sinus problems, and hey presto! All bets are off and plans are awry. As it is, I have now just scraped in.

There are lessons to be learned. There’s the obvious one: human plans are feeble. That’s not a revelation. A more interesting one is what we should learn about living with climate change.

As local climates get ever more unpredictable, given how much of what we want to do is governed by the weather to some extent, we probably ought to be adopting a much more proactive ‘make the most of it’ culture, in all spheres. If March turns out to be hot and sunny again, then we should all be geared to grabbing that opportunity and making up for it later. If August is wet then let’s not bother with taking the main school holidays then. And so on.

It would need a vastly more flexible and cooperative attitude across the board – the public sector, the workplace and so on – and, of course, it won’t happen. It’s very easy to imagine to cries of “It’s too difficult”; “it would be impossible to organize”; “it would harm profitability” … etc.

And yes, I’m not a fool and I know it wouldn’t be a simple thing to adopt a different approach to how we’re organized. But, if the will was there, ways to make it work could be found. A lot would come down to the question of whether we live to work or work to live. We are by-and-large organized around the former principle when, arguably, we should be guided by the latter.

As for meeting the 4,400 mile target – I’m all too aware that means precisely nothing in any significant scheme of things. But if you’re going to set a target, to then not take it seriously would be akin to cheating whilst playing a game of patience.

As for the act of setting targets / the need to set targets – ‘fumbling for form amidst Stygian amorphousness’ perhaps sums it up. Something like that.

Getting Emotional

The turbo-trainer blues … If I’m bored then I’m not going to inflict that boredom on anyone else. At present, new entries in ‘Codgertation’ are appearing less often than I’m to be found pumping away on an indoor trainer to try and keep vaguely fit.

Charli and I, just four weeks ago, were saying we must make more of an effort to ride through the winter. Now temperatures are hovering just above freezing, those have proved very hollow words. There comes a point when it just isn’t pleasurable.

It’s endurable; if I had to cycle to work or something I still would be … but that isn’t the same as doing something purely out of choice.

I’ve been wondering about, and experimenting with, the best kind of music to be listening to (in headphones) while working up a sweat on the turbo-trainer. Something like Fluke works very well in that it’s intelligent music that gives you something to actively listen to; it’s compelling and largely ‘up’; but it’s interesting that it didn’t really engage me – it didn’t take my mind off what I was doing. It’s emotionally neutral.

On the other hand, selected on an ‘I’ve not heard that for yonks, let’s try it’ whim as it caught my eye on the shelf, the Eurythmics’ ‘Savage’ did prove absorbing. It’s an album comprised largely of programmed samples and drum loops, so it’s electronic in nature and thus, arguably, akin to Fluke, but the often dark, obsessive lyrics take it – and thus me – somewhere else entirely.

And that must be a simple but effective lesson in the power of even vicarious emotion.

For The Sake Of Fitness

I mentioned the other day that I ride a bike primarily for pleasure, but also for fitness. The conditions around here are so grotty at the moment – floods; filthy roads; cold – that for the sake of health I’ve taken to riding an indoor ‘turbo trainer’.

It is stunningly dull.

It is not what I ride a bike for. I bought it a few years ago for just this purpose – those stray weeks when riding outside is just too fun-free. It could live behind glass with ‘break only in an emergency’ stencilled on it – it’s very much a last resort.

It’s only interesting as a mental test; an exercise in discipline. Firstly, there’s the discipline of making myself do it at all – that’s hard enough. More importantly, there’s the perhaps surprisingly difficult task of taking my mind away from the tedium and the discomfort and tiredness too: riding on a trainer is relentless and taxing.

Gaining a focus on something else is surprisingly elusive. In theory it should be easy: concentrating on something more pleasurable than an un-enjoyable immediate makes perfect sense. Nevertheless, thus far I’m finding it hard to think of anything other than how much I’m not enjoying myself.

I don’t know if I can train myself so that practice matches theory; if we’re starting a long drawn-out winter already I might have plenty of opportunities to find out. We shall see – if I can find a trick to it I’ll be joining the self-help book market …

Target Driven

I try and cycle 100 miles a week; in winter it will tail down a bit, and then illnesses, holidays and so on will interrupt that as well, but that’s the goal. It is totally arbitrary – I know it’s just a(nother) round number that I’ve settled upon. I find it motivating though; I take it seriously – 100 miles or more is something I really work hard to make sure I do if I possibly can, just because I’ve decided to.

I suspect it’s another facet of that ability to take an arbitrary self-imposed target seriously that I’m also not in the slightest bit interested in beating anyone else, either on a bike or in any other walk of life. I am only interested in beating me, in doing what I do better, by my standards.

No, there’s nothing unique in what I’m saying makes me tick, and no, that’s not what’ll work for everyone else.

What is worth doing though, is putting in the effort to properly understand what it is that motivates you, if you’re riding a bike or doing anything else. It may not be what you presume it is.