Knowing When to Shift Gears

Weekly Words of Wellness
Scott Stoner

The Living Compass Wellness Initiative
June 26, 2020
Knowing When to Shift Gears

  Daily bike rides are my primary stress reliever these days. The combination of physical activity, mixed with being outside in the fresh air, is a balm for my COVID-tired spirit. 
   One of the things I especially love about road biking is that it requires complete concentration. My mind cannot wander or worry when I am fully focused on riding, as a momentary lapse can result in my not seeing an upcoming pothole or a car turning in front of me. It is worth noting that the skill of being centered entirely in the present moment is precisely the essence of mindfulness and meditation too.  
   As I have been spending more time on my bike than usual, I have been stretching myself to try some more challenging routes, including some with ten and eleven percent grade hills. I have discovered that the key to riding up long, steep hills involves both pacing myself and learning the art of shifting gears. Shifting too late makes it impossible to get up the hill because I won’t have enough power, while shifting too early causes me not to have the momentum needed to negotiate a hill.
    It strikes me that both learning how to pace ourselves and learning how to shift are things we are all having to do during these challenging times. Some of us are riding up steeper hills than others. All of us are tired and facing some kind of uphill battles, ones we haven’t encountered previously. We may find ourselves losing our momentum and trying to find a different gear that will be sustainable for a much longer and hillier ride than we could have imagined.  
     One of the most important decisions you will make when purchasing a bike is how many gears to have. The answer to that question is related to the kind of riding you anticipate doing. Short rides on flat roads and bike paths require a smaller gear range. If, on the other hand, you anticipate riding longer routes with lots of hills, you will benefit from having a more expansive range of gears.  
   This metaphor speaks to me at this time as I find that caring for my spiritual and emotional wellness  now requires my being more aware of what gear to use. Harder challenges require a higher gear with more effort, but I can’t ride with that effort all the time without burning out. I also need to learn when using an easier gear is appropriate, one that makes it possible for me to maintain a slower, more deliberate pace. And sometimes, I simply need to remember to stop altogether and rest.  
   What’s helping you manage your energy these days? What new gears, patterns, routines, and habits have you discovered to help you pace yourself in these trying times? If you haven’t quite found that yet for yourself, remember the importance of continuing to practice new ways of shifting, knowing that what worked well two days or two weeks or two months ago may not be what works well now.
 Knowing when to shift gears and knowing how to pace ourselves are important skills. Don’t worry if (like me) you haven’t mastered them yet. There will be plenty of time to continue learning and practicing these skills in the months and years ahead.  

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