This morning, I am taking the day off from my regular bike ride. The concept of a “regular morning bike ride” is somewhat of a new one for me: other than my short commute, I historically left my recreational riding to weekends and evenings. But that all changed recently.
Leading into a recent work trip, I saw that the weather was going to be lovely, and rented an e-bike for the duration of the trip. I wasn’t sure exactly what time I’d be able to commit to riding, but I wanted to try to get it in. Since I was paying for the bike, I had some motivation to get my money’s worth out of it.
Because I was on the West Coast, I was tending to wake up early. My schedule was: wake up at 6am, take meds at 6:30am, do a two hour bike ride, then go to the work conference I was at.
I found it was terrific for my mood! I started my day having done something that gave me energy, and worked out the jitteriness of my post-medication energy. And it was an easy way to motivate myself out of bed: getting out of bed to go sit in an office is dull, but getting out of bed to go on a 20 mile bike ride feels great. This was the start of my recent trend: In the week I was in Mountain View, I did a 1.5hour+ ride each morning.
Of course, it wasn’t just the weather that motivated me to rent a bike: there was the additional motivation of an internal cycling competition at work (“Le Tour de Google”, to go alongiside the Tour de France). While I’m nowhere near competitive with the folks at the top of the list, I wanted to try to maintain a respectable position among a group of pretty elite athletes. So throughout July, I wanted to keep putting in extra miles.
Historically, I’ve often struggled to motivate myself to get my day started early enough — it’s easy to lie in bed and scroll the internet rather than actually get moving. But based on my experience in Mountain View, I knew that I could get up and bike early… I just had to do it. And early rides have the benefit that it doesn’t eat into time in the evening that I can spend with my wife, something that’s important to me.
So I continued when I got back home, with somewhat shorter rides.
These tended to be a quicker detour in a different direction on my way to work and the like, plus some longer rides when I had free time; fitting in time was a challenge especially when I was working hard on delivering a product at work. (We finalized that deliverable at the end of the week of the 17th.)
As the end of the internal work cycling competition approached, I was working to maintain my position in the top 20%. That meant I was motivated to put in even more miles, finding ways to make the time even at home, where I have other responsibilities. Getting up at 6:30am for rides meant that I could include roads I wouldn’t bike during rush hour into my routes, expanding my options.
As the work competition ended, I looked back at how things had been going, and realized that this was really working for me. I was getting up earlier in the morning, starting my day earlier. This helped with my mood, and also helped with side effects of my medication: it reduced the issues with the appetite suppressing behavior of Adderall, and helped ensure that I got moving and took meds early enough to not interfere with sleep.
It also drastically increased my productivity at work. By eliminating my early-morning jitteriness from taking the combination of Adderall XR + Wellbutrin/buproprion, I was seeing myself productive earlier in the day, and my ability to focus on work went up a ton. Whereas before I was often lucky to get one good hour of focused work in the day, after these rides I was often seeing 4–6 (or even more on some days when I probably engaged in some overwork). My wife also reports that it has improved my mood, and has taken to encouraging me to go on my morning ride.
With all this in mind, I’ve managed to integrate this into my life and make it a habit. Even on days when I don’t get started quite as early, I make sure to take my bike ride: even if it eats into a little bit of my time at work, the productivity gains are well worth it. And in my rides over the past week, I’m also seeing that I’m more comfortable and confident riding; I can ride further and faster (because I’m doing more of the exercise myself rather than letting the e-assist do all the work). Since last Wednesday, I have ridden more than 215 miles on my bike, almost all in relatively early morning rides.
I’m really happy with the set of things that I’ve gotten out of this habit. It’s improved my work life and my home life. I’ve expanded the range of places I’ve seen on the bike, including rides I’d been thinking about for months (like riding to Hull and taking the ferry back into work) and covering more rail trails I hadn’t seen before (like the Toppsfield + Danvers Rail Trail). I’ve been able to combine a bunch of different extrinsic motivations — an internal work competition, desire to fill in more spots on my Wandrer map, wanting to bike all the rail trails in MA — and turn them into something that brings me joy even when I don’t have those extrinsic motivations.
But after a week in which I’ve put in more than 215 miles, many of them biking full out at sprint speed, I can definitely say that I’m appreciating a rest day (thanks to the rain) for my sore and aching legs.
And tomorrow morning, I’m looking forward to getting back on the bike and getting moving again.