Whenever I need to clear my head, I go ride, and it always works. I forget all of my worries going into autopilot until I’m physically and mentally exhausted, and I’ve gone hours without felt any anxiety or worrying about “what if.”
It’s my favorite habit to get into, but what about when riding is not an option due to weather or work or LIFE? Is there any way to reap the same reward of getting out of my own head while satisfying my craving for exhaustion without riding my dirt bike? I’ve joined CrossFit, bikram, meditation, and more, and the combination of all of those things helps, sure, but nothing rewards me like seat time.
Every time I make the decision to go ride, it’s actually a habit that I just do automatically, according to Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit.
“There’s a cue, which is like a trigger for the behavior to start unfolding. A routine, which is the habit itself, the behavior, the automatic sort of doing what you do when you do a habit. And then at the end, there’s a reward. And the reward is how our neurology learns to encode this pattern for the future,” he said.
What’s interesting in Duhigg’s research is that the cue triggers the behavior, and it can be anything from a certain time of day, to a place, or the presence of certain people and even a particular emotion. So, whenever X happens, I go ride. And my reward and incentive for enduro-ing is remembering my body and NOT missing out on the world around me by being lost in thoughts – that’s the craving that created my habit in the first place.
Riding requires me to be redirect my attention to the world with laser-focus on wherever my front wheel is pointed and shifts my attention from those “awful future possibilities that may not even occur” to the bars beneath my hands and the silence of the forest. And when I’m done throwing myself in, I carry that mindfulness into the rest of my week while helping to keep my worries at bay: I’m more focused on eating better. I’m more confident. I procrastinate less. It’s a chain reaction that makes me more deliberate in my every day life.
“Something about exercise makes other habits more malleable,” Duhigg said.