Change is hard. As human beings, we don’t like change much. Many of the things we do, we choose not because it is best for us, but because that’s the way we’ve always done it. In some cases we’d rather die than change.
Take for example the way most people peel a banana. If I told you a better way I bet you will find it difficult to break the habit and start peeling bananas the new way. It would take a serious conscious effort to break the habit. You may even fight against it insisting that the pre-existing banana doctrine is better. I will tell you shortly how you’ve probably been peeling incorrectly.
90% of us choose to continue with bad habits at the risk of death rather than change and live
Being bad at making change is killing us. An American heart surgeon, Dr Edward Miller, says that after two years post coronary heart bypass surgery only 10% of his patients had continued with the necessary lifestyle changes to avoid further surgery and prolong their lives. That means 90% of us choose to continue with bad habits despite the risk of death rather than change and live a longer healthier life! We’d prefer a shorter life unchallenged by change.
Expecting change from others
Those around us don’t like us to change either. When I first started cycling some of those around me didn’t like the fact I had changed. The status quo had been challenged. I had become athletic, I was achieving new things, I had new interests and standards for myself. It’s not that they weren’t good people. I had simply created a change which is uncomfortable. I’m sure if I stopped now the same would happen except in reverse.
How do you ask for someone to change? Last week I launched a new website Velomsg.com. It’s a private message system for Strava users. The objective is to provide a space for private interaction between Strava users away from activity comment boxes. It seems to make sense, comment boxes for comments and a message system for messages. I am aware I am asking people to change their habits. Despite the proposition being seemingly sound I accept it will be a challenge. The benefits of change have to be big. Dr Miller would perhaps say bigger than life itself! The solution then could be not to have someone change an old habit but simply to create a new one.
Changes in training
If we can’t make changes in lifestyle when it comes to saving our lives. When it comes to something as frivolous as training for a bike race, it’s no wonder we struggle to adapt to the necessary changes that will help us improve. Dietary habits, the time we go to bed at night, our new training plan. We start these changes with the best of intentions but few of us have the staying power or focus to keep at it and make it count in the long term. Getting through the tough pain barrier of change.
It’ll hurt at times. Does that mean it is a bad plan?
Change can be difficult on our body, despite a change being good for us, it doesn’t always feel good at first. That new pain you are feeling after a bike fit alteration, is it a bad pain? Or is it simply a previously under used muscle now being asked to pull its weight for the first time. Often only time will tell.
Starting a new training plan, which is what most of us start doing at this time of year, begins with good intentions to correct previous training errors and address our weaknesses. It is however both a mental and physical challenge. We are asking our mind to change its habits whilst also expecting our body to do the same. It’ll hurt at times. Does that mean it is a bad plan?
I wrote in a previous post Back to the pointy hat, about the challenge I find moving from hill climbing on a road bike to training for flat time trials on my time trial bike. It was just as much of a challenge to move the other way earlier in the year. For the first few weeks my lower back was aching after rides and some doubt was creeping in that I was going to be able to train properly. However after about 2 weeks I was pain free. I didn’t change anything. I had accepted that due to the change there would be some pain and was consistent in my training. I also listened to my body and knew when to ease back a little.
Moving back to the time trial bike for this year’s base training period conversely I was getting upper back ache. I am still easing my hip muscles into the more lengthened position the time trial position forces them into. They grumble at me. But change doesn’t keep to a schedule. Plans are theoretical, best case scenarios. They have to be adjusted for the real world pace of change.
Too much change too soon
Last year I didn’t cope with change very well. After 3 months barely able to ride, due to discomfort, the legacy for me was 12 months of frustration and missing many of the targets I had set myself. I had tendonitis, muscle strains and IT band issues. The mistake I had made was not to accept that change does not keep to schedule. My expectations to seamlessly transition from one discipline to the other had been naive. Instead of accepting the process of change I forced the plan. When that increased my problems further I looked for other factors to blame. I introduced yet further change. I completely altered my bike fit on a daily basis in a vane attempt to correct my problems; I began a new stretching and foam rolling regime; altered my pedalling style; and changed pedal system. Nothing worked, things only got worse. The problem, I was introducing too much change for my already overloaded body to cope with. In these cases the changes I had made were poor choices. It was too much change.
Going through that experience has taught me a valuable lesson. Change is difficult, it can at times be painful. Most importantly it can’t be rushed. My physio gave me some good advice. He told me “Day one if it hurts that’s ok, day two we ease up, day three we stop”. This serves me quite well.
Are you ready for change? Willing to accept that it is a difficult and uncertain journey? Then let’s start peeling a banana the correct way. Pinch the base of the banana together, it’s skin will then split into two. Peel the skin back. Voila.
PS. The next time you start a comment on a Strava activity consider if it would be better made in private on Velomsg.com.