I’ve read a lot recently about the fine line between in enjoyment and obsession in sport. I don’t think I know a single athlete that would personally say that they are obsessed with sport, but I know a lot of people that I might consider to be obsessed. The recent research by Josie Perry on exercise addiction made for an interesting read and got me thinking a little bit more about my own relationship with exercise.
I principally took up exercise to lose weight. As a teenager I was pretty obese and used to get bullied a lot for my size, until one summer I was bought a mountain bike and over the space of six weeks suddenly went from 14st and a size 38 waist to my current 10.5st and 28 waist. All of a sudden the bullying stopped and in my mind riding a bike meant I would stay slim and people wouldn’t bother me anymore.
When I moved to Leeds I took up road cycling seriously and joined a club to get in regular exercise, initially as a way to keep fit. Over time I realised I actually quite enjoyed riding my bike and began to build on the mileage. I went from doing 6,000 miles in my first year, to doing around 15,000 miles average every year since.
I could happily argue all day long that I only ride so much because I do genuinely just enjoy riding my bike, and that would be perfectly true. I love riding my bike for enjoyment, getting out and seeing new places I wouldn’t otherwise see, competing against others for fun but never taking things too seriously. To me that’s enjoyment.
I can’t however, hide from the fact that I hate missing a single day of riding; I get seriously grumpy when I have to take a day off the bike, to the extent that I think I’ve had about 10 days off in the last two years. It’s like poking a hungry bear on the days I haven’t ridden a bike. I more often than not will make up for any lost miles the following day to make sure I hit my weekly goal each week.
I’m also guilty of riding my bike when injured. I’ve spent a lot of the last few months struggling with a hip problem that’s been causing my to limp around and stopped me being able to run at all despite my best attempts to try. I know I should just take the time off and rest but I really don’t want to because I know I’ll be massively grumpy. Whilst my weight never moves now and I am healthy, I always have in the back of my mind that riding keeps me fit which in turns stopped people pretty harsh to me when I was younger and it’s missing a day that deep down in my mind makes me worry and subsequently show as grumpy.
The one thing I’m not too bothered about though are my numbers. I’m pretty chilled these days and accept that I’m either riding well, or I’m not. I’ve previously expressed I have no interest in racing anymore and just ride for the enjoyment not the numbers. I’m probably more bothered about the missing miles than the fitness data when it comes to Strava. The fear of doing no exercise is greater than the fear of not being fit enough.
So, in a nutshell, I would quite happily argue I’m just enjoying my hobby and it keeps me happy, but when you stand back and look a little closer, it’s very easy to see how it can be seen as an obessesion. I’m probably somewhere in the middle; I don’t see myself taking any time off for the foreseeable future and love what I do. Just don’t approach me on that day I do eventually take off the bike…