The Inevitable 4 Stages of Cycling—and Learning

For anyone who might have read my previous blog post, you’ll know I’ve been training for a 54-mile cycle ride from London down to the south coast of the UK, ending in Brighton. When I say training, I mean I’ve looked at the bike and bought a new pink cycling jersey. That’s about as far as things have gone up to this point.

The time has now come. The infamous London to Brighton ride is upon us this Sunday, the 19th of June. The bike is ready to be transported to London. The padded shorts are laid out on my bedroom floor. I have a race number and a start time. It’s all become very real.

I’m part excited and part nervous. I know I must be prepared to go though four inevitable development levels on Sunday:

Stage 1: Enthusiasm

I’ll have my brand new padded shorts on, along with my bright pink cycling t-shirt. The bike will have pumped up tyres. The crowds will be gathering at the start line bright and early. And I’ll be ready to go! How hard can this be, right? This is the first stage of my journey. I’m convinced I can do it and the crowds around me will be fuelling that self-belief. Loads of people do this ride every year. I’m sure I’ll whizz along the course and be in Brighton by lunch time! Lots of enthusiastic newbie cyclists like me will be there, starting the day determined and confident.

Until we cross that start line.

Stage 2: Disillusionment

With my legs pushing hard on the pedals, I’ll be out of breath and sweaty while battling against the swarms of other cyclists on the road out of London. Seeing the mile markers count down the route will be off-putting. I know my thoughts, even now: Forty-four miles to go? Still? How have I only done 10 miles? The signs must be wrong. It’s a trap! I’ll be tired and miserable. I also love food, so without a doubt by this point I’m bound to be hungry too (or even hangry—a word that is now officially in the dictionary). Despite my positive start, I’ll begin realising that I’m probably not going to do as well as I thought I would. Everything in my being will be telling me to give up—but something inside me will recognize the need to keep pushing for success. It will probably be the knowledge that I’ve raised money for charity—The British Heart Foundation—and the thought of how many lives this challenge might save. However, a little support from the seasoned cyclists I’m riding alongside wouldn’t hurt. This is the stage when I’ll really need their encouragement to keep me going.

Stage 3: Improving

At this point, I’ll start accepting how I’m getting on. Sure, my seat will be starting to hurt a little, my legs may burn, and I’ll be running out of bananas, but it’s okay because the mile markers will be counting down. I won’t give up. I’ll settle into the ride and find my own rhythm. I’ll look back at what I’ve achieved so far, and I’ll know that I can finish the last little piece. I’m getting the hang of this! Maybe I’ll do London to Paris next! Okay, maybe that’s taking things too far—but it will be clear to me that my confidence and ability are growing stronger with each circle of the wheels. I know there are some large hills on the route, though, and this makes me nervous. I’m going to keep relying on the support of my team to help me get through those hills—but by now I’ll be feeling a lot better about things.

Stage 4: Confident and Competent

This is the stage where euphoria really starts to build. The last few miles are all downhill, so it’s bound to be an easy ride from this point. Having made it this far, I will be confident in my ability to go the distance. I will mentally review what I’ve achieved and feel assured of my competence at cycling. I won’t need anyone to tell me to push the pedals anymore, or to tell me I’m doing great—because by now I’ll feel great about my progress. (An occasional cheer from someone in the crowd might still be nice, though!) I think this must be where they put all the photographers en route—because capturing the grins on cyclists’ faces as they head toward the finish line is the best photo opportunity!

Recognising these stages is the key to my success. The people on my team are all far better at cycling than I am. I’ll need their help to guide me through each of the development levels. I can’t do it alone. I’ll be looking to them for the right amounts of direction and support as I pedal along the route.

Knowing about these four development levels is applicable in far more areas of life than just a race. Whether it’s learning to drive a car, starting a new health and fitness program, or leading a project team at work for the first time, anyone can identify these four stages in any task or goal they seek to accomplish. With the right leadership and self-leadership, you, too, can progress through these stages toward the achievement of your goals.

bhf-logoEditor’s Note:  Jemma will be riding the 54-mile London to Brighton Bike Ride 2016 this Sunday together with six Blanchard colleagues to raise money for the British Heart Foundation.  Want to help the cause? Click here to contribute

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