Personal Limitations – Finding the Source That’s Never Enough
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Are we ever enough, or do the thoughts of never being enough intrude upon the enjoyment of the opportunity to live our own way, fluid and free?
In my work as a cycling guide and breathwork coach, it’s often the undercurrent in people’s and athlete’s minds that is the source of the discontent. And nothing at all to do with ability, skills, riding or the performance being undertaken which is abundantly present.
There were moments this European tour season during days cycling the French and Spanish Pyrenees that guests revealed they had been stewing for days with an inner dialogue that was eating away at them. That they really thought they were not fit enough as a cyclist to ride the roads we were exploring. And it was taking away from the beauty and freedom of their 10-14 day holidays cycling and living alongside the 2023 edition of the Tour de France.
With days before the penultimate climb up one of their dream mountains, the epic Col du Tourmalet, this undercurrent had not yet been revealed personally by a rider, but it had been becoming evident in the days prior as we ascended other beautiful climbs in the Basque region and the Pyrenees.
Sometimes it was a physical sign – slumped shoulders, other times evidenced by withdrawing by riding alone storming ahead, or slinking to the back of the group in a struggling motion of square pedalling. Then there was the occasional vocal quip that maybe they don’t feel right, or you could see that they were taking less time to enjoy the scenery by not stopping to take photos when they normally would, or just by being totally intent on finishing the day’s ride, riding hard, simply to get it done.
It’s such an unwarranted diminishing train of thought. We feel smaller. Less capable. Not enough. And if it persists, then the continuing script in the mind fuels this cascading dialogue that eventuates in the ultimate conclusion, that we’ll be never enough.
The thoughts that I’ll never be fit enough. Never strong enough. Never have enough endurance, haven’t trained enough, haven’t got enough talent. Haven’t got enough motivation. Enough money, enough time, enough energy. Or just not good enough to achieve the things I want to in the way that I see them in my mind’s eye. Or vision board, if you’ve got one staring at you on your wall or developing and growing in your Pinterest account.
It’s so disheartening to watch from the outside as an observer, because being there day after day, hour after hour, pedalling kilometre after kilometre seeing this person achieve the most rewarding joy of being in a foreign European country on holidays cycling around in gorgeous surroundings. Of them riding quiet regional roads under the sunshine, and savouring the pure joy of a cold Coke or hot coffee at a mountain top café after pedalling up it for 1.5 hours, outwardly, and evidentially, they have the goods! They are showcasing every bit of fitness, mental strength, capability, fortitude and capacity to do the things they’re doing. And no less, they’re doing it for 4-5 hours every day in succession.
And you know, what’s surprising, is that we recreational enthusiastic cyclists are not alone. This sense we have of ourselves is not limited to the every day person out there riding. These are the same thoughts that Professional athletes suffer in the same way. Yes, even professional athletes that dedicate their whole lives to being the best. They even are perturbed by inner dialogues that reflect our same selves.
The human condition is such that, as much as individually we ride the waves of emotions up and down, together we suffer (and even celebrate) collectively in just the same way, most often without even knowing that each of us is privately battling, or succeeding.
A current example of this is shared in a documentary about professional cyclist, Mark Cavendish, available to see now on Netflix, called “Never Enough”.
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Mark Cavendish (Follow here on Instagram / @markcavendish | Wikipedia ) is considered in modern cycling the most successful road sprinter in our era. At this time he has equalled the monster of all things cycling, the Cannibal, Eddy Merckx record for number of Tour de France stage wins.
In Mark’s film, it provides a fascinating insight into his development as a professional cyclist and his performances as they rise and fall over the years and seasons. Often misunderstood, the Manx Missile as he was known, was brash, feisty and a fierce competitor. But he also experienced bad luck, crashes and injuries and was even dismissed by many in the upper cycling echelons as ‘past it’, or that the cycling profession was beyond him, that he was indeed not enough.
The film reveals though, Mark’s own private battles with depression, persistent difficult relationships with food and eating disorders, and the wax and wane of his own view of being enough.
Until watching the documentary, I was unaware of Mark’s battles, and was totally humbled by seeing the difficulties inwardly and outwardly that he had to overcome. Being mindful that he suffered these massive personal challenges alongside the intense, demanding and often draining training programs and commitments that being a professional cyclist also command.
It was also incredible to see the real Mark Cavendish #191 (Instagram) with my own eyes as he climbed the Cauterets-Cambasque 16km final climb on the 145km route on Stage 6 of this year’s 2023 Tour de France. Mark is a sprinter, built and trained for explosive power on relatively flat ground for a distance of around 400m at up to a potential 70km/h. He is not expected to be going toe to toe with the natural climbers and all-rounders that will put pressure on the other contenders when the road winds upwards and upwards.
So it was a soulful moment then, when there he was, pedalling up the terrain that he is least suited to. Terrain he must conquer to stay in the race, in order to contest as a sprinter during the road race stages where he can demonstrate his absolute prowess. And here he was, giving his all to finish the climb, sheltered and fully protected by his Astana Qazaqstan team members, Cees Bol #192 (Instagram) and Gianni Moscon #191 (Instagram). And this was after they’d already climbed the 5.6km Côte de Capvern-les-Bains, the 12km Col d’Aspin, and the most used climb on the Tour de France, the 17km Col du Tourmalet earlier in the race.
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Connecting the dots represented by his film, and to see him right there within metres of me as he endured that last climb to the finish, it serves as evidence of the true grit, of the class and personal strength that we as people all have, no matter our past, our baggage, our current problems, or our misgivings about what could be or what might have been. Really all that matters is just doing what we’re doing right now, in this very moment. Knowing, that we are enough.
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Thanks for reading this post and I hope your next developments are heavily strewn with the thought, that you are enough.