Yesterday I passed a jogger; A chubby guy dressed in sweats and laboring up a slight grade. New guy, I thought. I gave him a thumbs-up when I passed.
Adapting a sport like cycling or running is a lot like beginning a new relationship. Hey, wow, this is cool. I like her a lot. Does she like me? Will this work out? Maybe I should keep my options open for a while so I don’t make a fool of myself.
Like being in a relationship, being any sort of athlete is an identity. I didn’t call myself a cyclist until I’d been riding for 6 months or so. Saying, “I’m a cyclist,” is committing to the game. When you’re new and you’re laboring up that hill and you’re thinking about just how fat and slow you are and someone passes in a car, you feel like a poseur. It’s as if to even be out there you should have the BMI of an Olympian.
I think that keeps a lot of people from riding bikes. Or running. Or playing tennis. Because of course you suck when you’re new. It takes time to lose weight. It takes time to become reasonably competent. I’ve been riding bikes for nearly 20 years now and I will always suck compared to a lot of riders. But I’ve learned that that doesn’t matter.
I have fun.
I ride bikes.
I’m a cyclist.
I might not say that if it weren’t for the people who encouraged me along the way.
And so I raise my thumb when passing struggling riders. Or runners. Because you never know how important a little encouragement from a stranger might be to that person.