Up Vs. Down

Up is good. Down is bad. I’d rather be on my way up than on my way down. It’s better when stock prices rise than fall. It’s better when things are looking up.

Being out on a bike ride yesterday in a hilly area, I’m not so sure up is good. Up is a struggle, up takes a lot out of you. When the road would level off, or better yet, point down, I could rest and even pick up speed without any effort. That’s called coasting and I think I’ve made my feelings about coasting clear, both in my book, What Next, and in this blog post.

I’m not going to talk about coasting today, I’m going to talk about hills, working hard, struggling, and ultimately conquering the challenge.

Where I live, the roads are fairly flat so when I get an opportunity to bring my bike back to the area I grew up, with all the hilly terrain, I take it. That’s right, I actively seek out a difficult ride because I want the challenge, I want to test myself, my fitness, my determination. That is the difference between a successful person and one who coasts.

As I began the ride, the first hill I encountered was a steady gradual climb, not too steep. I was surprised as I found myself downshifting much sooner than I thought, loosing speed quickly, my breathing becoming labored. If this was a sign of things to come I was in trouble.

Fortunately I was here before and I knew that this first hill was the adjustment hill, my body gearing up for the challenge ahead, the rest of my ride would be at a higher level of conditioning. A lot of people would become discouraged or maybe even quit at this point, but those who push on find the strength to continue.

I was gaining elevation on the entire ride out. Sure, there were some periods where I could rest, but the down hills were shorter in this direction. When I got to the 10 mile mark and turned around I had two things going for me. First, I had a tailwind instead of a headwind. Second, since the uphill sections were longer going, the downhill sections would be longer returning, giving me more time to rest and recover. That’s what I believed anyway.

With a headwind you feel it, you struggle against it as if climbing a hill. I call headwinds perpetual hills. When you turn around and the wind is now at your back, you don’t notice it, it doesn’t seem to aid you as much as the headwind hindered you. Doesn’t life seem like that sometimes, the struggles are so much harder, and longer than the good times?  I think that is because many people don’t consider the value in the struggle, don’t take the time to relish the accomplishment before moving on to the next challenge.

The same goes for those long hills up that are now just as long but much easier on the way down. The problem is that you’re going much faster downhill and they seem so much shorter than when you were going up. The anticipated rest is over before you know it and once again you’ve got to struggle up. By pedaling downhill you aren’t working as hard but you are increasing your speed, giving yourself a little more momentum as the next hill begins or as the road levels off. In life I find too many people stop pedaling downhill and don’t set themselves up for success.

Up is good but it’s also hard. The harder you work the more satisfied the victory. Are you willing to push yourself? Are you willing to seek out a hill?


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