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Commuting Bicycle commuting is easier than you think, before you know it, you'll be hooked. Learn the tips, hints, equipment, safety requirements for safely riding your bike to work.

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Old 06-17-06, 02:13 PM   #1
BayBruin
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Biking and Mental Changes

I started seriously biking (commuting) May 19th of this year. I have been riding 2-4 times per week each week since. I love the commute and feel great while I ride to work (the way home is a bit tougher because it is almost all uphill- slightly). I feel great at work...more energy, more happy generally.

Strange thing though...I have started to forget a LOT of things at work and home. Small projects, little details...etc. that I didn't used to forget. Also, at home I was jumping into rages frequently. I would reach a flash point very easily and I would be screaming at my wife...my kids...the dogs. I could never remember getting this mad, this easily. And in the past when I was aggravated and got really angry I could usually stop myself and ask, "Why am I getting so mad/frustrated?" The answer usually came back to me that I was really unhappy with myself for putting on a ton of weight or not taking care of other things I should. But my 'temper' now was harder to explain. My wife noticed it and she wondered why I had changed. She also said, "I thought the bike riding would relieve your stress levels." I told her that when I am on the bike I feel great...happy...relaxed.... but for some reason lately I have been stressed, irritable, feeling overwhelmed, anxious etc.

So...I kept forgetting more things that I normally wouldn't....I would ramp up my anger in a flash...and I was starting to fear that maybe I was starting to lose it (mental health wise). I even wondered if I had some sort of brain tumor or the beginnings of Alzheimers. You think I'm joking but I'm not. I was very concerned. Then one day I was explaining to a co-worker what was going on and he recognized my anxiety. He asked, "How long have you been experiencing these symptoms?" I thought about it and said, "seems like it has been about 4 weeks." Then the light bulb went off. I started commuting about that time.

My bike commute days start with me getting up at 5:30 to eat something, hopefully let nature take its course, and to get last minute things ready for my ride at 6:30 AM. I also usually am getting to sleep between 11PM and 12 AM the night before. That's not much sleep when faced with the physical drain my commute puts on my large, out of shape body. Also, I was over looking another obvious fact...I'm not normally a morning person. Before this bike commutting started I was hard pressed (by my wife) to open my eyes before 7:15 AM.

The realization hit me like a brick....I had screwed up my normal sleep schedule....and I wasn't getting nearly enough sleep. Add to that that I was stressing my body like it hasn't been in years. These factors definitely would explain the irritability and the memory loss. The timing of all this is what finally 'woke me up' to what might be happening. So a few things have happened. First, I understand what's causing this so I can give myself a break mentally and just relax when I catch myself getting angry....because riding my bike is such a good long term thing....I just need to be patient as my body adjusts. Also, I need to go to bed earlier and change my body clock. Lastly, I need to be more organized and make myself lists until my body and more importantly mind come back to normal.

Does this story sound familiar to anyone? I was shocked that I would experience anything bad from taking up biking which is probably why I didn't put 2 and 2 together sooner. I look forward to your feedback and suggestions if you have any as I try to get through my transition period. Thanks.
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Old 06-17-06, 02:30 PM   #2
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I can relate to your story. I have been a cyclist for most of my life, and usually put thousands of km on a year, and just recently started bike commuting. I deliberately waited to start until I had about 1000km on the legs this year (my commute is almost 60km round trip - I wanted a base fitness before I started since I dont have flex time, and had never ridden with bags on the bike - plus, up here, the weather is not always great for out of town commutes early in the spring.) The point I am making is that I started fit but the same thing happened to me as to you.

I would get up at 530, and leave by 6. Normally, I would get up at 7 and leave by 730ish or so. I was used to going to bed at 1100 to 1200 and do fine, even with a longish bikeride in the evening. Now though? split shift biking, up a lot earlier, unable to sleep earlier, and a potentially life changing job shift (to a perminant well paying job vs temp ones) all added up to undue physical stress rather than mental stress.

I lasted a week or two and then POW! down went the energy levels and I looked at my bike as a torture machine (my wife refers to my mtn bike as "the other woman" and the cyclocross as "the mistress" - she understands me...) and loathed the thought of riding it. I was grumpy. I growled a lot at people.

Now? I sleep more, and next week, we shall see if it pulls back together.

My only advice is to take it slowly, build it up, and SLEEP more. Biking takes a lot out of you, and a significant change in how you bike even if your mileage is not changing a lot also takes it out of you. Good luck, and dont give up.
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Old 06-17-06, 03:23 PM   #3
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Yes, sleep! Make sure you get 8 hours every night. Taking naps during the day also works for some folks. You're extra lucky if you can pull one off at your work desk.
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Old 06-17-06, 04:56 PM   #4
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I am going through the same sort of changes. All I can suggest is eat right, get sleep (very very VERY important) and take some zinc for the memory. Most importantly, don't give up!
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Old 06-17-06, 05:42 PM   #5
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You have many of the symptoms of overtraining. Too much, too soon probably compounded by your lack of sleep.

Google up overtraining and read the symptoms. The best way to handle it is stop riding until you feel better. Then start commuting again, but take it easy and build up more slowly this time. Plus, you have to get your 7 to 8 hours sleep.

edit: I experienced overtraining during marathon training. It gets UGLY. I was saved by a knee injury which forced me to take time off. Only then did I realize how my mood changed. Exercise can be very healthy, and it can be very unhealthy. Patience to stay on the right side of the line is critical.
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Old 06-17-06, 05:52 PM   #6
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Being in the military, I can totally sympathize with your sleep habits. I am one mean S.O.B come Wednesday afternoon. I think if you can find time to nap when you get home from work, you will fare better. Of course going to bed earlier is best, but most of us won't do that. Shoot for 1.5 hour nap as soon as you get home.
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Old 06-17-06, 09:04 PM   #7
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If I got that little sleep I would be a surly mofo.
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Old 06-19-06, 02:30 AM   #8
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With the addition of commuting by bike, at the end of the day you're more tired then you were hence cognitively impaired, overly sensitive, irritable, restless, and discontent.

Being overtired turns the best of us into ******** babies, jerks, and borderline homicidal maniacs.

As said, get more sleep. Take a nap when you get home, prior to joining your family.
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Old 06-19-06, 08:10 AM   #9
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Like everyone else said, more sleep.
It will get better with time. At least it did with me. However, if I am having problems with insomnia my temper starts raging around wed. I put on a cartoon for my son and take a nap. Occasionally, I am so tired that after making dinner I nap straight through until bedtime.
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Old 06-19-06, 08:23 AM   #10
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bike riding can be very addictive. it's easy to take it too seriously and it's also easy to underestimate the physical demands it takes. essentially you're forcing your body into a sleep\wake pattern it's not used to, you're adding more exercise, and getting less sleep all at the same time. on top of that you probably feel guilty if you don't ride so there is added pressure and stress there.
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Old 06-19-06, 12:33 PM   #11
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Organize the things for your ride the night before - clothes, lunch, water bottles, biking shoes, helmet and gloves. Have them all lined up, so you get out of bed, eat breakfast, pump the tires, get everything on the bike - then you can wake up and ride. This will give you an extra 45 min sleep.
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Old 06-19-06, 12:57 PM   #12
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I appreciate my "ME" time. My 40 minutes each way are my own time, I turn off cell phone, and except for a small stretch near a mall my ride is stress free, and comfortably predictable traffic on my side streets I use. I especially feel great in the mornings.
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Old 06-19-06, 01:50 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jamesdenver
I appreciate my "ME" time. My 40 minutes each way are my own time, I turn off cell phone, and except for a small stretch near a mall my ride is stress free, and comfortably predictable traffic on my side streets I use. I especially feel great in the mornings.
Maybe not the point of this post, but I alter my route to avoid traffic if I'm feeling particularly stressed and try to relax a bit on the way home and enjoy the ride.
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