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On Your Bike

burnout leadership Jun 03, 2022
When I was coming up to my 30th birthday, I thought; IS THIS IT!
Is this what I will be doing for the rest of my life? What do I need to change? What do I need to do?
In the run up to my birthday and was flicking through a magazine and an advert caught my eye- cycling across Kenya for 3 women's cancer charities (for cervical, ovarian and breast cancer)
I thought; this will give me purpose, meaning and something to aim for. Let’s Go!
I always loved the idea of being a runner and I had on my goal list to complete the London Marathon. But running seems to just bore the shit out of me and I lose interest. Some of my friends have done hundreds of park runs and loads of marathons and love the social aspect of it. But it’s not really for me, I’ve done a few 5k’s and a half marathon once (I hated it!), but my love has always been cycling.
I could pedal for hours and hours and I love being outdoors. So this charity event, I thought, would be a great challenge. My training plan was 7 spin classes a week and on a Saturday and Sunday I would cycle 20-40 miles on average. I was feeling the best I’ve ever felt; fit, healthy and energized. I created the time for my training and nothing was going to get in the way of my cycling. We had a couple of training weekends in the Cotswolds before the Kenya trip and I quickly realised that all my training had not actually prepared me for cycling in Kenya. It wasn’t the mileage that was an issue, what I hadn’t taken into account was the hills!
I currently live in the Cambridgeshire Fens- it’s flat. So on our Cotswold trip, we were told we were going to cycle up 3 hills and the third hill, I just couldn't get up. After 3 attempts I ended up walking my bike up it. I hadn’t had the experience of the gear changes and the pace to get me up a hill.
If we were on a flat road, I was always ahead of the pack, but on the incline, I would very quickly fall to the back. What was important though, was it didn’t matter what position you were in the group. The camaraderie, the support and the communication was key to getting us to where we needed to be. If you were at the back, you were responsible for shouting if cars were coming. If you were at the front, you were responsible for getting people across roads safely.
So I recognised that I needed to change my training plan to include hills, as Kenya isn’t all flat. In order for it to be a success, I had to change things up.
Since 2010/2011 I’ve done the odd bit of cycling. Usually for a leisurely bike ride to the park in the summer, or with my partner and his son. But then in 2015/2016, my partner and I both saw a charity cycle for a 10k, 25k, or 50k cycle for the British Heart Foundation. I was like, we are going to do the 50k, but in the end decided on the 25k and I’m so pleased we did, because I really struggled and my knee went. We hadn’t done enough training and certainly not as much as we should have. We finished last and I felt awful.
But the next time they advertised this event, we thought we’d do it again, but this time do the 10k. This was going to be easy! However, this time round, my gears went just as we were about to go up a big hill. We struggled again, and I just wanted to cry. It felt so demotivating and I felt like such a failure because in my head I could still cycle 20 miles in a day and do 7 spin classes a week. But I hadn’t kept up that training from my Kenya trip and it had been years, so of course I wasn’t a champion cyclist like I thought in my head.
For me I classed these 2 cycles as a failure because I wasn’t as good as I used to be. That said, if I had trained, it wouldn’t have been such a struggle. Then last year in 2021, a good friend of mine fell and severely broke his ankle. As part of his recovery he wanted to get moving and do a virtual Everest cycle and raise money for Hope For Justice (which is the charity we went to Uganda with). I told him I would do it with him. So off I went and bought myself a new bike that was appropriate for this type of cycle. On an app you pick the route you want to do, and if you cycle it x amount of times, it is equivalent to cycling Everest.
So the plan was to do this cycle in February 2022, but for lots of reasons, my training didn’t get going. I began to realise that they were all excuses and I needed to up my training. So I decided to move my bike from the games room to my bedroom. So now I had no excuse, I’d get out of bed in the morning and do yoga and then 3 or 4 times a week, jump on my bike. So I started at 10 minutes cycling, then over a 12 week period I added a minute to every training programme I did. Then unfortunately Ian had some complications with his ankle and we decided to push our event back to April/May. But that didn't happen either and we don’t have a date to do this ye. But we both know that when the time's right, we will do this cycle. Firstly because it will be good for us, secondly we are going to raise money for charity and thirdly because we will be supporting each other.
I recognised in those first few weeks of training that I had to get over that feeling of failure. That feeling from 12 years ago. That feeling of not being good enough because I couldn’t cycle as much as I could all those years ago.
I was getting in my own way, and I had to remind myself that things were different then. I had built up my training, starting from scratch. I didn’t just instantly start cycling 40 miles over a weekend. Since that charity ride 12 years ago things have changed a lot for me; I've quit my corporate job, I’ve had 2 burnouts, I’ve had Bells Palsy, I have moved house 3 times, I’ve started 2 businesses.
I’m not the same person I was 12 years ago and I can’t expect myself to be able to perform at the same level.
Ego, procrastination, fear and self doubt don’t come from a core-led place. So when I was beating myself up about cycling, something was out of alignment for me and I was letting my head get in my own way.
When we are core-led and aligned, we create time and set boundaries.
So what is your bike equivalent?
Where are you standing in your own way?
What have you let go of and not started again, because you have been telling yourself you're not good enough?
Where are you comparing yourself?
We need to let go of the comparison, the blame and the beating ourselves up.
We need to recognise that everyday is a new day to start something.
How can you step back into alignment?
In 2013 Kelly had a successful leadership career, yet she was burned out, exhausted, and missing out on life with family. Determined to enjoy the success that she had earned, she's learned to create a life of balance and boundaries that is also highly successful. Today at, Kelly helps women leaders all over the world to prevent and recover from burnout without giving up their career or jeopardising their wellbeing.

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