With Coronavirus restrictions beginning to lift in recent times, after months of radio silence compelled by a worldwide lockdown, it has been all systems go in the cycling community. Every Tour, Grand and small, for the year is being crammed into a matter of months as the powers that be scramble to deliver the competitions that riders and fans alike crave. There’s a lot of money to be recouped and a lot of time to be made up. I write this on the second Monday of the Giro d’Italia – the first rest day of the Tour and, fittingly, I thought it worthwhile to take a moment to focus on rest.
There is a word in German for the space between the end of the working day and the time you go to bed. Time for family and friends, food and relaxation. This is known as “Feierabend.” I wouldn’t hazard an attempt at pronunciation, but considering that stretch of time as an actual, valuable, element of your day is an interesting concept. In Germany, it is also the norm. having a clean break from the working day and taking specific time for relaxation and recuperation is considered to be of great importance and is ingrained in the German attitude. It is considered to be one of the main reasons behind why they work so efficiently – when they’re at work, they’re at work. When they’re not, they’re not. There is a deadline. No culture of “ah, I’ll do it later,” or “I’ll do it when I get home.” Home time is your own time, so the work gets done in the day.
I recently read an interview with a German man named Nils Backhaus, who uses cycling as a way of marking that line between work and home life. Before Covid-19, he would cycle to work and back every day and came to associate these trips with the beginning and end of the working day. As lockdown came into effect, he resolved to carry on this tradition, and it became something of a pre- and post-work ritual. He calls it his “fake commute.” I talk a lot, on this blog, about HARDCORE endurance and MAXIMUM power and EXTREME competition fuelled by Veloflow but, sometimes, it’s easy to forget that cycling is actually fun as well! It’s relaxing. It’s enjoyable. There’s a strange dichotomy on the bike where your legs and heart are working hard to push you far but, at the same time, your mind unwinds and that can take you so much further than your legs ever could. Some of the most contemplative times I’ve ever had were in the saddle and this time of rest and relaxation is vital in maintaining a healthy mental state, especially considering the unpredictable times in which we find ourselves. Work and home life have been mashed together like never before and it is so important not to underestimate the value of maintaining a divide between the two. Cycling, as Nils from Germany has discovered, is an excellent way of doing so.