The Voice that says “STOP!

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nephesch - the animal soulAfter several months off my bike, I finally got back on the road. As you all know, just starting is the hardest part of any physical endeavor, not physically, but mentally. The fact is that our lower nature just doesn’t want to be tamed by our higher nature and aspiration – if left to itself it simply compels us to sit there and get fatter and fatter and unhappier by the day.Since antiquity, humans have tried to understand this tendency and to analyse it.

The ancient Hebrews assigned four levels to the human soul. the lowest and most physically attached being the Nephesch, to which is attributed knowledge and awareness of the physical world including our own physical being. So what’s this got to do with cycling…

To tell you what, I’ve got to tell you a personal story of a recent ride – a simple and compelling story.

There I was on my 45km ride at about the 20km mark, having a really, really good time. The sun was shining, the breeze was cool, my body felt strong and easy and I was loving it. Then, with gusto, I was ascending a fairly gentle hill and I actually heard myself say aloud “this is no fun – it’s too hard…”

“this is no fun – it’s too hard…”

I was so taken aback I nearly got off my bike! Where the hell had that voice come from – well, from me – but who the hell was speaking with my voice…? And that’s when I realized that with no preemptive or detectable thought, my lower self had actually taken control of my voice and spoken aloud in frustration – it simply didn’t want the discipline to which i was subjecting it!

This is the battle that every single one of us has to fight – the (usually) silent voice that says “stop – I can’t do this”. Whether you’re a cyclist or a soldier, an athlete or a hobby climber, that voice is always there trying to pull you down.

There are many, many ways to deal with this. As a younger man I also ran to keep fit – four times around a park that was 3 miles in circumference. Each time I cam to the start of the circuit I simply told myself that I had to make it to half-way around again – and of course when i got there, there was only a half circuit left to go to get back again – every time!

With cycling I usually do it differently and simply focus on the scenery not on the ride, or on the time or the distance; it’s amazing just how far a beautiful view will take you! The army does something quite different again – focus pride in the unit, not letting your mates down – not on how hard it is to do what you’re doing.

These are all ways to ignore the physical challenge of what you’re doing and to focus on what really matters – the beauty of the scenery, the pride in your unit and so on.

Eventually though, something strange happens – something strange and wonderful; the physical self, the Nephesch, makes a huge com-back and this time there’s no ignoring it! But this time it’s different; it’s as though your animal soul had broken out of prison and is seeing sunlight for the very first time! It’s joy, it’s exhilaration and the voice is shouting “MORE PLEASE – MORE!”

It’s joy, it’s exhilaration and the voice is shouting ‘MORE PLEASE – MORE!”

This is the moment that you’ve broken and tamed your inner beast and gotten mastery of yourself. But beware! If you stop training, if you let the beast have its own way again then you’ll be right back where you started. So ride! Ride long, ride hard and ride in joy!