Coping with the “Lockdown Lethargy”
Well, this was unexpected.
The world has come to a stop, and most of us are sitting at home watching Netflix and trying not to get ill while working on our baking skills. At the time of writing this, I have been effectively on lockdown for a little over a month, with my work sending me to “Wuh Fuh Huh” (WFH) about a week before the drawbridge was pulled up, and it has been tough, for so many different reasons.
I should also stress at the outset, I’ve not contracted COVID-19, and as far as I know, my loved ones are all roughly ok, so I know things could be infinitely worse. What I am referring to in this article is the myriad of feelings arising from being required to remain at home, whether that be loneliness, melancholy, frustration or several other challenges. Additionally, nothing in this article should be taken as suggesting I disagree with the lockdown concept if anything its beginning to look like we all should have entered lockdown sooner than we did.
While Mr Betty’s legal training results in him reminding me daily that there is an ocean of difference between the actual legislation underpinning the lockdown and the guidance issued by the Government (and then “translated” by various sources on social media), I think we would both broadly subscribe to the slogan helpfully coined by Singletrack Magazine; “No Car, No Gnar, Not Far!“. That said, this is possibly easier for us, living in a small, quiet Yorkshire town with access to miles and miles of walking and biking routes out of the front door (and we’ve indeed found a bunch of new trails and walking paths these past few weeks). I sympathise greatly with those members of the mountain biking community who don’t have immediate access to trails.
However, regardless of whether you can get to trails or not, mountain biking, in general, has kind of taken a back seat for now. Aside from access to trails, it would feel pretty terrible to be taking up space and resource within the NHS right now, and I’m sure no one wants to be that person. And, for some of us, there are other problems, for example maybe where you left your beloved enduro bike with Evans Cycles, to sort a warranty repair on my Lyric fork, in early March and haven’t seen or heard from it since, and can’t get an answer (clear or otherwise) out of Evans. Hindsight is a wonderful thing (something I suspect we will all be saying about very many situations once we emerge from this crisis). So, I’ve been “relegated” to the road bike for the past few weeks, I can’t complain in the circumstances, but it has been pretty hard watching Mr Betty pedal off up the moor for “a steady one”.
Last Thursday, the UK’s Government announced at least another three weeks of lockdown, so I suspect I won’t be seeing my bike for a while still. These are a few things I found helped me so far in dealing with my feelings.
Find a new hobby
Many of us mountain bikers spend a good few hours a week doing a thing we love, ignoring our loved ones and trying to break into the top 10% (ahem, 50%) on that Strava run we know we could go faster on if only… something… something… The lockdown means finding another focus for those vacant hours. Personally, I have been getting into watercolours, planting vegetables and, like everyone else, I have had a damn good go at baking bread (I was lucky enough to have a big stash of flour from numerous failed attempts before we went into lockdown). However, I am still waiting for Mr Betty to let me paint him like one of his french girls… I’ll be sure to post it if I get the chance.
These hobbies have occupied a lot of my time so far and relaxed me in times of stress and anxiety. There are tons of youtube videos on every topic imaginable, and you can learn things sitting in front of your TV. But, if you’re not ready to prepare your Blue Peter audition tape, there are other things you could try.
Pick up a new sport
If you cannot go out on your bike but are still missing the adrenaline and sweat (and you’re not getting that from the baking or watercolours), then there are multiple things you can do. You are unfortunately limited as always by common sense in these times of restriction. For example, I don’t think rock climbing would be a great idea at the moment (although I have seen some fairly heated debate on various climbing forums) but running, freeletics (that’s exercises without any equipment) or even yoga might fill the gaping maw in your life.
If you are struggling for a set of exercises to do, there are tons of new Youtube or Facebook videos popping up here and there to aid you through it. For example, I know Pinkbike published a number of mountain biking focused yoga videos with Abi Carver in recent years, Aside from the fact I now realise I’ll never look like that in yoga pants, these are great for keeping you limber in time for when we all get out of lockdown, maybe sometime around Christmas!
Ride it out
I know that you might not have the ability to go to your favourite trails, but there are still possibilities. Thankfully we can still exercise outside once a day. You can hop on your bike (if you have it) and ride out of your house. Maybe you live near a bridleway, great! Explore your local corners. If you live in a heavily urbanised area, that is ok too – the roads have never been clearer and safer for you to get out and explore on. However, if you start thinking about your cadence, Watt outputs and you start to urge for lycra, it is time to stop and retake a look at cross-stitch.
Be mindful though as some country roads are 2m wide, so be courteous to fellow users and follow the distancing guidance. On a few walks in the countryside, I have unfortunately seen some cyclists rush past walkers and other users fairly close, much to the surprise of startled pedestrians. We should probably assume that our fellow outdoors people might not be quite so understanding of moves like this at the moment, it would be awful if mountain biking came out of this pandemic with a worse reputation than it went into it with.
Lockdown is a great time to take care of your bike. Your mountain bike is probably currently wondering why it isn’t being let out to play so much at the moment, so maybe it is time to give it some extra love and attention.
Clean that grease clogged cassette, fix those parts held together by zip ties and prayer and maybe learn how to index your gears like I did yesterday evening (still to be determined whether it worked). You will be grateful in a month when you will ride out on pristine trails without that familiar clink or a clunk following you.
I found that GMBN’s Tech videos are a good place to start if you’re after clear and simple guides, thanks, Doddy.
Spend time together online
However, If you are missing your mountain bike friends, you can always watch a film together on Netflix thanks to Netflix Party chrome extension. You can watch something together across the ether or maybe make an MTB quiz and play it together on Zoom/Skype/Facebook; I imagine the Singletrack forum could come up with some devilishly hard questions. As always “the internet” might be our salvation and our curse!
Plan a trip with friends for when it is all over
Having something to look forward to is a great coping mechanism for me. Making plans (even vague ones) with your friends to visit Scotland, Wales or perhaps New Zealand can present something to look forward, something to hold on to until this all blows over. Prepping budgets (Mr Betty loves a spreadsheet) and watching tourist videos from far-flung locations (Innerleithen anyone?) can be a real pleasure, as long as you’re in the right place going into it.
It felt a bit silly, putting together a list of things to get people through this time. We are in this strange time where, for some, this pandemic has been life-changing sadly, while for most it has presented a number of different, admittedly less serious challenges and dilemmas. I’m holding on to the fact that mountain biking will be here when we get out of this and perhaps, just perhaps, I will appreciate all that it brings to me even more than I do now. Over the last few years, mountain biking became my mental health outlet, a hobby that made me smile week by week, and a pressure valve to help take the vent off that built-up stress. Whatever the next few weeks and months look like, let’s stick together, play it safe and reach out to those around us. Every little thing that might make you smile for a while is worth it at the moment, small steps for now.
I would really love to hear what you have been doing, what has helped (and what has not) and what you will be doing when you get out of here.
April 20, 2020