In the past year or so I've had numerous discussions as well as reflections on the topic of compulsion and obsession. I'm not talking about addiction, that is something that is a little different and for what it's worth, something that I've not struggled with. What I've come to believe is that these are traits that are hard wired into our personalities. For me, I can say for certain that I have trouble overindulging and being able to pull the plug. It is often as if my mind keeps saying "one more". Depending on how you target this trait it can be really bad, or maybe not less bad.
As I've hinted at or clearly elaborated on in the past here, I've wrestled with excess a number of times in the past and in a number of different ways. One common theme has been food. I really like food, all food, and lots of it. Variety is the key but if you don't have the variety, you can always sub in quantity. I suspect that I have a genetic predisposition to overindulgence, that my serotonin or endorphin receptors are out of whack (I saw that on the Discovery Channel so it's got to be true). All that I can say for sure is that I have a difficult time with satisfaction.
The way that I've gotten control of this is channel my obsessiveness into physical activity. Yes, I still wrestle with the food consumption issues but they are somewhat mitigated by the blocks of physical activity. Another positive spin is that if you start hanging out with compulsive people, your personal compulsion doesn't seem nearly as bad. Great quote by Rodney Dangerfield, "if you want to look thin, you hang out with fat people". There are few groups more compulsive that competitive cyclists, so there you have it.
In the whole compulsive vein, I've got a streak going, which has gotten somewhat to the point of obsession. It started December 29th as a decry of the lack of winter but has grown from there. Typically, I would use January and February as time away from the bike so to speak, and focus on other activities like cross country skiing and snowshoeing. You know, variety. With the race season literally culminating for me in the middle of December, there had been plenty of opportunity to ride during the race season. A break is good.
Alas, it wasn't to be this year as perpetual fall led to premature spring and we never really touched upon true winter. At first my plan was to ride every day until the weather changed, then it was every day in January, a feat that would normally be unheard of. This year, however, it came pretty easy. Now it has progressed and dragged on and on.
Assuming I ride today it will be day 58 of consecutive riding. Before you say anything, that doesn't mean that I've been out there hammering every day. I've been doing active recovery on the bike here and there, which is pretty consistent with what I've done in the past. Really, if you think of those that use bicycles as primary transit, they likely ride every day, much like driving a car every day is commonplace for us. This is more about the fact that the streak has become somewhat of a compulsion now, in that I feel (self imposed) pressure to keep it going. I am compelled to ride my bike today, regardless, so the streak can continue.
Isn't recognition the first step to recovery? I was talking about athletic recovery with my buddy Skip earlier this week. I admitted that I am terrible at recovery and downtime but that I recognize that. If recognition really is the first step to recovery and I recognize that I fail at recovery then maybe I'm really partially recovered anyhow. Right?
I've got to go start building my new PowerTap hub into my good road wheel so I can obsess some more over the details. Speaking of which, have you used Strava at all? It gives you yet another means of obsession, records for common sections of road. Now every ride can be a virtual race against yourself and everyone else out there.