This article started as a rant that one of my poor friends had to endure on Facebook last year after I had posted a quote from another coach on twitter. I shared with my friend I only allow myself two written rants a year and that was number two. This article instead is going to look into the difference between dedication and obsession.
Dedication is the act of binding yourself (intellectually or emotionally) to a course of action. Dedication stems from an innate desire to improve, succeed and meet ones goals…. Dedication leads to improvement, success, gratification, admiration, scorn and even jealousy.
Obsession is a persistent and often disturbing preoccupation with an often-unreasonable idea or feeling. Obsession often stems from a feeling of a lack of control over outcomes. Obsession leads to doubt, depression and obsessive-compulsive behaviors.
Well now that the various medical definitions and potential outcomes are listed what on earth does this have to do with cycling? I have often been told that I am obsessed with cycling. Am I preoccupied with the subject of cycling? With out a doubt yes but am I in the clinical sense obsessed? No I do not think so. A quick mention to the photo used in this post. I have several friends that are mechanical engineers and machinists and the image of a machinist using a set of micrometers for measuring an object felt like a real fitting visual for this topic.
About 10 years ago I made a conscious decision to improve my life by getting fit. I chose various forms of exercise to do this and ended up falling in love all over again with the bike. After some time I decided that just riding wasn’t going to be enough for me. I was in a well paying job where competition was fierce and stress was becoming more and more of an issue. First and fore most I am a Type A personality and I love to work hard, be challenged and don’t give up easily. Even with all of the riding, running and weight lifting I was doing it was not doing much for the stress I had at the time and chose to change jobs and ended up in a much better job. However there was something missing. SERIOUS COMPETITION. Don’t get me wrong the people I work with in my day job are amazing people and instead of competing with each other we complement each other. What a concept.
The Type A in me was missing the competition of the former job so I thought that maybe I should change jobs. Instead I made a decision almost 6 years ago to make competitive cycling my life style. No I don’t race professionally but I do race as often as life allows. There are times I feel like I train like a Pro. I will go to the gym 1-3 times a week to lift weights, run in the off season, several days a week of core exercises and oh yeah ride my bike 6 days a week some times twice a day. I do this so that I can do better than just hang on in a race. I know when I haven’t worked hard enough. Either I did the work or I didn’t. I think I love racing and training to race for a couple of very simple reasons. You get what you put in to it and results are not up for subjective interpretation by some one called a manager, director, chief exec…..
I love my life and I try to live it to the fullest everyday. This is where the rant comes in. I really resent it when someone calls me obsessed or tells me that want I am doing isn’t worth it if I don’t win or get paid to race! With the world not just the USA facing rampant obesity I am called crazy for trying to balance the fitness books? When the average American spends more time in front of a monitor (TV, Computer, Smart Phone) than they do outdoors I am called obsessed for my desire to improve. For those that spend hours trapped behind the wheel of a car commuting to get to and from work that think getting out and riding a bicycle is childish behavior. For those that spend money on what they clearly cannot afford judge me for riding a bike they believe that is unreasonably priced (Paid For). More often than not these unwanted or undeserved comments come from individuals who are jealous of your accomplishments.
I remember confronting a co-worker one time. I had just completed and insanely difficult project that I was sure if I didn’t finish perfectly would lead to me being fired. I knocked it out of the park and received accolades for doing so and this individual immediately began to put down my work in front of the team I worked for. I was completely crestfallen and a split second later I angrily blurted out that he was just jealous that I had succeeded where he had not. Much to my surprise he said in front of everyone he was.
So if you find your self-pondering the question am I obsessed or just a dedicated athlete you may just want to use one answer, yes! We do obsess over things as athletes. We over think our mileage, bikes, fitness, performance, weight, fitness and our data among other things. Why do we do this to ourselves? We love the feeling of making positive improvements in our fitness, performance, and lives. We just happen to choose the bike to do it. So please do not let the comments of others dissuade you from being the best cyclist you can be.
Have a great ride and leave the guilt in the gutter.
I recently came to a similar conclusion to my dedication to training & racing. I’m an elementary school teacher…not a typically competitive environment…more nurturing & fuzzy. Maybe it’s b/c I’m male, maybe it’s a personality thing like you…but I need to beat people (through good hard training) or be beaten (when I’ve made missteps or slacked).
Rob, that’s an awesome post! Rant away, buddy. Let the naysayers have it! I think it’s natural to see jealousy from others and to be jealous, as well. It’s just that the nice people restrain that jealousy and instead congratulate the successful person, and then ask them how they did it. I would rather learn how to improve from a successful peer than stew and be miserable about it. But then, maybe I am looking at the brighter side.
Thanks Brian! I am glad to hear that people feel the same way. I took a different approach earlier in the year that some might feel is a bit drastic. I decided to stay clear of people including long standing friends with jealous or negative attitudes. It has been tough but my outlook and successes at work and racing have been profound.
Great blog, well spoken. Thank you!