It’s 5:00 in the morning. For someone with six-month-old twins, it feels counterintuitive to be up at this time – by choice, at least. But the bay, from my view on the bike, looks unbelievable.
Then a 50-something-year-old bloke races past me, not a care in the world. It’s fair to say it’s not great for the ego.
I’m not at the same level of competition in this sport as I was when I played footy: it exercises different muscles, requires a different type of fitness. Despite that, I’m enjoying starting something new – something I can steadily improve at, that gives me incremental gains over time.
Playing football, one of the challenges you face is that once you get to a certain age, your output decreases. While the effects of ageing can be mitigated to some extent they, unfortunately, can’t be conquered. Late in my career I started playing chess, because I was looking for something that I could steadily improve at over time. Since jumping on the bike as an absolute novice, I’ve had the same feeling of participating in an activity where there is a huge amount of potential improvement.
In November of last year, I joined [CEO of Jaggad] Steve Greene’s cycling group, OTR, or ‘On The Riveett’. It’s a loose arrangement, people come when it works for their schedules, but generally we’re split into two groups (the serious riders and the casual ones) and we set out five minutes apart. And, every ride, the casual riders get popped by the serious ones. Guys that are mainly 40s and 50s, they don’t necessarily look that impressive athletically, but they’re good riders. And, more importantly, they’ve put the time in.
The beauty of a sport like cycling is that it’s low impact – your ability increases rapidly at the start, which is a great way to form habits. Incremental gains mean you’re more likely to be encouraged to continue. And it means I’m not limited to a gym. I’m not sitting there like on a treadmill, thinking, ‘Yeah, I can't wait to get off this machine’. I’m out watching the sun rise, while the family sleeps.
It’s tough, even for someone who had exercise drilled into them for the best part of three decades. I’m still tempted by the snooze button (especially when the kids have been up through the night) but knowing there are others to ride with makes it easier, as well as making the experience more social.
Having a group there means I’m more likely to get up and, as a beginner, these people are there to encourage me through the times where it seems tough.
I spent 14 years pushing myself hard to be as good as I can be at Australian Rules football. It’s nice starting a different journey, one that’s not for sheep stations, where the most important aspect is just that you did it and got to have a coffee afterwards.