Beer & Bikes: A Balancing Act

It’s 6.57 am and, according to my training plan, I should be on the turbo trainer battling through another 90 minute sweet spot session.

I’m not on my turbo. I got pretty close. In fact I actually made it as far as putting on my bib-shorts and heart rate monitor, and filling my water bottle. But then I removed them five times faster, dumped them next to the bike I should be riding, and jumped back under the covers with a surge of relief and guilt in equal measure.

You see, I am mildly hungover. Not massively hungover – we’re talking 3 pints (lager, since you ask) – but hungover nonetheless. I freely admit that 3 pints is more than enough to affect my quality of sleep and leave me groggy, a little dehydrated and totally unmotivated the next day.

And this really annoys me. It annoys me because I knew I had a training session this morning, and I compromised it through poor self-discipline.

It’s just one session, give yourself a break“, I hear you cry.

Thing is, it’s not just one session. I have work and social commitments that will prevent me from doing other planned sessions this week, and I’m away for a long weekend (which will inevitably be boozy and foody) so it’ll be the best part of a week off the bike and a steep downward curve on the fitness chart. I knew that all along, but still I didn’t have the self-discipline to pick a Coke over three pints of Fun Stuff.

And it’s a frequent thing. I’m constantly battling the apparent incompatibility between a social life on the one hand (particularly one that involves eating and drinking out regularly), and following a structured training plan on the other. All too often I find myself with a pint in my hand and carefully thought out training plans jeopardised.

I sometimes resent feeling pressure to drink when I’m out with the lads. Rightly or wrongly, drinking is undeniably an integral part of many people’s socialising, and arguably it’s actually the basis of many a friendship (which is very sad, in the true sense of the word). But my friends aren’t really to blame. They’re not forcing me to drink, even if sometimes it feels they don’t quite understand why being disciplined – going home at a sensible time on a week night, or staying off the booze in particular – is important to me.

I don’t see any problem with the occasional blow-out. We’re human beings and we need to have fun, go crazy, break the rules every now and then. Ironically, “going big” once in a while can be a good thing. Doing so can help us reset and re-gather our motivation for another block of hard work (whether that’s training on the bike, or anything else).

I get why they, and you, might think I’m making too much of this – I’m not a pro (far from it), it’s off cake season, it’s important to let your hair down, yada yada… but we all have goals and we all need a little self-discipline, whatever our level, to achieve them. Having taken the time to identify my goals, I think it’s about time I found some strength of will and self-restraint so I can stick to my training plan and give myself a reasonable chance of succeeding.

Suggestions on a postcard please.

In the meantime, a friend of mine blogs under the title “Bike Life Balance“. His blog (like mine) is still in its early stages, but from the outset he’s been clear that one of his aims will be to blog specifically about how he achieves a healthy balance between cycling and the other good stuff that’s going on his life. Maybe I’ll catch up with him later over a couple of pints and see if he’s got any tips…

4 thoughts on “Beer & Bikes: A Balancing Act

  1. Human Cyclist says:

    Nice post. Resonates a lot with me, or at least it used to! I’m a few years down the line and now it’s just two pints that leave me groggy! I’ve made the switch to either skip drinks or go alcohol free, not always but more often than not. For training? A little, but mostly because I hated that lethargic waste of a day or two when hungover. I’ve not really missed the boozing, although being sober when everyone else is drunk takes some getting used to!


      • Human Cyclist says:

        I’m just coming to the end of my big block after hill climb season. Looking forward to a couple of weeks unstructured riding as I wind down, followed by a couple of weeks with no riding, before it all starts again!


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