Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Life is Like the Tour De France

It's that time of year where I find myself mesmerized by the televised coverage of the Tour de France or, Le Tour. From June 30 to July 22, I am intrigued by the riders who push past their physical and mental limitations in search of an elusive yellow jersey. The Tour de France has 1 prologue and 20 stages of challenging road that covers a total distance of 3,497 kilometers (approximately 2,172 miles). 

The stages of Le Tour consist of 9 flat stages, 4 medium mountain stages (one with a summit finish), 5 mountain stages (two with a summit finish), 2 individual time trial stages, 1 prologue and 2 rest days. I watch not only for the sport and athleticism but because the Tour and it's stages teach many life lessons. 

Focus. Professional cyclists focus on what they can control and leave the rest alone. They train, plan and perform yet there are many uncontrollable factors that can determine or change the outcome of any stage of their race. One rock, one crash in front of them or downpour of rain can change the outcome of any stage of the Tour. Smart riders don't focus on the things they can't control. These riders have the right training and mental toughness. They keep pedaling in confidence knowing they have done all they can to prepare for this moment in time.

Flat but moving.The flat stage is where many riders set a pace, keep the pace or roll along with the other riders. If we are in a flat stage of life, we might ask ourselves, what is my purpose? Am I making a difference? Where do I see myself in a few years? Do I have right tools and training? Some may even ask--what is the minimal amount of work I have to do to stay with the pack? During the flat stages there are often more questions than answers but strong cyclists keep pedaling. During a flat stage even if the riders don't appear to be making progress they gaining miles, getting stronger and still moving forward. 

Ride with a Team. Whether at work, school or home we have to ride through life with others. During this stage we need people around us to encourage, support, provide a reality check and even a little tough love when necessary. Our team should challenge us to keep going and sometimes take the lead when we are tired. Who is riding alongside you in life? Who encourages or challenges you in a healthy way? Who lifts you up when everything seems to bring you down? Who changes your flat tires?  You'll often see the lead riders rely heavily on their coaches or team mates for advice and strategy during the race. Even the strongest riders have caring, strong team mates who know how to help. It's smart to have good mentors, strategists and team mates. 

Ride Alone. In the Tour, there are individual time trials. Time trials can be lonely but  the rider must move as quickly as possible to get through them.This stage allows you to grow stronger in mind, body and spirit because it's just you and the road. Sometimes it can be painful to pedal so hard and fast. Hopefully during this stage you learn how to best use your time and resources. This stage requires focus and continuous movement toward your goals. This stage requires trust, stamina and knowing where to place your hands on the handlebars. Ride alone sometimes, you can. It will work with the right attitude and approach.

Mountains. The mountains  are always challenging. This is where the deepest levels of strength, courage, faith and endurance are tested. Riders want to give up here. Especially when your hamstrings and quads are screaming for you to stop. The mountains demand consistency, determination and confidence before you reach the summit. In the mountain stage, fatigue is often the greatest enemy. In a job search or your career, this is where you feel you've talked to everyone, tried everything and nothing is happening. No interviews, no rejections, no promotions...nothing just a tough climb. Mental toughness matters in the mountains. You gain this toughness by digging deep and relying on something greater than yourself. You also gain this toughness by including those with opposing thoughts in your circle of influence. Do you listen to those who think differently or just those who will tell you what you want to hear? Do you make decisions based upon facts or fear? Do you allow yourself to be influenced by the opinions of others or do you stop trying because it's just too difficult? Stay strong. Build the muscles of wisdom, faith and endurance.

Rest. After ten days of racing, the Tour requires racers to rest from the physical and mental pressures. That's right, even these finely trained, highly fit and mentally tough athletes must rest. They take care of injuries and attempt to recover and retreat from the intensity of the race so they can continue on to the final stages. Do you take time to intentionally rest and renew? Never feel guilty about taking time away for yourself, it makes you a stronger rider. Get some rest...it's okay...she said, mainly to herself. 

Timing. The Tour de France rider often wins or loses the yellow jersey based on mere seconds. Are you stressing about timing? Ask yourself, will this matter in 10 minutes, 10 months or 10 years? It might help you to find a better rhythm of life. The riders always keep their pace but they plan it well. Elite cyclists know there is always another stage coming up, requiring another adjustment. They hold a steady pace when necessary, pull back, surge forward or even sprint based on everything else going on around them. Pay attention to life's timing.

Who or what do you rely on to help you through the stages of your life? I hope you will prepare, avoid discouragement, renew and keep riding in this crazy race we call life.  Move out with your team and sometimes it's okay to go it alone for those individual wins. Don't give up so easily, the yellow jersey may be closer than you think. I'll see you at the winner's podium! This is why I love Le Tour! It gives me hope.

Read more about the Tour de France , you'll see... it's a lot like life. Want to talk about this? Leave a comment below.