finding flow

Alison Tetrick: The Keys to Finding Flow On and Off the Bike

By Alison Tetrick,
Pro cyclist, Entrepreneur, CTS Contributing Editor

Find that flow. I currently have a rest week off the bike. Ordinarily that would make me anxious and twitchy, but I haven’t regretted this one for a moment. First of all, it is raining for the first time in a long while here in California. I’ll gladly stay indoors a few days to bring some welcome relief to the brown hills surrounding my home. I have also been entrenched in a really fun work project lately. I am enamored by the goal. The client is stellar. My team is ridiculously strong. The purpose is inspiring. I get up early. I stay up late. It isn’t unhealthy, I am just so darn excited about this mission to create opportunity, strategy, and a platform to make something meaningful.

So, I have something new to channel all my manic energy into. And don’t you ever feel like that? Something you are so inspired by, curious about, and focused on that you just gravitate towards it. It could be your athletic goal or your work goal, but something we gladly pour energy into and can lose ourselves in, something that brings us flow. Flow is something we seek. Sorry, I never find it on single-track. For some reason, I find it more in all-day riding on open roads (gravel roads count). Or is it writing? Or this new project? I’m just glad I found some flow away from the bike just in time for recovery week.

As I sit here, trying to juggle current work and projects, and preparing for 2022 (yes, already), I realized there are many parallels between our efforts in training and competition and those in our lives off the bike, and how we find flow on and off the bike.

How does your training compare to the rest of your life’s obligations?

  1. Preparation – You can’t control someone’s decision to accept your proposal or like the design you created for them, just like you can’t control an inopportune flat tire or someone else crashing you out during a race. But control your “controllables”. Did you spend enough time researching your client’s project requirements and needs to give the best design possible? And did you triple check your tires and ride yourself into the safest spot in the pack to minimize “bad luck”? Hint, there’s no safe spot in the pack. “Tail gunning” off the back or taking a flyer off the front is my MO, but I have space issues. If you did all the preparation, you could then you can be proud of the outcome.
  2. Process – Enjoy the steps it takes you to get to that pivotal pitch moment or to the start line. If you make it fun and satisfying along the way, you can look back and really appreciate that you loved the challenge and the process to get to your target moment. Then the time is well spent no matter the outcome.
  3. Patience – you won’t see results from your training or your CEU credits immediately. Success doesn’t happen overnight. You must have confidence in your process and that your investments will pay back in the long run. If they don’t, go back to #2, and look towards the next opportunity.
  4. Take risks – It can take a bit of a gamble to win. If the new marketing plan you’re pitching is getting yawns, then transition into the Plan B ideas you left on the table, watch for their eyes to start lighting up and then run with it. When you aren’t feeling strong enough, but a potentially winning breakaway is going and everyone is hesitating, sometimes you have to go with it. You need to know the course and have the fitness, just like you need to know you can take that less developed idea you just sold and bring it to the finish line.You’re never 100% certain of success. Be smart about risk, but don’t shy away from it.
  5. Trust your gut – And I am not talking about taking probiotics. At the end of the day, no matter how much data or information you have, and no matter how much you adhere to #1, your intuition can be magic. If it feels right, aligns with your values, and looks good on paper, go for it. If it feels wrong, despite looking good on paper, there’s a reason.
  6. Like your goals – Find goals that inspire you. You don’t have to pick deals and events that you don’t even like. Your goals don’t need to be inspired by external pressure or validation. If you don’t like your goal, you won’t find that flow.
  7. Pick a good team – Cherish your support system and pick a solid team to surround you. Your team can be your family, your chosen family, your colleagues, or really anyone steady who always has your back. But if you have a team that believes in YOU, then you can’t fail (because even when you do they will pick you right back up and keep you moving forward).

Use the bike as a tool to become better – on and off that steed. The bike can hone our focus, even out our energy, and help us to find the flow in work, life, and beyond. Flow is a prize we should seek in whatever we’re doing in life. Having meaningful goals, pursuing them with great people, and being flexible and true to yourself can help you find it. And when you do find flow, ride that wave and take notes on how you landed there so you can get back to that place again more easily. Whether it is in training or racing, the classroom or a boardroom, or the workshop or art studio, the principles are the same across the board. Go find your flow.

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Comments 2

  1. Thanks for sharing! You’ve reminded me of why I love cycling and given some great applications for life in general that I already use and some new ones to incorporate. Keep cycling!

  2. Hello Alison

    I really appreciate your cycling analogies as they relate to your off-bike work experience. I was recently asked during a job interview to draw a cycling analogy in how I tackle difficult / big project/s that I have worked on in the past (advertising photography). I explained the psychological technique that I use while climbing steep hills, that i do all I can to prepare to get the base of the climb but that once I’m into the climb, I never look too far ahead and use visual roadside markers at short intervals, setting short mini goals that lead me up to the top. I learn so much about myself and life while out there on the bike pushing myself to endure the task I set up for myself. At 55 I can knock off a century ride pretty efficiently… to think I have to put a 12-15 hour shift in from time to time,,, no problem,,, piece of cake… I have been cycling since I was 15.. It’s made it possible for me to endure so much off the bike… i can’t begin to explain… everything from all nighters while in college to the impossible extended travel / location shoot to a DiY kitchen / bath remodel… When suffering for 5-6 hours at a time your bike, or climbing a cat 2 climb becomes a norm baseline, it’s bound to transfer over into other life skills. I try to recruit so many younger 30 somethings into cycling to the point where I feel like I’m a part of some creepy cult. I feel that cycling can become a life changing tool and want others to see the light of day as well. Hallelujah

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