Find your tribe - women's cycling group

Photo by Anne Tur

These past couple of weeks, I have been exercising so much gratitude for the life I lead.

I work for myself, giving me lots of freedom to enjoy moments of fresh air or exercise when I feel the need.

I have a loving family who test the limits of my resolve but they are also some of my greatest achievements and I am extremely fortunate that I have the opportunity to explore new ideas and learn new things to keep my interest piqued.

However, my overwhelming emotion recently has been the feeling of belonging.

As an only child growing up, I took the extrovert route. I always felt able to meet new people and was seldom short of someone to play with, but I wasn't very good at building deep relationships with others and rarely felt I belonged to any specific group. 

Although it used to bother me a little, I didn’t really dwell on it until after my daughter came along, where loneliness became a defining factor in a slide towards post natal depression. 

Masked cyclocross cycling club

Photo by Anne Tur

I came to cycling through an injury from running; my husband is a keen cyclist and had been trying to convince me to get on the bike for years, but I’d always feared the pain that I believed my fragile bottom would be in.

However, when injury hit, I was desperate not to lose the fitness I had accumulated and allowed him to set up his old bike to fit me as well as it could.

I literally took it for a 10 mile spin and fell in love.

Of course, that meant I needed my own shiny new steed and when it arrived, my first instinct was to find others like me to ride with. 

My journey from that moment has been (and continues to be!) really special. From my first ride with a ladies cycling collective, to training with them and completing my first Rapha 100, to exploring unknown routes and roads further afield and taking our first spin out on the brand new cyclocross bikes.

And most recently, being invited to be part of a new club that really shares my values.

Women's cyclocross club Velobants

Photo by Anne Tur

As I’ve grown as a cyclist, I’ve forged strong bonds with others who share a similar path with me and also built a lovely network of casual friendships that require little maintenance to stay connected.

I think we can often lure ourselves into believing we need to be able to do everything independently. Culture can sometimes tell us that it’s important not to depend on others for support, but I would suggest neuroscience and positive psychology tells us otherwise…

Did you know our brains are literally wired to connect?

According to Matthew Lieberman, a leading neuroscience researcher; our brains are striving for connection in every moment.

We feel social pain and pleasure in exactly the same way in our brains as physical pain and pleasure and social interaction is just as important to our health as exercise and diet.

That was a really life-changing discovery for me (and if you’re interested to understand more, I’d highly recommend reading Matt’s ’Social’ book and one I now implement into my work as well as my own life.

We NEED social interaction to thrive.

Think of it this way, our most powerful emotions are felt when they involve someone else - love, compassion, empathy, fear, hate.

Our most important memories are highly likely to involve others and our most energising moments are when engaging with those who share our passions.

Photo by Anne Tur

Connecting with others is a really important ingredient to our personal well being recipe and finding ways to connect whilst also engaging in activities that tick other boxes on the ingredients list only adds to the positive feeling.

I mentioned the power of positive emotions in my previous Smiles not Miles blog and the importance of them to our wellbeing, so if our positive emotions are at their strongest when connecting with others, we’re doubling the benefit. 

For me, cycling with others literally ticks the majority of my well being boxes:

  • Connection with others
  • Fresh air
  • Physical activity
  • Taking notice of the outside world
  • Disconnection from the digital world
  • Helping others to learn more about cycling
  • Learning new things, discovering new routes or places
  • Challenging myself to achieve 

My cycling ’tribe’ are the heart of my social connections. I look forward to moments with them and remember those I’ve had with them fondly.

So next time you’re considering that solo ride, ring a mate and fill up that connection bucket.

About Jeni Sanderson: Jeni is a Positive Change Consultant specialising in using positive psychology and appreciative inquiry to energise positive change in both individuals and organisations. She offers life coaching for those looking to find clarity or to ‘discover their positive core’ in order to flourish and is a keen cyclist both on and off road, competing with our very own Fran in the Central Cyclocross league and enjoys the road and trails as well. when not working or on the bike, she spends time with her husband and daughter in a village just outside Bedford. You can find out more about Jeni on her website: www.jenisanderson.com