By Kevin Kolodziejski
I was the victim of a hit-and-run — one about as odd as they come — about a month ago.
There’s a point in the large Sunday ride I often do where you can cut the course by making a left. Doing so allows you to relieve yourself and rejoin the group before the ride changes into a race. So I turned left, pedaled for a bit, and was about to hit the brakes when something from behind hit my left shoulder. My handlebars turned far to the right, my back wheel slid out, and I went down hard on my left leg and forearm.
Both of which had been previously broken in bicycle crashes , crashes that were also totally out of my control.
Imagine This — and That
The something, I imagine, was the bicycle helmet worn by an inattentive guy who, when he looked up and realized we were about to collide, dropped his head to brace himself and remain upright. What I can’t imagine is why he kept going after the collision.
Another rider doubled back and asked if he should call for help. I told him I thought I could ride the 10 or so miles to my dad’s house. The first two miles were rough, but I was able to ride the rest at an easy pace with minimal pain. After that, when I managed to walk the bike down the stairs to my dad’s basement with only mild discomfort, I thought I had dodged a bullet.
The Bullet Boomeranged
Maybe I did at first, but the dang thing boomeranged. Five hours later, I needed a cane to walk. By Monday night, the pain in my hip progressed to the point where I feared the worst. That because I had been rear ended my world was about to be upended.
That my hip was fractured.
That I was headed to the hospital and then to rehab once again. That for a significant amount of time someone would need to take care of me: my yard work, my housework, my grocery store shopping.
But on Tuesday morning, the x-rays taken at an urgent care center came back negative. When the physician’s assistant told me that, I felt an incredible commingling of relief and exhilaration, stammered out something like, “Oh thank god” a couple of times, and started to stand up to hug her — but a hit of pain altered that plan. I sat back, the PA came forth, and she hugged me instead.
Hugs, Not Drugs
Now, I’m not normally a hugger, but this one felt every bit as good as when I was five, skinned my knees fleeing a fat girl trying to kiss me after school, and mom took me in her arms when I came home crying. Post hug, however, the PA did say I had sustained quite a contusion, one that could curtail exercise for up to a month. But that didn’t dampen my spirits. Neither did the subsequent — and seemingly constant — pain from hobbling around the house and rehabbing the injury.
If you were to ask Dr. Ali Crum why not, she’d say it’s because of my mindset I adopted a few broken bones ago.
What Is Mindset?
When it comes to mindsets, the Associate Professor of Psychology at Stanford University and Director of the Stanford Mind & Body Lab, should know. Called “a world expert” on the subject during a 2022 Dr. Andrew Huberman podcast, Crum defines a mindset as the “core beliefs or assumptions that we have . . . that orient us to a particular set of expectations, explanations, and goals.” These beliefs and assumptions, she adds, are so powerful that they have the ability to alter your body’s response to exercise, foods, and stress. On the same podcast, she cites studies to support those claims.
The first one she mentions related to stress she conducted during the 2008 financial crisis. Something her subjects were certainly feeling since they worked for a financial company undergoing “pretty massive layoffs.”
She had the subjects watch one of two nine-minute videos about stress. One explained how stress “crushes” you; the other, how it enhances you. In the time between these viewings and the follow-up interviews, the subjects who watched the enhancing film suffered fewer backaches, bouts of muscle tension, and episodes of insomnia when compared to those who watched the stress-crushes-you video. They performed better at work, as well.
Getting the Message Out About Mindset
Studies like this one are why Crum’s trying “to get the message out” that whether stress is good or bad is often a matter of mindset — and that mindset can be directly tied to whether you succeed or fail at a task.
Crum found that to be true even in a group that could have the most positive view of stress in the entire world: the guys and gals trying to become Navy SEALS. After baseline work with prospective SEALS willing to be subjects ascertained that they did indeed believe stress had many benefits, Crum waited to see how they fared in their Physical Screening Test. The test consists of a 1000-meter swim that needs to be done with fins and in under 20-minutes, 70 push-ups and 60 sit-ups that need to be performed in two minutes or less, a four-mile run in boots and pants that needs to be completed in 31 minutes, and 10 pull-ups.
Crum found the likelihood of the prospective SEALS passing the PST correlated with the degree to which they felt stress enhances them rather than hurts them. In other words, the more convinced the prospects were that stress was a positive, the more likely they were to pass the test. As well as more likely to record faster obstacle course times and be rated positively by their peers.
In short, Crum’s studies show the influence mindsets have on mental and physical health and leads to this inevitable question.
Are you going to cultivate ones that help or hurt you and your cycling?
Kevin Kolodziejski began his writing career in earnest in 1989. Since then he’s written a weekly health and fitness column and his articles have appeared in magazines such as “MuscleMag,” “Ironman,” “Vegetarian Times,” and “Bicycle Guide.” He has Bachelor and Masters degrees in English from DeSales and Kutztown Universities.
A competitive cyclist for more than 30 years, Kevin won two Pennsylvania State Time Trial championships in his 30’s, the aptly named Pain Mountain Time Trial 4 out of 5 times in his 40s, two more state TT’s in his 50’s, and the season-long Pennsylvania 40+ BAR championship at 43.