By Kevin Kolodziejski
You may feel I’m prying, but in an effort to better you and your pedaling I’m asking: “What’s your number-one source of happiness?” While you consider that question (and maybe even my insolence), I’ll tell you about how I answered when asked exactly that one day in a classroom setting.
The Quote of the Day
For my last 21 years as a junior high language arts teacher, I began class with what came to be known as The Quote of the Day. It was nothing more than a simple thought by a deep thinker written on the chalkboard (which was eventually replaced by a whiteboard) with a key word missing and the correct number of spaces to represent each missing letter. Such as:
There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the _ _ _.Thich Nhat Hanh
I’d read the quotation, provide a bit of background information on its creator, and then students would guess at the missing word. Once that was determined, the tougher task began.
Students would interpret the quotation and relate it to a personal situation.
I found that opening activity challenged the kids who were already thinking abstractly. And when the aforementioned Thich Nhat Hanh quotation appeared on the board one year, I found myself challenged by one of those already-thinking-abstractly students. After he provided a spot-on interpretation of “There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way,” he turned the table (or maybe it should be desk in this case) on me.
The Table Turns 180 Degrees
“Mr. Kolo,” he said. “What about you? What makes you the happiest?”
Without the slightest bit of hesitation, I replied, “Progress.”
Now I was known for looking up at the ceiling and taking my time before answering delicate or inappropriate questions; consequently, the rapidity of my response surprised the class almost as much as it surprised me. So I looked up at the ceiling for a while and gathered my thoughts before relating The Quote of the Day to a personal situation.
I told the class how I once fractured my femur in a bicycle race by rolling a tubular in a turn while being 65 seconds off the front and not more 2k away from the finish line — in a high-stakes race I had yearned to win for years. How that fracture ended my season after four races where my worst finish had been a single second place. How the three cycling buddies who came to see me a few weeks into my rehab all said essentially the same thing: How oddly happy I seemed to be despite my bad luck and bad injury.
But there was nothing odd about it, I explained to the class. I truly was happy. I had been rehabbing with fervor and focus, so nearly every day I was experiencing what I love to experience in some way, shape, or form and help others achieve.
Progress. At least a little bit of it.
The Most Likely Rate of Progress
Whether or not you get the same jolt of joy from becoming just that little bit better really doesn’t matter. What does is that you recognize that a little bit is the most likely rate of progress you make in any endeavor, including cycling — and especially if you’ve cycled seriously for a while. Which brings us back to the topic at hand: reading just before bedtime. Do it the right way and it will make both you and your cycling just that little bit better.
Bedtime Reading Reduces Stress
Pressure at your job, the nonstop pace of your day, a good relationship gone bad: These are just three of the many stressors that can prey on your mind and keep you from falling asleep at night. Research led by Dr. David Lewis and performed at the University of Sussex in Sussex, England in 2009, however, shows you only need to read silently in bed for as little as six minutes for your stress level to drop 68 percent. “You Should Pick Up Your Book Before Bed,” an article at WebMd.com that cites this study, explains why it’s best the reading be done with a book rather than a device with a screen. The type of light that a laptop, smartphone, or e-reader emits inhibits your body’s secretion of melatonin, a hormone so crucial to sleep that it’s often taken in supplemental form as a sleep aid.
Bedtime Reading Increases Sleep Time
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of every three American adults sleeps less than what’s seen as the bare minimum: seven hours a night. But sleep deficiency can produce far more than a morose mood in the morning. Long term, it’s been linked to increasing the risk of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and what the CDC calls “frequent mental distress.”
The results of a survey performed by SleepJunkie.com suggests an easy antidote, though. Those surveyed who saw themselves as regular readers slept on average an hour and a half longer per week than non-readers. When questioned about their rate of daily productivity, 79 percent of regular bedtime readers felt they got the most out of themselves during the day.
Bedtime Reading Enhances Your State of Mind
One reason why bedtime reading is beneficial is true for reading any time of the day, and particularly fiction. It alters your state of mind in a positive way. Reading requires you not only to forget present problems, troubles, or other unpleasant realities, but also to consider a point of view often far different from yours.
Sometimes that provides insight. Sometimes that creates clarity. Invariably, as studies have shown, it engenders empathy. Apply any or all of these qualities to what you do — including your cycling — and it’s sure to lead to that thing we love even in the littlest of bits.
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.