Stormy Somber Saturday: Thoughts on Mental & Physical Health

It has now been raining non-stop for three consecutive days in Tokyo. When my alarm fired this morning, awaking me from a deep and comfortable slumber, the only other sound penetrating the walls of my bedroom was Mother Nature's wet warriors angrily pounding against my home. This is the first time this year rainy season has prevented me from taking Red Chameleon out for a stroll for this many days in a row.

I am now in full-on cycling withdrawal mode, even going so far as to have lucid dreams about hitting the tarmac. It it not only the physical exercise I miss, but the mental departure I enjoy for the two to three hours I am out of the house. I love the feeling of immersing myself in nature, soaking up deep breaths of the fresh river air while pedaling along the Tamagawa.

Prior to falling deeply in love with cycling, and before adopting some smaller puppies, I went hiking in Yamanashi, Gunma, and Tochigi at least once a month. I always had a profound love for nature and being enveloped in beautiful greenery. Although my normal cycling route is on the border of Tokyo and Kanagawa, and therefore technically in the city, since it is along the Tamagawa there is a considerable amount of greenery along the river banks. Bathing in nature's crisp air while mercilessly spinning along the cycling road could not be any more mentally restorative.

Muko river cycling and jogging road in Sanda city, Hyogo, Japan

The exercise cycling provides is extremely necessary for an old guy like me. It is one of the few workout activities I thoroughly enjoy, along with hiking and more or less anything allowing me to dive into natures deep end. However, in the new COVID-19 work normal, being able to unplug and go off the grid for a decent amount of time is just as vital. It is not only imperative to take care of our physical health, but to also be extremely cognizant of our mental well being.

Sitting in front of a computer screen all day is lousy for our body. I used to laugh at people who used standing desks. Now I can not imagine working without one. The option to raise the desk and work while standing is a great way to shake up the day. It is a valuable strategy for ensuring you are not completely sedentary for however long you are living in your virtual office each day. Breaking up the monotony of sitting is tantamount to walking away from your physical desk to grab a coffee. It allows you to lightly exercise your muscles, something you would not normally do if you were sitting the entire day.

But I digress.

The work-life balance we previously enjoyed has all but disappeared. It used to be blindingly obvious when work ended, and when personal or family time began. Since our homes have turned into our virtual offices, that bright line has considerably faded, causing mental strife for many people. The first quarter of COVID-19 in 2020 was an extremely difficult transition period for me, and I needed to learn how to manage and navigate this new way of almost combining work and life into a single concept.

Check out more of my travels at
Photo by S Migaj / Unsplash

I have found forced unplugging to be the best strategy for my mental well being. How I accomplish this is in conjunction with cycling. No matter how long I am out pedaling, whether it is for a quick thirty-minute ride or a three-hour outing, I will not use my iPhone for anything other than two very simple things: listening to podcasts and taking pictures. Otherwise, I am blanketing myself in fresh air and nature, never having a care in the world for what nonsense is transpiring in cyberspace.

It is doubtful there is an actual life and death emergency needing my immediate assistance for three hours. If something emergent is happening, someone involved will call, not send a text message or email.

Making a conscious choice to avoid work at all costs while cycling has done wonders for my constitution. I feel remarkably better when paying strict attention to my mental health. Not only am I less prone to - quite frankly - being an asshole, but I am far more relaxed and capable of focusing on daily tasks. In fact, I even find exercise and meditative cycling helps cultivate my artistic side, yanking out inventive ideas from within the deep recesses of my weary mind. This comes in handy as I am the "PowerPoint Guy" on the team.

Taking care of your physical and mental health has never been more important than it is today. It is definitely not easy, requiring commitment, determination, and dedication. Developing a simple to execute, yet multi-faceted strategy for your physical, dietary, and mental health is actually not that difficult. It requires taking that all important yet very crucial first step.

My journey has not been easy, but it is one I have decided I will stick to, no matter how painful it feels. The ostensible burdens I experience along this adventure will pale in comparison to what I will endure if I do not take good care of my mental, physical, and dietary well being.

This age is all about enjoying those precious few remaining years life has so graciously offered me. The key component to achieving that very simple goal is to stay healthy.

Photo by Jon Tyson / Unsplash

Update: Of course, right around the time I published this article the weather has all but temporarily cleared up. While I would love to change into my cycling gear like Clark Kent transforming into Superman, unfortunately the timing could not be any worse.

There are two things working against me now.

  1. There is a client in the house, so this means when I return from cycling they will likely still be here, and therefore I will not be able to shower.
  2. I have an appointment in four hours to pickup a specially cooked July Fourth barbeque pack for a late lunch, early dinner celebration today. It takes approximately 45 minutes to drive to the club.

While I could hop on Red Chameleon and ride, I cannot really show up smelling like a sweaty freak show when picking up the food. I almost feel like I am making excuses, but really am not. In all honesty, I would prefer to go riding but other forces appear to be working against me, doing their best to thwart my cycling interests while a small window of opportunity has presented itself.

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