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Be Smart About South Africa

Cycling – The Soul’s Sweet Escape To Serenity

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As we fantasise about hitting the brakes this festive season to spend time with our loved ones, and to relax and recharge, some of us may be struggling to pedal through the rocky terrain of year-end fatigue.

With life coming at us from all directions, even the most dedicated of us are bound to be experiencing some level of physical and mental exhaustion. 

And you’re not alone. In  fact, the month of October has been dedicated to Mental Health Awareness in South Africa, with decision-makers recognising work stressors as a key contributor to mental fatigue. 

But for those on the edge of the burnout cliff, what can be done in the last few months to prevent the imminent fall?

Tim Cordon, Chief Operating Officer, Middle East and Africa for the Radisson Hotel Group, shares the importance of prioritising your wellbeing, the necessity of establishing a healthy work-life balance, his love for cycling  and how it could be a sweet escape for your soul. 

For many professionals, professional progression and growth rests heavily upon their ability to work hard, often sacrificing personal time for the advancement of their careers. But most professionals will agree that there is something about being in your twenties that makes you feel like you should be holding down a job, studying a PhD, buying a house, writing a novel, travelling the world, pursuing twenty different hobbies, going to the gym eight days a week as well as adopting two dogs and cat. New entrants into the working world may feel the need to overcompensate for their lack of experience by working extra long hours in an attempt to prove their commitment to their career.  But stressing about your future only robs you of the joys of the present.

Reflecting on his early career, Cordon shares, “Your 20s are usually the years you work the hardest and longest hours; however, my advice is to work hard but make more time for family and friends, and take the time to disconnect and go on holidays. You never get that time back and I missed so much in my 20s just working every day without taking time off.”

“Drawing on from my own experience, the hospitality industry can be overwhelming particularly for those on the front line.I am so glad to be a part of an organisation that understands this and as such prioritises the wellbeing of its employees.Our staff’s wellbeing is of the utmost importance to us because if you don’t have a team to deliver the experiences and create those unforgettable moments for your guests, you don’t have a hotel – you only have a building,” he continues. 

Mental wellness, just like cycling, is about the art of balance. Balancing not going too fast and missing the scenery with not going  too slow and becoming stagnant. It’s about understanding that just like oiling your bike makes for a better ride, taking care of yourself makes for a better life. For Cordon, riding his bike is about more than just the sport itself. It’s given him the understanding that the only way you’ll know if you can do it is by taking off your training wheels, as is the case with life. It’s about understanding that when the uphill seems never ending it’s okay, perhaps even necessary, to hit the brakes, jump off and take a slow stroll towards the top – you’ll still get to enjoy the same breathtaking view. Cycling is about understanding that the journey of life is sometimes rocky but you can still enjoy the ride.

For all professionals struggling to cross the finish line, finding an outlet that liberates you from the pressures of your day-to-day life is key. And if you’re struggling to find one, why not hop on a bicycle while your mind races through ideas? Here’s why Cordon recommends cycling as a way of taking a mental break. 

  1. It’s a sustainable sport – With rising temperatures, the change in seasons, the increased prevalence of natural disasters, diminishing wildlife species and the growing reality of a global climate disaster, practising sustainability is more important than ever. Whilst averting a global climate crisis is a major undertaking, it begins with small, realistic and sustainable changes to your lifestyle – like cycling. Opting to ride your bike when travelling short distances instead of driving your car is one way that you can reduce your impact on the environment. Cycling does not only reduce air and sound pollution but it also promotes biodiversity and ultimately reduces your contribution to global warming. 
  2. There’s magic in mentorship-  As a young professional there is perhaps nothing more valuable than finding a mentor to help you navigate the working world. Any successful business executive will tell you that you’re only as good as your network. Joining a cycling club could allow you to meet new people with various professional backgrounds. Due to its increasing popularity among executives and CEOs, cycling is a great way to network with accomplished business professionals. It gives those who are early in their careers a chance to connect with more experienced professionals and vice versa in a relaxed environment. 
  3. It motors your mind – Most exercise is good for your mood and mental health, and cycling is no exception. A study published in 2019, observed  100 adults of which one-third were non cyclists, another third cycled at least three times per week, and the final third used e-bikes. Over an 8 week period, participants were asked to maintain these cycling (or non-cycling) routines. It was discovered that the participants who cycled at least three times per week — either on traditional bikes or e-bikes — demonstrated notable improvements in mental health, cognitive function, and overall perception of health and well-being compared to the noncyclists. This is because different types of riding stimulate different cognitive functions. For example, mountain biking is technical and so requires you to be focussed, which improves your concentration whereas road cycling allows you to ride at greater speeds, which spurs a rush of adrenaline and endorphins and allows for a greater sense of enjoyment. The versatility of the sport also allows you to service your emotional need for self-reflection during solo rides as well as your need for socialisation during group rides.  
  4. South Africa’s scenery –  Cordon has cycled in a total of twelve countries across Europe, the United States, Canada, the Middle East and even South Africa. It’s no secret to him or anyone else that South Africa is known for having some of the most breathtaking views in the world, from monumental mountain ranges, to romantic vineyards, meandering rivers, to rugged fynbos and luscious forests. There are many stunning cycling routes to explore, but here are few to consider:
  • Helshoogte Pass, Cape Winelands
  • Cape Point Nature Reserve
  • The Owl Route, Eastern Cape
  • Karkloof, KwaZulu Natal
  • Glengarry Holiday Farm, Kamberg
  • The Knysna Forests, Garden Route

Whatever your soul’s sweet escape, make sure to stop and enjoy the view.

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