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Cycling with anxiety

Jul 24, 2020
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Hi all,

I've been cycling couple times a week for few years now. Before that I was into running.
Being an anxious person, i've been sometimes strugling to complete rides, especially when cycling uphill.
Having elevated heart rate during rides, associates me with a panick attack, and suddenly my breathing becomes shallow, my legs are getting weak... a typical panic attack symptoms. My mind says that when I raise my heart rate, something bad is going to happen ex me dying.
I admire the people that go past me on the ride, most of them riding at their maximum, while I strugle with the attacks.
My question I guess is, is there a danger of getting a heart attack while riding? Is it safe to push harder at some points?
I know it sounds crazy, knowing that the heart is a muscle, and the more you exercise, the stronger it gets.
Cycling seems to be one of the best cardiovascular exercises, but still I strugle to accept the fact that while cycling I do good for my health, and not put myself in danger.
 
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If you do not have any physical conditions that make you 'at risk' for a heart attack, then elevated heart rate AEROBIC exercise should be fine. Do not force yourself to continue exercise if you become 'dazed' or you are not fully aware of the conditions around you, or you have difficulty controlling your motion.

Jay
 
On training you shouldn't go extremely high with your heart rate. Regular training in a pace you can handle is more important. You could ask a doctor how high your heart rate can go without being unhealthy. It's different for each individual, depending on age, genetics, previous training, lifestyle etc. Cycling is very healthy as long as you don't go over your limit.
 
as a cyclist with anxiety, I found the only things that help me is to ride often - if i have a long gap between rides (ie more than a week) I get terrible anxiety and won't want to ride and a negative feedback loop begins.

ride often, stick with a route, don't be afraid of embarrassing yourself - rather than deal with a slightly busy junction I'll hop onto the pavement & use the traffic lights to cross. Also concentrate on improving your situational awareness.

ten laps riding around a residential area isn't fun but it will do more for your mental wellbeing than riding around the countryside in a stressful/anxious state. Build your confidence up, then tackle the more difficult areas.
 
Dec 1, 2022
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as a cyclist with anxiety, I found the only things that help me is to ride often - if i have a long gap between rides (ie more than a week) I get terrible anxiety and won't want to ride and a negative feedback loop begins.

ride often, stick with a route, don't be afraid of embarrassing yourself - rather than deal with a slightly busy junction I'll hop onto the pavement & use the traffic lights to cross. Also concentrate on improving your situational awareness.

ten laps riding around a residential area isn't fun but it will do more for your mental wellbeing than riding around the countryside in a stressful/anxious state. Build your confidence up, then tackle the more difficult areas.
Same case!
 
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as a cyclist with anxiety, I found the only things that help me is to ride often - if i have a long gap between rides (ie more than a week) I get terrible anxiety and won't want to ride and a negative feedback loop begins.

ride often, stick with a route, don't be afraid of embarrassing yourself - rather than deal with a slightly busy junction I'll hop onto the pavement & use the traffic lights to cross. Also concentrate on improving your situational awareness.

ten laps riding around a residential area isn't fun but it will do more for your mental wellbeing than riding around the countryside in a stressful/anxious state. Build your confidence up, then tackle the more difficult areas.

As someone who has been described as "a bit high-strung" in RL, I find that cycling or any kind of physical activity really helps to control stress.

I do have some physical issues, so what I did is ride with a Holter to check what I could handle, then calibrated my Garmin against the Holter. I ride mostly in residential areas and my Garmin is programmed to check in with my husband if something goes wrong. It works; for example when I was nudged by a car, he called me back.

However! Sometimes the cycling itself is stressful. Like when a dog on the loose with no owner in sight starts chasing or a car follows you at low speed for several kilometres or someone starts to make fun of you for climbing too slowly or someone crowds you into a downhill line that you can't handle or someone throws something at you from a car, well, I could go on.

So, I have no pride at all, if I feel I need to, I hop off the bike, lean on it, sit down, whatever. I carry a bottle of icewater; drinking something cold seems to reset my stress response and if it's hot and I have water to spare, I pour some on my face.

If I feel like crying ( which I did after the downhill thing where I ended up in a ditch) I do, best way to quickly release stress. Also, it made the motorcycle driver feel really bad, so double win.
 
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It seems you've answered your own questions.
I'm a dinosaur and have no idea what you're talking about when mentioning a Holter and a Garmin and how your Garmin is connected to your husband who, no matter where he is in the world, will tell you to go home when a car nudges you. Plus, you ride in residential neighborhoods, so you seem good to go.
A couple questions: Why do you need your husband, who is hooked up to your Garmin, to tell you to go home when you've been nudged by a car? Would you just trudge along without the Garmin and your husband?
Also, if your husband knows when you've been nudged by a car, why doesn't he know when you're being chased by a dog?
I never ceased to be amazed by modern technology and how it's used in various situations. But the fact your husband is in touch via your Garmin on every ride should give you every peace in the world.
Keep safe and ride lots!
 
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It seems you've answered your own questions.
I'm a dinosaur and have no idea what you're talking about when mentioning a Holter and a Garmin and how your Garmin is connected to your husband who, no matter where he is in the world, will tell you to go home when a car nudges you. Plus, you ride in residential neighborhoods, so you seem good to go.
A couple questions: Why do you need your husband, who is hooked up to your Garmin, to tell you to go home when you've been nudged by a car? Would you just trudge along without the Garmin and your husband?
Also, if your husband knows when you've been nudged by a car, why doesn't he know when you're being chased by a dog?
I never ceased to be amazed by modern technology and how it's used in various situations. But the fact your husband is in touch via your Garmin on every ride should give you every peace in the world.
Keep safe and ride lots!
Thank you! Would like to clarify that I'm not the original poster asking the questions, but another person sharing experiences.

The Holter is a portable heart monitor. If one has heart issues, it can be advisable to check at what level of effort one is starting to have problems.

The Garmin smart watch measures the pulse rate, but also notices when you come to a very sudden stop, then sends an SMS to whoever is your emergency contact. With the dog, I didn't stop.

Regarding the car incident, of course I didn't need my husband to tell me to go home - after getting the SMS he called me back on my phone - and since I wasn't seriously hurt, I reassured him and went on. :)
 
Thank you! Would like to clarify that I'm not the original poster asking the questions, but another person sharing experiences.

The Holter is a portable heart monitor. If one has heart issues, it can be advisable to check at what level of effort one is starting to have problems.

The Garmin smart watch measures the pulse rate, but also notices when you come to a very sudden stop, then sends an SMS to whoever is your emergency contact. With the dog, I didn't stop.

Regarding the car incident, of course I didn't need my husband to tell me to go home - after getting the SMS he called me back on my phone - and since I wasn't seriously hurt, I reassured him and went on. :)
Apologies for getting the stories mixed up.
I'm trying to convince my friend to ride an electric bike for exercise and an excuse to spend more time together. Also, it's been years since I paced behind a motorized vehicle and I miss doing so.
I say to her what I say to anyone who is reluctant to ride, especially in the city: It doesn't take a whole lot of practice and time to get comfortable on the bike. The more time you spend on the bike, the more confident you feel. I know it sounds simplistic, but it's true. Keep riding and you'll be snaking through traffic in no time!
 
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Jan 25, 2024
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The elevated heart rate during exercise is your body's way of adapting and getting stronger. It's not a sign of danger or a heart attack. Many cyclists push themselves hard, and it's all part of the process.
Now, I get that anxiety can play tricks on your mind, making you think the worst. If it helps, consider talking to a healthcare professional or a therapist about your anxiety. They can provide strategies to manage it and make your rides more enjoyable. Also, you can consider getting a cannabis card. As you know, it can help dealing with depression and anxiety.
 
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The elevated heart rate during exercise is your body's way of adapting and getting stronger.
The elevated heart rate is needed to cope with (tolerate) the increased activity level - no adapting or getting stronger occurs during the session of exercise. For people who are healthy and have the necessary hormone levels, the physical stress from exercise can (with rest and recovery) induce the body to adapt and get stronger.
 
Apr 24, 2024
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I used to be an avid runner myself, and I've recently gotten into cycling. The transition hasn't been easy, especially with my own struggles with anxiety. It's like my mind plays tricks on me when my heart rate goes up, making me feel like something terrible is about to happen. First off, I just want to say that you're not alone in this. So many of us deal with anxiety, and it can really impact our physical activities. It's frustrating when you see others effortlessly pushing past you while you're battling these internal demons. Hang in there, friend. You've got this! If you're ever looking for more resources on mental health, I came across this helpful site called MentalHealth.com. They've got some great articles and tips for dealing with anxiety and other issues.
 
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Get a complete heart and lung workup with stress. Tell the doctor that you ride a bike, tell them about the anxiety, and don't leave anything out. After the results come back and the doctor says you're good to ride, then all your anxiety will go away. Go to a doctor and have your anxiety and fears put to rest.

If for some reason you still have anxiety after being told you're ok, then see a counselor, because it's then in your head.