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"What do you do with determination when the entire country - the entire world - is in a crisis?"

By: Emily Joy Newsom  April 07, 2020

Professional cyclist Emily Joy Newsom shares how she is applying her talent, determination and commitment during this COVID-19 crisis and offers ideas for how you too can navigate this new normal.

***This is one individual's experience and not meant to represent a broader population***

Lately, I have had much time to reflect on what drives me, what has gotten me as far as I have come, and how will I continue to accomplish goals I have set for myself. As I pedaled along a favorite route, noting with delight the unusual numbers of people outside enjoying the sunshine and fresh air, I thought back to my childhood. Having three older brothers, all of whom were adventurous, set the tone for the rest of my life. I always attempted to keep up with them, reaching heights and taking risks I would never have done on my own. But they set a standard and I wanted to achieve it as well as they could. As life continued, this relentless pursuit of achievement was found in my schooling. As a musician, I pushed myself to reach the highest levels of perfection spending countless hours practicing and studying. Soon this drive would transfer to my life as a cyclist and I began building my fitness to reach my Olympic goals. I pedaled on. As the route wound its way through the Texas country, I realized what it was that my Creator had endowed me with to help me constantly push forward. It was determination. Yes I was also given talent, but talent does not survive on its own. However, talent coupled with determination and commitment? That will take you far.

So what do you do with determination when the entire country, indeed the entire world is in a crisis, races are canceled, my many months of preparation has no place to stretch itself, my daughter's school is closed, my husband's work is closed, and our Friday night date nights are no longer viable? What does this look like in what is now a reality? It's all well and good to be determined when races are on the horizon, but what about when there is no foreseeable date for when things will begin to resemble normality? Well, lucky for me, I have had many lonely hours on my bike to contemplate these dilemmas. What always helps me is to simplify things and put them in order. For me, as a Christian, it is important to spend time quietly in the morning reading the Word, and writing down my thoughts. For some it may be sitting alone, away from any devices, spending time reflecting before the daily hum begins. Then comes my family. Is there anything I can do to help their day go better? What do they need and how can I help fulfill that. Thirdly, comes my profession. While I am a musician, being a professional cyclist takes precedence over that. So I ask myself, what can I do today to be an integral part of my team and continue my growth as an athlete? For me, these three things are very much interwoven and overlap many times throughout the day, but there are a few concrete things that help me as I attempt to navigate this foreign and frankly, a bit frightening, time.

Create a routine. It may be a new routine, but it just might be a routine that will be around for a while.

If you're trying to introduce exercise as a regular habit (good for you!), commit to a set time each day in which you will carry this out. There's nothing like procrastination to kill the beginnings of a good habit.

Find ways to show your love to the people who mean the most to you. This may seem silly, but humans are complicated beings and we all have a slightly different way of receiving and processing things. Study your significant other and/or children and see if you can discover a new way to show them love that they will connect to. It can be as small as holding hands, spending thirty minutes talking with no distractions in sight, telling them you like that color with their eyes, listening while they speak on a subject you really don't care for...the possibilities are endless!

Think of something you've always wanted to try and try it! I had a student once who was in her 60's. She was one of my best friends until she died from internal melanoma a number of years ago. She was absolutely determined that I would teach her piano. At the time I was still studying to be a performer, was not a teacher and was pretty hesitant. Eight years later we had firmly established one of my favorite memories of all time; a piano lesson, followed by wine and popcorn every Tuesday evening. What really amazed me about Linda was that she was one of the rare people I'd met who had not an ounce of musical talent. None. Of course I would never say this to her, but she knew it and found it quite funny. But she loved music, and by golly she was gonna learn.

There are many other things that I could list, but a final note is to find joy in life, despite the fearful uncertainty that seems to be pushed on us. Choose not to be frightened, but choose to make the most of where you are now. It is easy to be determined when there is a clear and achievable goal, but the true test of character comes when the future is hazy and uncertain. J.R.R. Tolkien said it so well in this conversation: “I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

About the Author

Emily Joy Newsom is a professional cyclist who currently rides for UCI Women’s Continental Team Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank. She is also a wife, mother, musician and teacher.