Knowledge Level: Intermediate
Whether you’re a seasoned clubman, a complete novice or hardened professional, there are always going to be days when you just don’t fancy heading out on the bike. It could be the weather, fatigue, your duvet is just too toasty warm or you could be suffering from a more serious dip in motivation. The winter months are especially tough with short days, foul weather, poor road conditions and the halcyon days of summer months away. Follow these tips to fire up your enthusiasm, beat the biking blues and rekindle your love for cycling.
Are you overtraining?
A lack of motivation is one of the classic signs of overtraining. With many riders targeting endurance during the winter, simply piling on the miles is an easy trap to fall into and you really can have too much of a good thing. Learn more about , the key symptoms and how to remedy it. It's also important to differentiate between. Following a professionally devised structured training plan, such as the , that schedules in regular recovery weeks, will definitely help prevent overtraining. It’ll also, with each session planned out for you, remove the barrier of working out what to do on each ride.
Have a reason to ride
Sometimes the joy of just riding isn’t enough and you need a bit more of a carrot or stick to get you out. Professionals obviously have the fact that it’s their job and, aspiring Olympians, the lure of a gold medal but you need to have a good answer to the question “why am I doing this?” on a cold and dark winters night. Weight loss, an event you’re targeting in the spring, moving up a racing category next season, raising money for charity or just getting faster than your mate. Have plenty of replies ready for when you ask yourself that question.
Just five minutes
If the prospect of a session is filling you with dread and all you want to do is stay in bed, make this deal with yourself. You have to go out but, if after five or ten minutes you still can’t face it, you can go home and hunker down in front of the TV guilt free. Ninety-nine percent of the time, once you’re out and riding, it’s not nearly so bad and you’ll often end up having a great session. Snore to door is always the hardest bit. It’s also important to remove barriers to getting out so make sure all your kit, food and bike is ready the night before. Not being able to find your favourite socks or discovering you’ve got a flat tyre are just the sort of excuses you will use to justify going back to bed.
Have the right kit
“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad kit” is a cliché but there’s a lot of truth in it. With modern performance clothing, you can stay comfortable in all but the foulest conditions. Riding through the winter can be made far more pleasant if your bike is correctly set-up or if you have a designated winter bike. Also, get yourself some decent lights and don’t forget to recharge them.
Have a complete break
Even though some rides will be tough and you’ll question why you’re doing them, you should on the whole enjoy your cycling or at least get a satisfied glow afterwards. It is your chosen pastime after all. If your enjoyment levels have plunged, you could probably benefit from taking a complete break from the bike. Many professional riders do this at the end of a hard season in November but, if you’re really struggling with the winter, a couple of weeks off at any time can be the best way to recharge your battery. As long as you stay active, your fitness won’t suffer too much. Friends and family might welcome the extra time you can spend with them but we can guarantee, that after a week or so, you’ll be wanting to hit the roads again.
Try something different
There are so many different forms of cycle sport to try, so why not give something new a go. Enter a cyclocross race, go to a mountain bike trail centre, visit a velodrome or even hit the BMX track. If you feel you need to give two wheels a miss for a while, there are loads of cross training activities you could try. A month or so off the bike working on different aspects of your fitness will not only mentally recharge you but will also potentially make you a stronger, robust and more balanced rider once you do get back in the saddle.
Ditch the gadgets
With bike computers, heart rate monitors, power meters, training analysis software, social media and regimented training plans, it’s sometimes easy to become obsessed with numbers, suffer from paralysis by analysis and forget why you started riding a bike in the first place. Ditch all the high tech gadgets and gizmos every so often and just go for a ride. Ride your favourite roads without worrying about splits or training zones, stop at the café with the great cakes and just ride for enjoyment, rather than riding for numbers.
Remember that burst of enthusiasm when you got your first proper road bike? Although it’s not realistic to treat yourself to a new bike every time motivation dips, a bit of cycling retail therapy can definitely give you a lift. Even small upgrades to your bike or a new super warm and stylish jacket can give you a boost. If you’re bike isn’t firing on all cylinders, that can be enough to cause you to quit a ride or even not to bother going out at all. Treat it to a complete overhaul at your local bike shop and returning it to its silky smooth best can almost be as good as getting a brand new bike.
Find someone to ride with
Ploughing a lonely furrow through the winter can challenge even the toughest most singleminded and focussed cyclists. Cycling is best when done with a group of like minded individuals. Time goes faster, the inevitable competitive edge adds spice and improves training benefits and, if you know you’ll be letting others down, you’re less likely to do a no-show. Joining a club is the best way to find riding buddies.
Head for the sun
Booking a warm weather training camp and escaping the British winter is a great way to boost motivation. You can either use it as a target to train for, giving you a reason to get out on the bike or use it as a springboard to relaunch your training. Under warm blue skies, on wonderfully smooth roads, you’ll remember what you loved about cycling and hopefully that’ll help get you through the rest of the winter.
Set yourself a challenge
Setting yourself a goal that’s well outside of your comfort zone can really lift your motivation and inspire you to get out and ride. Step up the distance of your target event for 2014, consider a big overseas sportive or even a multi-day stage ride. The right challenge should make you a little bit scared and be constantly on the back of your mind when you’re battling to beat that snooze button. If you’re unsure of what a realistic but challenging goal is for you or don’t know how to prepare for it, consulting with a Level 3 British Cycling Coach will provide you with answers.
If you want to find an event to enter, then follow this link to visit the British Cycling events calendar.