Beating The Cold-Weather Riding Doldrums

By Molly Hurford

March is here, and Ontario is going through its usual series of weather ups-and-downs. One minute, it’s sunny and you can feel the heat reflecting off the snow. The next, a cloud has covered the sun, the wind has picked up, and … is that more snow? If you’re suffering from the cold-weather doldrums that often come with this time of year when the winter weather is getting a little bit old, or you’re getting pretty darn sick of your pain cave setup, you’re not alone. The winter doldrums are part of every Canadian cyclist’s experience, and this year, without the ability to get away to sunny destinations for March break or a short training camp, it’s more apparent than ever. But there is hope!

Here, we’re talking about a few ways to get re-motivated when the idea of riding just isn’t appealing. You’ll be back on the roads, trails, or trainer in no time!

Set some goals

If you haven’t already, your first step towards busting through a training rut is making some goals for the season. The  Ontario Cycling Association’s 2021 preliminary racing calendar      is out now, and even if you’re not a serious racer, putting one or two goals onto your calendar this season might help boost your motivation to train. There are plenty of less-intense options, like finding a group of friends to enlist for one of the eight-hour MTB relay races, or deciding to complete one of the many gravel grinders on the schedule without worrying about your time. Having a date on the calendar is one of the most proven, effective ways to stick to a training schedule. And there are tons of remote Zwift rides being led by different OCA clubs, if you need some structured “group rides” during the week to stay committed to your training.

Just take a break

Sometimes, you need to miss something a little bit in order to remember why you love it. Try something tangentially related to cycling that doesn’t involve your trainer or the cold weather. If you’ve always dreamed of a cycling holiday in Spain, maybe you could use your training time one or two days a week to work on practicing your Spanish. You could take some time out to read a book on training, or a book about someone else’s amazing cycling experience. Or—and your spouse will probably thank you for this—you could use a few days’ worth of training to organize your gear and clean out your garage and closet and do some DIY bike maintenance and cleaning. Strangely enough, just the simple act of being organized with your gear can make you feel happier and more motivated—and studies back this idea up!

Check in with an expert

Often we’re dealing with at least one issue that could use some professional help when it comes to our bodies or our bikes. And when the weather is good, it’s harder to make time for a consult with a physiotherapist when you could be spending that time outside riding. Use this cold weather time to get some expert help, whether that means finally going to the chiropractor about that nagging knee pain; taking your bike to the bike shop to finally get that squeaky brake looked at; or even getting a virtual session with a coach, a personal trainer, or a yoga instructor to help you improve your training.

Get offline and get outside

If you’ve spent most of your winter on the trainer inside, take a week off, set your phone on ‘do not disturb’ and get outside! Hopefully you can do some outdoor pedaling to mix things up: maybe you have access to fat biking trails or the roads are clear enough to take your gravel bike for a spin. Even a short ride outside can remind you why you love this sport and why you’re spending time working on your fitness inside. And if you don’t have the ability to ride outside, simply take a week off the bike and spend some time out walking, snowshoeing or cross-country skiing to give your butt a break. It’s amazing what a dose of vitamin D from the sun and simply being out in nature can do for our moods. Your basement might have the ultimate three-screen setup for optimized Zwifting, but if you haven’t exercised in fresh air in weeks, it’s time to get out there. (Just make sure you’re bundled up, especially for fat biking, since you’re likely going to be colder than you would be on a normal bike ride thanks to frequent stops and a slower pace.)

 Help someone else

Get outside of yourself and help others find their love of cycling! Remember last month,  when we talked about getting your partner out for a ride? That’s a great way to motivate yourself. Another way is to get involved in your local cycling club, either with beginner riders or youth programming. Volunteering and sharing your experience and expertise can instantly make you feel more excited about your own progress—and motivated to want to train in order to keep up with the kids! (Look for a local cycling club here.)

Remember, sometimes you have to do it to feel better

Exercise has been shown time and time again to alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety, so sometimes, even though you don’t feel like pedaling, you’ll feel much better once you just get going. Even 15 minutes of exercise has serious mental health benefits so if you can’t convince yourself to do your full two-hour trainer session, take the dog on a brisk 15-minute walk or jog, or just spin for 30 minutes. Usually after a few minutes, you’ll start to remember why you love this sport!

About the writer:

Molly Hurford is a journalist in love with all things cycling, running, nutrition and movement-related. When not outside, she’s writing about being outside and healthy habits of athletes and interviewing world-class athletes and scientists for The Consummate Athlete podcast and website, and most recently launched the book ‘Becoming A Consummate Athlete.‘ She’s the author of multiple books including the Shred Girls, a young adult fiction series and online community focused on getting girls excited about bikes. Molly is a little obsessed with getting people psyched on adventure and being outside, and she regularly hosts talks and runs clinics for cyclists and teaches yoga online and IRL… And in her spare time, the former Ironman triathlete now spends time tackling long runs and rides on trails or can be found out hiking with her mini-dachshund DW and husband, cycling coach and kinesiologist Peter Glassford.

To read previously released blogs:  OCA BLOG