By Molly Hurford
If you’re feeling the demotivation that comes when an event gets cancelled or pushed back, you’re not alone. Honestly, right now it’s hard being in Canada and watching races start to happen around the world while we’re under strict stay-at-home orders. But letting yourself get demotivated and avoiding your training plan is really just shooting yourself in the foot. If you’re feeling a distinct lack of motivation, let’s confront it head-on. Here’s where to start:
Ask yourself: What kind of riding would I do if racing didn’t matter?
Right now is a great time to lean into the parts of cycling that you love the most. A lot of Canadian cyclists have swapped their road bikes for gravel bikes, or shifted from cross-country mountain biking to bikepacking in pursuit of fun rather than specific wattages. It’s worth asking yourself how you would ride if you weren’t worried about results… And then doing more of that instead of keeping your status quo. One caveat, though: Don’t give up workouts entirely if you do have a race goal in the future. You can shift your plan to allow for more fun, but staying fit on the bike will make those adventure rides possible!
Ask yourself: What am I missing the most?
A lot of people don’t miss the racing itself, they miss the camaraderie that comes from being at the local race series every week. While we won’t have racing until at least July in Ontario, we can still connect with friends for appropriately distanced small group rides, or we can even just put a group of riding buddies together on Strava, MapMyRide, Facebook or WhatsApp in order to stay in touch and give each other a bit of the camaraderie that we normally have with a race schedule. If you’re missing the accountability that you feel when you normally would be racing regularly, getting a training plan or hiring a coach might give you the accountability boost that you need.
Ask yourself: Why am I riding?
For many of us, the first answer that comes up is some kind of race-based performance goal, whether it’s winning an Ontario Cup or finishing a gravel grinder. But keep digging into that ‘why’ question, and you’ll likely realize that your reasons for riding extend well beyond any outcome-based goal. Maybe you ride because you want to spend time with your partner or the friends you’ve made in your riding club. Maybe you ride because you know that the health and fitness benefits are increasing your longevity and making it easier for you to keep up with your kids. Maybe you ride because you know that every trip by bike is one less made by car, and you want to reduce your carbon footprint. Write out this list of reasons and stick it somewhere you can see every time you go to get ready for a ride.
Ask yourself: Who do I want to be next season?
This might be the most important question you can ask if your motivation is flagging. Sure, your training now may not translate into major race results this month. But how you train now could impact how you perform later this season as racing slowly returns. In the long term, it’s a lot easier to stay reasonably fit now versus hanging up the bike and trying to stage a comeback after spending a year away from riding.
Ask yourself: How will I feel after my ride?
If you’re struggling to get out the door, do a quick daydream about your future, specifically, how you’ll feel when you get home from the ride. Most of us will imagine feeling tired but proud that we did the work, and maybe daydream about enjoying that post-ride beer or tasty snack. That’s often enough to get us out the door. If you need to get tough with yourself, imagine the negative consequences of skipping your ride instead. Remind yourself that if you skip your ride, you usually end up feeling lethargic and mad at yourself for opting out. (You can shortcut this by writing a letter to yourself that outlines the pros and cons of skipping a ride—hang the letter where you can see it as you get ready.)
Ask yourself: Do I actually need a break?
There is a chance that you’ve put yourself in a hole physically, and your lack of motivation is your body’s way of asking for some time off. Because we’ve been training steadily without races for over a year, there is a chance that you haven’t taken a proper off week since the pandemic began. Races give us a natural ebb and flow to our training cycle, and we’ve had nearly two years without the usual seasonal breaks. Maybe you did take an offseason this winter, in which case, this probably doesn’t apply to you. But if you’ve just been steadily putting in the miles indoors and outdoors, week after week, your lack of motivation might be caused by needing an actual break for a week or two. If you suspect this might be the case, take an off week and assess how you’re feeling about riding after a few days. Are you missing it? If so, your body probably just needed a few days off. If you’re still not motivated, the reason is probably more mental than physical.
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.