For many people, this has been a particularly challenging time to find motivation in everyday training and workouts. Whether or not all of your races have been stripped from the calendar, it’s only natural to have motivation ebb and flow.
Professional athletes and amateurs alike will have days filled with excitement and love for ‘the grind’ and other days will feel like a slog to drag yourself and your bike out of the door. It’s ok! The truth is sometimes you just don’t want to work hard. Everyone experiences these emotions and challenges; it’s how you respond to them that helps define you as an athlete.
Here are some of the tactics I use to overcome mental hurdles when I’m struggling to keep my nose to the grindstone.
- Just Start!
Nine times out of ten getting out of the door is the hardest part. Commit to at least starting every workout. I know a lot of people have a 10 or 15 minute rule where they ride for 10-15 minutes and then see if they are having fun or still want to stop. Usually once your blood starts pumping, a smile forms on your face shortly after.
Personally, I like to commit to the warm up. I start out spinning very easy without even looking at numbers, wattage, or speed and I will gradually increase intensity. When it’s time to start the workout, my body has almost always risen to the occasion and my mind will follow suit.
- Remember Your ‘Why’
Remember why you do in fact want to do this workout. Is it for some racing goals, to improve your health, to be able to keep up with your kids or friends, or something even more personal than that? No one can force you to workout, so at some point you wanted to do this workout. What was the purpose you had mind? Dig down and remember that purpose, hold onto it, repeat it to yourself, and let it drag you out of the door.
Sometimes I’ll think of specific goals or races that I have laid out for myself. Sometimes I’ll think back to the little girl who just loved the freedom of her bicycle. It doesn’t matter what your why is, just let it move you.
- Have a Plan
It’s so much easier to challenge yourself in a workout if you have a plan ahead of time. If you don’t have a plan laid out then it’s easy to quit too early or push your workout back another day. Try planning a week of workouts at a time, that way you can organize your workouts according to the time you have available while still planning far enough ahead that you’ll feel a bit of pressure to actually put a check mark next to your goals.
- Create Incentives
This is one of my favorite silly ways to motivate myself during a workout. I’ll plan out specific landmarks or time frames in which I plan to reward myself. For example I might decide that after 2 hours I’ll eat the yummy cookie in my pocket, or after 20 miles I’ll sit down in the shade for 5 minutes. Remember to never deprive yourself from the fuel or rest you need to stay safe, but instead add something extra fun or delicious to motivate you like a rabbit chasing a carrot.
- Measure Differently
Sometimes a 5 hour ride just sounds too long, so instead I’ll pick a route that I know will take 5 hours but instead I’ll focus on the distance. If ten minute intervals feel too long, then pick a stretch of road that takes 10 minutes and race the segment instead of the clock. If you’re doing a strength workout and don’t want to do 20 push-ups then try doing as many push-ups as you can in 45 seconds instead. Changing the way you measure the workout can alter what you focus on and ultimately make the day seem more doable.
- Have Someone to Hold You Accountable
This step seems pretty obvious, but what many people forget is that the person who holds you accountable can be anyone. Obviously a coach is a great person to fill this position because you know your coach has dedicated time to write your workout, and will look at your data once you have finished, but if a coach isn’t for you then you can still find someone to hold you accountable. Tell your goals or share your workout plan with anyone you know. Tell your friend, mom, brother, sister, husband, or wife, and ask them to check in every few days and ask if you’ve followed your plan. They don’t have to know anything about exercise science in order to ask you if you have stayed true to your goals.
- Know When Enough is Enough
Sometimes you have to know when to cut yourself some slack and cancel the workout. If you’ve tried all of the above steps and still don’t feel like getting on your bike or your body just doesn’t seem to be responding to the workout, that might be your body’s way of telling you that it is tired and it needs some rest. Take a day off and let the fire ignite again!
At the end of the day, the reason we ride our bikes is to have fun! So remember to enjoy your time in saddle. Be a little goofy, smile, laugh, and savor every moment.