It’s that time of year again, when the sun sets far too early, it’s freezing outside, and probably wet too. Your bike is still dirty from last weekend, and you forgot to pump up the tyres. You haven’t even put on your kit yet, but your motivation to get out and ride is already gone.
It can be difficult to stay motivated for cycling year-round. Cycling is a tough sport, as it usually divulges into some sort of purposeful physical and psychological suffering. But we choose to do it because it makes us feel good: it's fun, it keeps us fit, and helps us connect with friends. We explore new roads, experience the great outdoors, and achieve things we never thought possible.
With 2021 approaching fast, and the possibility of real-life racing making a comeback, it’s important to stay on the bike and stay fit, laying the groundwork in training over the winter to enter the next season lean and strong.
Here are 10 tips to keep your cycling motivation high and to keep you riding and happy all winter long.
Ride with friends
Connecting with friends can be harder than ever in 2020, but thanks to virtual training technology, we can stay connected with anyone around the world. The best smart bikes and best turbo trainers will seamlessly connect to Zwift, RGT and other indoor cycling apps, keeping you connected with your riding partners through the uncertainty of the pandemic. If you want even more interaction, Discord allows you to voice- or video-call your closest riding companions, allowing a continuous stream of conversation (between hard efforts).
Virtual platforms also provide a racing outlet in the absence of real-life options. There's nothing like the intensity, nervousness, and thrill that comes with jumping into a Zwift race, and competing against hundreds of people from around the world.
Set specific goals
Put the pen to paper and write out your goals for 2021 and beyond. Not only does this help you plan out your training for the coming months, but you can break it down even further, and find smaller goals to chase each week.
During the off-season, chase after goals that have fallen by the wayside during the more focused racing season. Strava KOMs are the perfect example: a singular full gas effort isn’t the best way to improve your fitness, but it sure is a lot more fun than repeating five-minute intervals!.
- Cycling off-season: how the pros transition from race to rest and start again for next year
- How to get fit fast: Quick training tips to smash your goal event
Hire a coach or follow a training plan
Adding structure to your training by hiring a coach or committing to a training plan is one of the most effective ways to boost your fitness and motivation for cycling. Apps such as the Wattbike Hub app or TrainerRoad include plans specifically tailored to climbers, time trialists, sportive riders, road and crit racers, and more.
Having a coach and/or training plan keeps you accountable, stops you from second-guessing your day-to-day training, and allows you to buy into and trust the process.
Cycling is a wonderful avenue for exercise because it helps you disconnect from the world, if just for half an hour. Working from home, listening to the news, and worrying about the future can certainly be stressful, while cycling provides a release, an opportunity to escape, and a chance to blow off some steam.
Amidst the uncertainties of 2020 and beyond, indoor training is more important than ever, and sometimes the best way to disconnect is by watching a movie or TV show while spinning away on your turbo trainer or smart bike.
Physical benefits of cycling
There are far too many physical benefits of cycling to list in a standalone article, let alone one paragraph. Cycling can help you lose weight, improve your cardiorespiratory fitness, lower your risk for cancer and heart disease, improve your sleep, and much more.
It's also a low-impact form of cardiovascular exercise, meaning it is much easier on the body than walking or running. In addition to the physical benefits, studies have shown that engaging in aerobic physical activity like cycling can significantly improve mental wellbeing. This is in large part thanks to the release of endorphins that comes with the excitement of exploring new roads, meeting up with friends, or reaching a new goal.
Try a new discipline
There is nothing more exciting than a new bike day, and one of the best ways to improve your motivation for cycling is to try something new. You don’t need to drop a month’s salary on a brand new ride, though. You can hire all kinds of bikes, from mountain bikes to touring bikes, to e-bikes, road bikes, and more. Get out of your comfort zone with a friend or a training partner, and try a trail that you’ve never been down before, or learning a new skill like bunny-hopping.
If riding indoors, challenge yourself with a new workout and instead of focusing on your strengths, try training your weaknesses. If you’re a time trialist or climber, try a few sprint workouts.
Make it a habit
Sometimes the most stressful part about cycling is the planning and preparation. Especially in the winter, it can take an hour to plan your route, layer up for the cold, weather-proof your bike, and head out the door. Finding a specific routine that fits into your daily schedule can help eliminate this ride-induced anxiety, and even make you look forward to getting out on the bike.
It’s even easier to fall into a riding routine at home thanks to the ease and convenience of your own indoor trainer setup. All you have to do is kit up and clip in, and you’re off.
Use cycling as transportation
Commuting by bike is a wonderful way to increase your motivation for cycling because it changes up your routine, saves you time and money, and can even put a smile on your face first thing in the morning. Instead of commuting by car then riding later, you can get them both done at once. Plus, you can add distance to your commute in search of hill repeats or a nice endurance loop, and knock out your training for the day, all on the way home.
Sometimes the internal motivation simply isn’t there, and that’s okay – reward yourself by chasing a goal during your ride. Challenge yourself to reach the top of the climb so that you can stop and enjoy the view, push yourself through that last interval so that you feel like you earned your rest day tomorrow, or get out early so that you can enjoy a nice ride with your friends instead of heading out later and drudging along on your own. There is nothing like a hard-earned reward after a big effort on the bike.
While this may sound counterintuitive, not riding is actually one of the quickest ways to improve your motivation for cycling. Not riding will give you a new perspective on cycling and what it does to for you and your life. It’s likely that you will feel full of energy after a few days off, searching for some sort of outlet, if only there was a way!
After a week or two off the bike, the legs come back with a vengeance, and so does the mind. The Wattbike may be staring at you in the living room for the few days you walk past it, but soon you’ll be back and ready to crush those workouts. Being completely fresh is a wonderful feeling, and sometimes all it takes is a few days off the bike to spike your motivation to ride again.
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