If you ride bikes consistently, you have felt the difference between a ride with a lot of motivation and excitement versus the ones that take everything you have to get out the door and where every pedal stroke is a challenge. While the lives of pros can seem awesome, the reality is that every morning, that leg has to go over that saddle and that rear-end needs to sit on that saddle for an hour (or 6). For amateur athletes who must squeeze in work, family and other obligations on top of riding goals, there is a real challenge to stay motivated to work out after a long day.
Here are a few easy ways to get excited about riding again:
CHANGE YOUR FOCUS
It’s important to avoid too much monotony in training. One day might be super hard with focused intervals holding a specific wattage, and the next day might be a wider range of RPE (perceived exertion) or heart rate to keep the intensity low or low-to-moderate. Recovery days should be focused mostly on good conversation and coffee and a fun group ride or mountain bike ride might be programmed for the weekend.
Cycling through this high-intensity/low intensity/off pattern can help head off motivational issues before they happen. If you find yourself in a string of low-motivation days, check in on how variable your focus and intensity has been and be sure to take a few short, easy spins.
TRY A NEW DISCIPLINE OR ROUTE
Another tactic many successful riders utilize is riding or racing multiple types of bikes. If you ride the exact same road route each day, it gets boring. Some motivational issues are due to monotony in our workouts or routes, so remember to mix it up. Different bike types — especially the versatile and adventurous off-road disciplines — can help revitalize training motivation. Mountain bikers will appreciate not getting bumped around and experiencing higher speeds while road cyclists can work on skills and explore new areas. You might even consider working directly on skills at a local BMX track, skills park or velodrome.
KEEP IT FUN
The low intensity, easy days are obvious places to pull back the focus on data, but this is not always evident if you are following a plan or are new to training with a power or heart rate meter. Even veteran riders can become addicted to chasing power numbers every day when it would be better to focus on high-intensity a couple of days and relaxing and enjoying their rides the other days. It is very beneficial to ‘just go ride’ and leave your device at home or let it record what you do for later review. Doing rides by feel is a great way to improve your ability to monitor perceived exertion for racing as well.
PAY ATTENTION TO FUELING
Sometimes your motivation suffers simply because you’re not eating or drinking enough around and/or during your rides. If you think this might be the problem, try having an extra meal or bigger meal (e.g., an extra scoop of oatmeal) in the 2–3 hours before your ride and aim to consume more than usual (e.g., one extra bar) on your next week of rides. This is a short-term test to see if you feel better and perform better on rides — and if your week of training is more consistent with fewer low-motivation/energy days.
We talked about fun and data-free rides above, but it is worth repeating for those slugging out hard indoor trainer workouts and staring at a wall (or computer). Get outside: Go for a walk or run if the weather isn’t conducive to riding, or use other sports you are able to do for cross-training. This can be a huge boost to motivation and energy. Save the indoor trainer for the days when rides are focused on high intensities and specific workouts. This is perhaps the single most effective tweak I give clients to boost focus and workout quality through the winter and bad weather.
TAKE TIME OFF
If you’ve been struggling with low energy, poor power outputs and lower motivation for a long time then it is a good excuse to ‘lock up’ your bikes and use that time off to focus on sleep, nutrition and socializing for a week or two. Hiking and being in nature, especially with friends, is a great idea as your energy returns. It can be hard to do, hence the ‘locking up’, but it is rare that riders in this scenario don’t come back with better fitness and increased motivation after these breaks.