Cycling is a cruel sport. Especially if you’re a road or mountain bike racer in parts of the country that are frozen right now. The cruelest part of it being that when you plot out your annual training plan and get an idea for how many hours per month you’ll be riding, February it likely to have you scheduling tall hours when the days are still short, cold, and wet.
You hate the trainer or the rollers. Obviously. The things only exist to be hated. It’s normal.
The combination of longer rides and being confined to your training dungeon might just kill your motivation. It’s easy to look at
February and say to yourself, “Eh… the riding that matters to me is still several months off. If I’m a little short on riding this week, I’ll just make up for it when the weather breaks.” When motivation wanes, there’s always a tomorrow.
While it might be easy to say that, it is the opposite of true. That guy who wins all the crits? He’s not saying that. The lady who consistently finished 26 minutes ahead of you at the mountain bike races? She’s not saying that, either.
While aces are won in the spring, summer and fall, it is the winter months that set the stage. They’re not won by people who ride when it’s pleasant out to ride. They’re won by people who have the will and desire to get an advantage by riding when other people don’t want to. That advantage is now. If you can kick it into gear right now you’re not only getting fitter. You’re doing it when those who know what’s up are, and those who won’t be ready when it counts aren’t.
I prefer to see an athlete slightly undertrained but motivated rather than highly trained but unenthusiastic.
— Joe Friel (@jfriel) December 4, 2015
So, it’s February and you’re just not feeling it. How do you get motivated?
Scare the heck out of yourself.
If you’re remotely competitive you have a healthy fear of failure. Use that to your advantage. Sign up for an early race that’s out of your comfort zone. Are you at home on the long, gravel endurance events? Peg an early season crit. Love to time trial? Find a hard, technical mountain bike race that won’t let you pace at a static heart rate… and do it on a singlespeed. You are a track sprinter? Find a hill climb. I dare you.
Something that’s new and that you might just fail at is probably all you need to chose the trainer over the tacos on a Tuesday night. You might find that an early race that you’d normally not even think of is just the ticket to log longer hours than you otherwise would. Don’t miss out on your specificity ideal to hit whatever your end goal race is, and use that first race to help you keep from skipping workouts or putting in lackluster efforts said ideal intensity.
Take a week (or two, or three) and do all your rides outside. Or commit to doing a certain number of rides outside each week for the month. Even if it’s just the weekends, knowing you’ll be outside then will keep you much more highly motivated during the week.
I know what you’re thinking- You’re thinking that it’s frigid out there, you don’t have the right clothes, and you’re going to die.
The difference between people in Minneapolis, Anchorage, or even Montreal who ride through brutal winters and people like us who don’t is that the former group gets on their bikes and pedals outside in winter, while the latter group makes excuses. Those people who ride don’t die, either.
Short of an active rain/snowstorm with frigid conditions or roads so covered in ice that you cannot get any grip, there’s really no reason you can’t go ride right now (and, even if the roads are covered in ice, there’s a cure for that). Don’t have the right clothes? Throw on everything you own. After an outside ride or two you’ll start to dial in your clothing and find that it’s not as bad as you thought.
You’ll also find that you’re more focused and motivated when you’re hitting the indoor workouts. Staring at a basement wall in January and telling yourself that you won’t get to ride your bike outside until April isn’t going to get you through two hours of intervals. Reminding yourself that you will crush it on Wednesday because you’ll be outside on Saturday probably will.
Less excuses, more #midwesterntough. Commit to it for a few weeks. You’ll surprise yourself.
Use Your Bike As An Excuse To Travel.
You know what sounds better than a week of trainer rides in Chicago over the winter? A high TSS week outside in Tucson. That’s a no-brainer. Planning a week of riding somewhere warm will not only give you a great week of training, it will motivate you in the weeks leading up to the trip to ride more. When you get back you’ll be more motivated to maintain those gains.
You don’t need to even plan an expensive getaway week, though. This time of year, even driving two hours south can see a 25-30 degree increase in temperature. Keep an eye on the weather and go to wherever it’s better… even if only for a short weekend or the day.
Logistically you can use Strava or Ridewithgps.com to figure out where and when the locals ride. You might be able to get into a group ride and, if not, at least know the best routes. Packing a cooler with food and camping will help keep costs low (pro tip: If you’re good with maps you can camp for free in most National Forests). You likely don’t have to break the bank or travel far to get in your outdoor miles.
Even two or three little trips to break up a long winter and dicey spring will work wonders on your motivation. If you’ve never tried it in winter before, there’s a weekend coming up at the end of this very week.
Motivation is like fitness- it takes some effort.
You’re having a hard time mentally getting through your trainer rides this time of year. Most of us are. This is not the time to back down, though. This is the time to get the competitive edge by kickstarting your motivation and keeping the training rolling. Try one of these tips. Keep your motivation high. You’ll see the results in June.