How do you maintain cycling motivation through a season? What about those people who seem to race season after season and still have the drive to compete? It seems like some people are able to keep going out and riding for years on end. Those cyclists never get tired of training and they always have an infectious enthusiasm about the sport. Riders like that have a unique kind of cycling motivation that we all envy a little bit.
How do you grow that kind of cycling motivation? How do you keep climbing on your bike every week and have enthusiasm about flogging yourself for a couple of hours of training? Wouldn't it be nice to wake up every morning and be excited about the day's workout?
Just like you, I struggle with motivation sometimes. When the mercury hits triple digits or it's drizzling outside, it's easy to sit in front of the TV with a coffee and watch racing on TV. But if you want to become a beast, you have to train like one. That means having the motivation to get off your sofa and onto your saddle.
Here are a few tips to help you keep your motivation levels up.
Quick Tips For Maintaining Cycling Motivation
On one of my recent climbing epics, I spent some time brainstorming with a couple of fellow riders. Granted, there wasn't a whole lot of talking going on based on the heat, humidity and the sheer gradient, but we managed to come up with a couple of big motivational points. What follows is a summary of what we came up with. It'll give you a couple starting points to stick to when your cycling motivation is in the toilet.
Don't just relax, actually REST:! Most competitive cyclists are hard-nosed Type A personalities. Maintaining cycling motivation typically requires a personality that is driven, detail oriented and results guided. But these Type A people don't know how to rest. I can't tell you how many people I coach that lose their cycling motivation when they push too hard and overtrain or burn out. Sometimes, shutting down your brain, shutting down your body and just resting is the best thing for you.
Take a vacation without your bike, spend some time with your family or catch up on your favorite TV series. Whatever you do, do something that allows you to physically and mentally rest. You'll be a lot fresher and more motivated when you start training and competing again.
Don't always compare yourself to those who beat you! This is a slow descent into madness and constantly focusing on who beat you will slowly erode your cycling motivation. This is especially true if you're competing against people significantly stronger than you. If you're constantly being beaten by the same people and you're not getting any closer, you need to adjust your expectations.
Once in a while, look at the results list beyond your position. If you finished 10th out of 45, you beat 35 other people in your field! That's not an easy thing to do and you should be happy with a result like that. Remember that most people will never stand on a podium in their cycling career. So chasing cycling motivation by hoping to beat someone who is out of your reach is a bad idea.
Understand that it's always an uphill battle, but it's the battle you should enjoy. Just as I mentioned above, there will always be someone better, stronger and faster than you. You will constantly be working to climb the results ladder against people with huge talent, more training time or *other* means. This doesn't mean you can't take joy in the uphill battle.
Each small victory is another step up the hill. Take your cycling motivation from those small steps up, not the slips back down.
Race at least once. There is no purer form of competition than toeing the line at a race. It doesn't matter if it's a time trial, a track race, a criterium or road race. If you're not comfortable with a truly competitive head to head event, consider registering for a Gran Fondo or other competitive event. The amount of cycling motivation you'll get from having a big, measured goal can't be underestimated.
If you're not racing in a head to head format, set a goal of a specific time on the timed segments. You can train specifically for those segments, enjoy the competition they provide and cruise at your own pace in between. That's the perfect introduction to racing if you're looking to get started with some competition.
Ride like you mean it. Sure, you can go out and ride junk miles every now and then. But for the most part, you'll need to have a goal when you go out to ride. Spending time doing specific interval work will improve your performances and increase your cycling motivation significantly.
If your event involves climbing, stick with VO2 Max intervals focused around the duration of the climbs. When you need time trial strength, look to improving your functional threshold power. If you need more endurance, get out and ride “kitchen sink” workouts that include a little bit of everything.
Quit buying stuff to make you faster. I know it's tempting to open your wallet every time you see the next greatest piece of gear, but stop. You simply can't buy speed. Well, you can buy some things that will augment your current power output and speed levels. You won't be able to buy anything that will significantly change your outcomes though.
That new super light bike? It's only a couple of seconds faster uphill. That newest aero bike with the fancy carbon aero wheels? It's only a few seconds faster in a TT. Buy your equipment based on the kind of riding you want to excel at. If you're a time trialist, focus on aero benefits and if you're doing a hill climb, look for that super light bike.
Race clean (duh)! This shouldn't take a lot of explanation. Ride and race clean. You can't buy free speed (see my last point) nor should you buy anything that illegally gives you an edge.
If you cheat, you suck. Period. Don't be that guy or girl. Besides, dopers generally burn out after a while. They simply can't maintain the financial cost of their drugs, nor can they deal with spending all that money each month and still sucking. Don't…be…that…guy.
Variety is the spice of life. The cyclists who have the highest motivation and race for the longest are the ones who love to mix it up. Think about life in general: when you get bored with a TV show or video game, you find something else to entertain yourself with. Riding and racing are the same way. When you get burned out on racing crits, jump onto the track for some fun. If track racing gets boring or predictable, try time trialing or cyclocross. If racing itself gets boring, pick up a mountain bike and get your mojo back.
You don't even have to change disciplines to switch things up. Turn your road bike down that unpaved stretch of road you always pass over. Instead of bypassing that winding mountain road, give that climb a try. Who cares if you don't get a Strava PR? At least you'll experience something different and fun!
No matter what you choose, the point is, don't just go out and hammer the same old loop all the time or you'll never last long in this sport.
Help each other out. We are all in this sport together. Very often, we draw cycling motivation from the joy and accomplishment of others. I know I love seeing others succeed in their cycling goals. Watching one of my athletes stand on the podium, PR on a century or complete a Gran Fondo is a great source of cycling motivation for me. If they can do it, so can I.
So go out there and help out your fellow riders. Teach them what you know, even if you only know a little bit. Just helping someone else enjoy their bike a little more will make you feel great about yourself and you'll want to get out and put those good feeling to use (by shelling said friend on the first climb you can find.)
If you can't find motivation in some of those, I'm not sure what else to say. Maybe a little time off the bike is what you need to realize you miss it again…