Apologies for the lack of new posts recently — it’s been a busy couple of weeks. Regular (or at least intermittent) service should resume from now on. I’ve been feeling the onset of winter sapping my desire to ride recently, so thought I’d share some tips that have helped me push through the slump and commit to winter training.
It’s that time of year – the days are closing in, the weather is worsening, and it’s getting much harder to get out on the bike. We’ve all lain in bed, listening to rain drum on the roof and the wind rattle the windows, knowing that although the training plan asks for a few long hours on the bike, there’s nothing that sounds less appealing. It’s at this point that you start to hear a small voice in the back of your head, reasoning that an extra hour’s sleep would be good, or that one missed training session wouldn’t be the end of the world.
In my experience, once that conversation starts the battle is already lost. The temptation might not be an extra hour’s sleep — any number of things can seem like a good reason not to get on the bike — but there’s always going to be an excuse not to train. The best thing to do is to stop procrastinating and commit.
To quote Alastair Humphreys: “Think small. Start Small. But do start.”
Having said that, here are a couple of things that have helped me to get motivated when winter rolls around and it gets slightly harder to get out and ride.
Winter miles mean summer smiles:
Keep next season’s goals in mind. I find that when I have really exciting plans for the coming year, I can use that commitment to put temporary temptations aside. For me, aiming to put in a good ride at the Trans Am Bike Race is currently providing the motivation — but for you this can be anything, whether it’s riding your first century or building on results from last season. The important thing is that you’re focusing on something you really want, something you really enjoy, and something that you’re willing to suffer for.
In Tyler Hamilton’s book ‘The Secret Race’ he talks about Lance Armstrong being a champion because (as well as all the drugs) he was obsessive in his training — he convinced himself that however hard he pushed himself, his opponents were doing more. Hamilton suggests that this attitude was behind a lot of the advances that the US Postal team made in this era. I’m not saying that you need to be like Lance (particularly not in terms of the drugs), but wanting to achieve something badly, and visualizing your goals, can go a long way to keeping the motivation going.
Keep it interesting:
When I don’t want to get out on the bike, I find it really tempting to not put any effort into route planning — to just go and ride the same roads / trails again and again. I think this is partly because I want get the whole thing over with, and partly because I’ve procrastinated over getting out the door for so long that I run out of time to do anything other than jump into the saddle and go.
When I do get my act together enough to do some route planning and try new things it makes a massive difference — it keeps things engaging and interesting, avoiding the monotony of repetition. Similarly, having some variety in training sessions can be a good idea; traditionally winter cycling has been all about long base miles, while these are great (and often good for exploring new routes) a few speed work and strength sessions can shake things up a bit.
Buy some new gear:
There’s nothing like some new and exciting kit to re-kindle interest in cycling — it can act as a bit of a ‘carrot’ to incentivise working hard in training. It doesn’t even have to be an expensive investment, I find that if I’m excited to try a new bit of gear then going out in the rain and the cold isn’t bad at all — it’s exciting. Even something as simple as a new pair of overshoes or a new light can have this effect. At the other end of the spectrum, an expensive investment can be a good ‘stick’ to make you ride; if you’ve already put down some hard cash on a winter bike etc. then you have to use it. If not it’s wasted cash.
Hold on for that ‘one’ ride:
As miserable as winter riding can be, every now and then it can remind you why riding bikes is great. There’s nothing like a crisp winter morning ride where you can see the sun rise, cruise down deserted country roads, and take in a landscape thick with frost. It’s these rides that make all the suffering in the rain worth it — the beauty is that it’s never easy to tell which ride is going to be great: I often head out into a dreary, rainy morning anticipating the worst, but come back home with a huge smile on my face having had an awesome time. To have these moments, you have to take the plunge and head out on the bike.
Enjoy the feeling of superiority:
The old adage ‘no pain, no gain’ is never as true as when applied to winter training. It might be truly awful at the time, but it can lead to real gains in the long run. If none of the above motivates you, just remember how good it feels when you come home, knowing that you’ve been out on the bike and not just sat in front of the TV.