It has been a bewildering twelve months; as we countdown to the first anniversary of the initial lockdown and for way too many the life changing Covid deaths and illnesses, we all have had to alter plans and the various further "waves" and lockdowns have caused us to make some pretty radical changes while juggling even greater demands on our time and energy from work and family commitments.
I am sure that like most of us, at times you have probably felt tired, stressed, frustrated, fearful, and perhaps all of these at the same time.
As a cyclist, you no doubt miss riding with friends, meeting at the cafe stops, the ever changing rules have not made it particularly clear where and how far we can ride either socially, to keep fit or train for whatever events may be left on the calendar.
The need to be able to get out on the bike, enjoy the freedom while getting exercise for both body and mind has seemed almost impossible, not just the logistics but perhaps the peer pressure to "stay local" whatever that means, has limited the miles you are doing.
Indoor training has boomed, the plethora and realism of online Apps and realtime cycling studios has exploded, Zwift and its competitors are running hundreds of group rides and races every week - which is great, but not really a substitute for the type of long distance riding that our season's cycling requires. We will come on to that later.
Like me, you just want to get back to normal. It can be difficult to keep a positive spirit, to keep motivated to do the training, to keep working towards your goal.
However, at least we have a roadmap out of this lockdown. So what we know is that the Government and the various regional administrations plan to unlock us in stages, and hopefully, if all goes well, then the final restrictions will end on the 21st June, at least in England. So we should have the summer to catch up on longer rides, with friends and travel further afield for training.
Perhaps then let's try not to dwell on things are not under our control and try to look positively at what we can control so that we are as prepared as we can be.
So how can we keep ourselves positive and motivated. The following are a few hints and tips that I hope you will find useful if your motivation is starting to wane.
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The first of these is visualisation. Whatever we do in life, we need to have a clear goal to aim at. In this instance my advice would be to constantly visualise your rides.
But it is important that you adjust your expectations of how you prepare. You had mapped out your whole year's preparation, the big rides you'd do, perhaps a couple of weeks cycling in Mallorca, long weekends sampling some of the UK’s organised rides such as sportives, randonneuring, plus the weekend social rides with friends. All deferred.
The good news is that there is still plenty of time, so map out the next 6 months, look for different Sportives to do, plan your weekends away in the UK.
Work backwards from any events' start dates
Picture yourself at the start of your planned events. Ask yourself "what do I wish I had done more to prepare for this ?"
Write down the answers and review the list. Identify the top three things that make most sense.
Do not compare yourself with others, and don't write down stuff which is not feasible such as I wish I had done 30 hours a week. It needs to be realistic.
Apply those three things to your training plan now, so that you can achieve them between now and when you turn up.
Now that you have that list, reimagine yourself at the event and asking yourself again what could I have done to prepare better - only to have a wave of satisfaction that yes you did prepare for this and now you can enjoy rather than endure it.
Create Short Term Goals
These can be as simple as getting a personal best on a nearby hill, improving your flexibility through stretching or yoga, increasing your threshold power, improving your placement on Zwift races, doing two or three long back to back rides over a weekend, increasing the number of times you can climb a nearby long hill before fatiguing.
Having these mini-goals and by making them very achievable is probably one of the top tips to maintain motivation.
Turn off the Data
Sometimes we can get lost in analysis paralysis, looking too much at our heart rate or average speed numbers.... if this is taken to the extreme it is very easy to lose sight of why we love cycling.
On a personal level, you are getting fitter, and your cycling is bringing you a whole range of mental health and wellbeing benefits.
It can be easy with all this lockdown training to lose some of this important context, sometimes we need to free ourselves from the data and look at the bigger picture.
Try leaving the cycling computer and heart rate strap at home; go for a “free ride”, take time to look at the emerging spring flowers and take in your surroundings without concern of your numbers or performance.
Give it a try every now and again and measure the smile on your face not your heart rate.
End each workout or ride with a smile
Talking of smiles. When doing an indoor workout, take time to do a good cool down, if you use a playlist, make sure the final song is one of your favourite uplifting anthems that you are not afraid to sing along with;
For your outdoor rides, make sure you switch off from your training mentality a mile or two from home, perhaps choose a route that is away from traffic, use that time to smile and relax and give yourself a little congratulatory pat on the back.
Measure the smiles, and write down how you feel, which leads us to...
Keep a logbook
After each ride/workout, take a few moments to record how that went, what were the top points, how well did you achieve your objectives, what if anything would you do better next time.
It can be as simple as "I paced that ride well", to "I managed to fuel and keep myself hydrated", to “I hit the power numbers that the plan required”.
Each of these rides then form a series of learnings and mini-wins that help to build confidence and reinforce motivation...
Pace Yourself and Use Recovery
So my advice to maintaining motivation is to pace your training, give yourself lots of recovery time; there is a real danger, especially during or because of lockdown to physically and mentally burn yourself out resulting in being too ill or not sufficiently prepared to start your season.