QUESTION: How can I motivate myself to ride further? I’ve lost some fitness, and I find myself struggling on group rides and get dropped a lot because I’m not riding as many miles. When I find myself out on a ride, I end up talking myself out of continuing and going home early, which is not helping my fitness any. – Jack R
RBR’S STAN PURDUM REPLIES: Loss of motivation to ride can spring from all sorts of disturbances that may or may not have anything to do with cycling itself. For example, if you are dealing with high stress, overwork or anxiety, or have slipped into depression, motivation loss is almost par for the course. So a good first step is to look at your overall situation to see if some self-care or remedial practices are needed. Also, consider whether any medicines you are taking might be affecting your mood.
I once found myself suddenly uninterested in riding, and while puzzling over that, the only new thing in my life I could think of was a medication my doctor had recommended I try for a chronic condition. Thinking further about it, I also realized I was depressed, something quite unusual for me. So I stopped the medication and after a couple of days, the depression cleared and the zest for cycling returned. Thinking that connecting depression to the medicine might just be a coincidence, I waited a couple more days and then restarted the pills — and the depression returned. So I talked to my doctor, and he switched me to a different med that didn’t have the depressive effect. Actually, “depression” was not a listed side effect of the first med either, but it had that effect on me.
But loss of motivation sometimes seems to have no obvious cause. Assuming that may be the case for you, I suggest you temporarily narrow your goals and work on one. You’ve mentioned concern about loss of fitness, about getting dropped on group rides and about cutting your rides short. That’s three goals. I suggest picking the cutting-rides-short concern, since that underlies both the other goals.
Next, think about what causes you to pull out early. Are you picking routes that are too long or too aggressive for how you are feeling now? Are you bored with the routes? Are you getting demoralized because you used to enjoy those routes but now don’t? Whatever the reason, do a reset of this goal. Rather than determining to complete route X, substitute a flexible goal for the week. For example, you might plan to ride twice a week for a total of three hours. So if you cut the first one short, you stretch the next one a bit.
Do whatever you can to eliminate excuses to shortcut the rides. You might, for instance, pick a time when there’s no reason you must be home by a certain hour. Pick a day when you are not likely to get rained out. Avoid the route that has a dreaded killer hill, and so on
These reset goals don’t have to be forever, and if you’re on the ride and are inspired to extend it, go ahead. But give yourself some room and some time to get past the motivation slump.
Here is some good stuff on motivation from cycling coach Arnie Baker, M.D.
Stan Purdum has ridden several long-distance bike trips, including an across-America ride recounted in his book Roll Around Heaven All Day, and a trek on U.S. 62, from Niagara Falls, New York, to El Paso, Texas, the subject of his book Playing in Traffic. Stan, a freelance writer and editor, lives in Ohio. See more at www.StanPurdum.com.