All athletes—novices and pros—struggle with motivation. Even when it’s your job (perhaps especially when it’s your job) it can be difficult to find the will to suit up and ride. But not every lapse in morale needs to slow you down. I’ve often used these tricks to boost my motivation when it starts to run dry. Maybe they'll work for you, too.
Hide Your Cycling Computer
The worst rides are the ones when I stare at my power meter, fret that the numbers on the screen are too small, and squirm as the minutes and seconds slowly tick by. No matter how you gauge your workouts—heart rate, power, average speed, time—diverting your attention away from the handlebars and toward on the experience itself will help the miles fly by.
Spruce Up Your Bike
I love how a replacement chain feels so smooth that even my legs seem to get a boost. Along with a couple of brand-new chains, I keep rolls of handlebar tape, tires, and cables and housing on hand to freshen up my “office” whenever it starts to feel drab.
Aim for a Rewarding Destination
Cycling has a capacity foradventure that not many other forms of exercise offer. In the last month, my favorite ride destinations have included a far-off Amish Bakery in North Carolina, the Coors factory outside Denver, and a famous taco stand in Tucson.
Appeal to your type A side by adding a stop or two to take care of errands. A light shoe bag doubles as a great backpack that can fit into a jersey pocket if you want to carry something for only part of the time.
Make Firm Plans with Riding Partners
Don’t be ambivalent. If you tell your cycling buddies that you’ll definitely show up, it will be harder to back out.
Prep Your Equipment the Night Before
Mom was on to something when she packed your lunch and laid out your clothes the night before each school day. Likewise, all the work that goes into prepping for a ride can be a greater obstacle than the workout itself.
Explore New Roads
The fitness freaks among us tend to rely on the familiar roads because we know they’ll give us the workout we’re looking for. But the novelty of new scenery sometimes makes up for the predictability of traveling the same roads over and over and over.
Eat Junk Food
Fueling properly on long rides is crucial, and the ideal snacks are sugary ones that might otherwise qualify as junk food. Don’t limit yourself to energy bars that taste like cardboard. Snickers, Pop-Tarts, and soda are popular fuel sources that we can’t get away with eating the rest of the time.
Plan an Easy Route Home
Wind direction, elevation, and even sunlight (especially in the winter when the sun is low) all factor into how I choose each day’s route. My goal is to finish each ride in as pleasant and safe a direction possible to reinforce a positive association with my bicycle.
Take Each Workout One Step at a Time
I usually shoot for a range of time or intervals on each ride, and planning to do the high end of the range often makes me want to quit before staring. But if I give myself permission to do only the minimum, it’s easier to get started and I often find the motivation I need to complete the extra work once I get to it.
Everyone has a weakness. For me it’s an affinity for self-serve frozen yogurt. My rule is that I have permission to stop for fro-yo whenever I complete the maximum range of time or intervals in an assigned workout.
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