... when Coronavirus has cancelled all your cycling events.
As the cyclocross season was coming to a close at the back end of last year, I started looking to 2020 with such anticipation...
As 1 minute past midnight approached on New Year’s Eve, I was ready with my phone to book us onto Battle on the Beach in April. We’d started planning some bike packing trips throughout the year and were even umming and ahhing about a revisit to the amazing Girona Cycling Festival..... my husband had tickets for both Gritfest and Dirty Riever and another one i can’t remember the name of right now...
It was a year of cycling to look forward to and kept us pedalling throughout the cold and damp days in January. Especially as I’d had the inevitable low after the high of the CX season and found myself making excuses not to get on my bike.
So having these exciting new events on the horizon gave me a little bit of push to get back out on the bike.
But of course, as we moved into February, the news escalated on this scary virus.
Life seemed to tumble forwards into March with growing uncertainty and anxiety as the overwhelming emotion until - wham - on the 23rd march we were ordered to our homes.
As I watched Boris address the nation that evening, I had an uneasy feeling in my stomach - along with the rest of country I’m sure.
Being locked in my home with no escape frightened the heck out of me as someone who absolutely loves the fresh air.
So as he continued to speak, I longed for the words he FINALLY said “Exercise once a day either a walk or a cycle...” I remember my shoulders dropping and the air finally returning to my lungs.
The stress and pressure of two adults working full time whilst also looking after our very energetic and assertive (she’s nothing like me clearly!) 4-year-old in lockdown made our daily trips out on the bike solo so important.
I found a new love for riding solo, exploring different routes, enjoying the quiet roads and the serenity of nature-filled rides. It gave me time to contemplate this new environment we found ourselves in and really reflect on my life and what really mattered.
I truly found the experience a rewarding one.
But then, as the weeks passed, each of our events were postponed and then cancelled.
Top summer jerseys to keep you motivated
Even the ones that were postponed have been moved to dates where they could be moved again, or we won’t be able to attend due to other commitments.
So what had looked like a fun-filled rest of 2020 has slipped into a complete unknown entity... No holidays, no idea if we’ll be able to escape as a family away from our home or even at the moment, when we’ll see our extended family.
So the motivation started to wain, it became harder to get up and get changed on days when the sun wasn’t shining... Anyone else feel like that?
Firstly, it’s ok to feel like this - it’s a natural reaction to loss; it’s a genuine grief and it’s ok to simply sit with that and realise how important these events were for you and how much you were looking forward to them.
However, having the resilience to say “right, that’s done now and I cannot control that those have been cancelled, let’s focus on what I can control” is a key to moving forward.
So here are my top tips for maintaining that motivation when you’ve lost sight of your goals:
1. Rediscover your love for the basics of your sport
When we’re in high training mode - we’ve got a programme to follow or we’re simply getting ready for a certain event, we can become very focused on the performance aspect of the sport we’re doing rather than the enjoyment factor.
Accomplishment and improvement are absolutely huge factors in feeling satisfied and happy, but sometimes we need to strip our involvement back to the bare basics (and I don’t mean go for a ride naked!).
When was the last time you went for a ride with no numbers and just for the thrill of turning the pedals and enjoying the scenery?
I wrote an article last year about ‘getting more from your ride’ and included ’savour the moments’ - this is a real key to rediscovering why you love cycling so much.
Go for a ride and simply notice everything - how your body feels, every odd tree and the way the fresh air changes your mood, how your thoughts change whilst you ride and how you feel when you challenge yourself up that hill.
Put your bike computer in your back pocket, pick a beautiful route and just ride.
Take anything you learn about what you love back into your weekly ride planning - if you realise that just 10 minutes of riding off-road can make you smile, include more of it!
2. Mix it up
Training for an event or even looking forward to a certain event can tailor our riding to be very one dimensional.
We can start to berate ourselves if we miss a session or if a session doesn’t live up to expectations. Plus it often gives us little opportunity for spontaneity.
Use this time to mix up your activity a little. If you’ve been meaning to improve your core strengths for years (yes that’s me!) get your yoga on, or if you’ve always wanted to do a triathlon then take the chance to spend more time lacing those running shoes up.
Investigate new ways to improve your riding off the bike or try a new activity completely for cross training.
Trying something new has so many mental health benefits, including improving your courage by stepping outside your comfort zone and flexing those brain muscles by taking the time to learn something new.
3. Shift your goals
OK, so the event you’d planned to do has been scrubbed off the list - but you have a couple of choices :
Ride it anyway, just locally; so if you’d booked on your first 100km route, find one locally, grab a friend (now we’re allowed to in England) and continue to work towards that challenge.
Adjust the challenge to something equally motivating - if riding that 100km locally without the thrill of an organised event doesn’t float your boat, that’s absolutely fine.
VeloVixen Most Wanted this summer
But maybe look at what will provide you with the motivation to work towards instead? What was it about the 100km ride that really meant something to you? Was it the distance? the time in saddle? the location? or the medal at the end?
When you ask yourself what was the most meaningful part of that challenge to you, you can start to build an equally motivating challenge.
4. Chunk down the goal
Yeh that’s a weird sentence. But I like it.
If your key event was cancelled, how about setting yourself a series of mini-challenges to work towards instead?
Seeing consistent achievement is really good for keeping you motivated - especially in times of uncertainty. So instead of one key goal, break it down into 10 smaller goals that you can focus on achieving each week.
Maybe it’s a segment PR or simply to find a new route... keeping the challenges small, but achievable with a little effort and dedication will keep you on track.
Make them a tiny bit harder each week for an extra boost of dopamine :)
5. Don’t go mad with your training load!
I’ve had so many conversations in the past couple of weeks with clients and cycling friends who are telling me they’re shattered!
Lockdown has seen so many people get out on their bikes more, which is so fantastic - I have loved seeing families out on their bikes and the constant stream of cyclists giving me a wave on my rides - but don’t overdo it!
Jeni - living the lockdown dream!
The opportunity to find more time to train or the need to escape your home each day in lockdown has meant we’ve forgotten how to rest.
I know I’m guilty of it - my need for fresh air and a little bit of an escape daily led to real exhaustion a couple of weeks ago. I hadn’t mixed up my rides for a few weeks and had become a little obsessed with the average speed dial on my Wahoo.
A short stern word with myself reminded me I needed a day off a week and an easy week at least once a month.
Don't overdo it, it will bite you on the bum and send you backwards with motivation... plan an easy week once a month and ENJOY it!
6. Find a way to stay social
OK, for many of us riding with other(s) is still not possible, but it doesn’t mean you can’t be social with your cycling.
Maybe you can meet a friend half way and have a physically distanced cake stop? Or build a joint goal with a friend - can you ride 100 miles between you this month?
I even set up a tiny treasure hunt with a cycling friend during lockdown - a bit like geocaching.
I rode a route and left a little notebook in a plastic bag somewhere for her to find it when she rode the route. I left a little message in the notebook and gave her the ‘What three words’ location for her to find it.
She then did the same for me on her next route. It kept it fun and interesting.
I also know many people who have set up group virtual rides. Our local CX league have cancelled for next season which is so disappointing for many, but one of my team mates has created a virtual CX league on Zwift - keeping those who want a little competition going and also adding to the wonderful camaraderie we have within our league.
Of course, there’s always the VeloVixen Facebook group too (Chapeau to Jeni for being one of our brilliant, tireless moderators!) - ed.) - so many wonderful stories and supportive comments on there. How else can you keep it social during this time?
7. Have fun
So this is probably an extension of the first tip, but it’s also the most important. Remind yourself why you took up cycling in the first place.... it’s probably because you enjoyed it.
So ask yourself, what’s the best way I can have fun on my bike? For me, we have absolutely loved taking our 4 year old out on her bike during lockdown.
It’s given us an opportunity to explore locally and get her really interested in her bike and improving her skills. These rides may only be 6 miles or so long, but they provide the most amount of smiles for me.
Second to that have been the brand new off-road gravel routes. Lots of wrong turns and getting lost but so much new beauty and countryside to explore.
I’ve also enjoyed laughing at myself during this time and every single riding selfie of me shows off my wonky helmet (or is it a wonky head?!) it’s become a running joke in my cycling circle.... This is definitely the time to pick Smiles over Miles.
So there you go, a few ways to keep that motivation slowing through lockdown when the stuff we were looking forward to has been swiped from us.
Maybe it’s a little lesson for us all that we need to find ways to keep energised along the way rather than put all of our hopes into those big days out?
Anyway, come and join us on the VeloVixen group as we’d love to hear how you’re keeping yourself going throughout this time...
A little note
I don’t want to forget those of you who are shielding or simply don’t want to ride outside at the moment.
If you’re solely riding inside, THAT’S OK - find new playlists, join different events or races on the likes of Zwift and use zoom or discord to stay in touch whilst you’re riding on the turbo. I used to ride structured workouts on my Wattbike whilst watching and singing along to GLEE (yes, judge me later) as it kept me going.
My husband has helped me to discover Zwift during lockdown and i’m enjoying mixing it up when the weather is poor and challenging myself with the odd race.
Not everyone is an indoor-cycling fan, our very own Fran is very vocal in her distaste for riding indoors herself. She just doesn’t enjoy it - and that’s ok too.
Find what works for you and remember to smile!
About Jeni Sanderson: Jeni is a Positive Change Consultant specialising in using positive psychology and appreciative inquiry to energise positive change in both individuals and organisations. She offers life coaching for those looking to find clarity or to ‘discover their positive core’ in order to flourish and is a keen cyclist both on and off road, competing with our very own Fran in the Central Cyclocross league and enjoys the road and trails as well. when not working or on the bike, she spends time with her husband and daughter in a village just outside Bedford. You can find out more about Jeni on her website: www.jenisanderson.com