Eight ways to find motivation to ride on the hardest days

The best tips and mental tricks to keep your motivation high to ride year-round.

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It’s that time of year for many people. The weather is getting harsher, the days are getting shorter, the season is dragging on, and it can become difficult to swing your leg over the bike. Even though our bikes are machines of joy, sometimes riding them starts to feel like an obligation. Even though we all know that once we are out with the wind in our hair we will be so glad that we left for our ride, it can feel really challenging to get out the door at all.

Here are my top eight tips for finding motivation on the hardest days:

1. Just start

Nine times out of ten, getting out the door is the hardest part of the workout. Commit to at least starting a ride. Try to have a “15-minutes rule.” Tell yourself that if you get out on the bike and ride for just 15 minutes, then if you still aren’t having fun, you can call it a day. Usually, once your blood starts pumping, a smile will follow.

If you are struggling to find motivation for a hard workout, then just commit to the first interval. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt lousy in the warm-up, fully convinced that the workout would be a flop, only to completely surprise myself on the first interval. Just commit to the attempt.

Also read: Conquering the cold — Eight tips to keep riding outdoors in cold weather

2. Use a gratitude journal

Every time you go ride, write down three good things that happened. They don’t have to be big, but they can be. Sometimes I get to write down a new personal record and sometimes I just write down that I saw a nice tree. It doesn’t matter what the good things are, it just matters that you write them.

Then, on your hardest days, you can open up your gratitude journal and see all of the good things that have come from getting out of the door. Hopefully, they will motivate you to do it again.

Dig down and remember the purpose of your ride, repeat it to yourself, and hold onto it as you saddle up. (Photo: Wil Matthews)

3. Remember your why

Remember that there is, in fact, a reason that you intended to do this workout. Maybe it’s so that you can achieve some racing goal, improve your health, or maybe it’s so that you can keep up with your friends or kids. At some point, you made the decision that you would do this workout. What was the purpose that you had in mind? Dig down and remember the purpose, repeat it to yourself, and hold onto it as you saddle up to ride.

Sometimes I’ll think of specific goals that I have set, podiums that I hope to climb on, or sometimes I’ll just remember the little girl that loved the freedom of her bicycle.

4. Have a plan

It’s so much easier to challenge yourself when you have a workout in mind. If you don’t have a plan set then it’s all too easy to push your workout back another day or to pack it in early. Try planning a week of workouts ahead of time so that you can plan ahead and so that you can feel the accomplishment that comes with checking something off of the list.

5. Create incentives

When it’s hard to keep going in the workout, set some small incentives. For example, maybe I’ll have a cookie packed for halfway through my workout, or maybe after 20 miles, I will sit down in the shade for 5 minutes. It’s nice to have something to look forward to in the middle of the workout so that your only goal isn’t to be done.

Remember to never deprive yourself of the fuel or rest that you need in order to stay safe. Instead, try to have your incentives be “extras.”

Also read: How to keep improving your cycling as you age

6. Measure differently

When one measurement seems impossible, try measuring a different way. If a three-hour ride sounds impossible, then pick a route that will take approximately three hours and focus on riding the route rather than finishing the time. When the last thing I want to do are 10-minute intervals, I’ll find a segment of road that takes 10 minutes and I’ll race the segment rather than the clock. If doing 20 push-ups sound too hard, then try doing as many push-ups as you can in 45 seconds. Changing the way that you measure the workout can help you alter what you focus on and make the day seem more doable.

7. Create accountability

Creating accountability takes a little bit of vulnerability. Be bold enough to share your goals with someone. Tell them what you want to achieve and then tell them how you plan to get there. Ask this trusted person to check in with you every couple of days to hear how things are going. This isn’t meant to shame you. This is meant to encourage you to really get the work done! During the check-in you should get to share your excitement about moving toward your goals!

After making a goal, share it for accountability.  (Photo: Lea Davison)

8. Know when enough is enough

Sometimes the best way to find your motivation is to know when enough is enough. Sometimes motivation can hide for a while and that’s ok. Take a couple of days off with the specific intention of recharging and coming back with more excitement than ever!

Enjoy the Ride

Remember that riding our bikes is something we do for fun. Take a moment to soak in the fact that riding is a privilege and a choice. Enjoy what you do!

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.