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Staying Motivated: Maintaining Race Fitness without Racing

chicken standing on bicycle

When COVD-19 first hit back in March, we saw a huge wave of indoor workouts as our training was pushed inside. Everyone was sharing their favorite indoor strength workouts and we all felt inspired to push big watts on the indoor trainer. Later, as summer started to show itself, motivation to go outside and challenge ourselves  was high. Individual feats like Everesting, or doing the longest ride possible took center stage. But now, as events continue to be cancelled, you might be asking yourself :

Why am I training?

If this is the case, I would first like to tell you that this is normal. I am a professional bike racer, which means that training is my job, and yet, I still find myself asking that question these days. Secondly, it’s normal that motivation comes and goes in waves, pandemic or not, this is just a natural cycle. I find knowing that motivation comes and goes allows me cope and rationalize my low motivation moments. So now that we know motivation is not a constant, how can we keep feeding our motivational fire?

Well, let’s go back to the question we’ve all been asking ourselves recently; “Why am I training?” Let’s look at it differently and ask ourselves :

Why am I riding my bike?

What do I love about riding my bike?

What do I love about training?

Answering these simple questions helps me return to realign and reconnect with the reasons I do what I do. When I answer these questions, I have a few realizations:

I love pushing myself.

I love the process of working to get better.

I love making progress.

Riding my bike is my favorite way of exploring a place. Exploring an area and discovering new places makes me extremely happy.

cyclists riding in group

I love feeling healthy and fit.

I encourage you to do this exercise. Personally, I find that answering these questions and writing down the reasons why I love riding my bike helps me  find my motivation again. If it doesn’t immediately bring my motivation back, it does shows me what I need to do to get it back. It also makes me realize that I don’t need racing to keep riding my bike to keep enjoying it. Here are a few things I’ve been doing to stay motivated and that may help you as well.

Use this time to work on your weaknesses.

What if we saw this year without racing as an opportunity to work on our weaknesses? Personally, I’ve been spending more time on my cyclocross bike to work on skills that I’ve always struggled with. I’ve also been working on my sprints and on being more explosive. Choose a few specific skills or areas that you need improvement, and prepare a plan to mindfully work on them. This can be very motivating; especially when you start slowly seeing progress!

cyclist racing on dirt

What are you missing when you race every weekend? 

Use this opportunity to enjoy that specific thing! I sometimes miss being home when I’m racing every weekend. And this summer, I’m spending more time at home than ever, so it would be stupid not to embrace this. I’ve been loving the opportunity to explore our area and finding new roads or trails every week. It’s been incredibly fun to look at the map, pick a new intriguing fire road, and go explore it. Exploring locally has been making my long rides so exciting, it’s the training I most look forward to do each week now!

cyclists in front of train

Give yourself a personal goal.

If you are like me, you are extremely competitive. The competition aspect is what I miss the most about bike racing. There are different ways to be competitive however, it is possible to satisfy the thirst for competition in many different ways. Have you tried to beat your best 10 min effort? What if you found a route and tried to achieve your best time ever on it? Set a new Personal Best FTP? Maybe there is a Strava KOM/QOM you’ve always wanted to snag a crown on? Whatever it may be, I encourage you to find a challenge and make it a goal. Find something you want to achieve, share that goal with someone, set a date to achieve it, then make a plan and prepare for it. When you look at it this way, this goal starts to look like a race, and maybe you already feel the butterflies in your belly that you’ve been missing so much? I know I am 🙂

Take it easy.

I mentioned earlier, there is a natural cycle with motivation. It comes and goes in waves. In fact, the natural cycle goes like this: You’re motivated to train so you train really hard, then you start feeling tired, but you keep training hard. Then fatigue increases, and suddenly you start lacking motivation. Then you rest, you start feeling better, and motivation to train returns. The turning point in this cycle is REST. We often rest before races so we can be at our best come race day. Currently, there are no races on the horizon, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t rest. Sometimes, a few easy rides, or a few days off the bike completely can do wonders for returning motivation and the “hunger” you felt at the beginning of your training cycle. Similarly, having fun on the bike and allowing yourself to take a step away from a structured training plan can be helpful. Be flexible, there are no races and it doesn’t matter if you do your intervals on Monday or Tuesday. If you’d rather do a fun ride and it excites to you, just go for it. I promise your intervals can wait, and I promise they will be more effective if you do them after feeling rejuvenated from a fun ride on your own or with a friend!

In the end, remember that sometimes motivation brings action, but other times, motivation comes from action. So taking action and setting small goals for ourselves can be very productive. After all, this pandemic is a new experience for all of us and with it comes obstacles that we’ve never faced before. However, if we can find opportunity rather than obstacles, we can come out with a more powerful love of riding our bicycles!