Finding motivation when the going gets tough

By Chris Mehlman

Riding your bike is always supposed to be enjoyable, right? While many of us don’t want to admit it, there are some days when it’s tough to get out the door. Those Instagram-worthy bluebird days filled with hero dirt and friends are what we all envision and love, but some days, we just don’t get that idealistic version of riding.

In my training for XC racing, I honestly have quite a few days like this. Sometimes, I feel weak to admit it, but there are days when I’m tired and sore or when my only options are to ride on the road in the mid-30s and pouring rain or on the trainer when the last thing I want to do is pedal. Today, when I woke up, I realized that my MTB workout was going to have to done be on the road because of heavy rain which was worsening the already extremely muddy trails. These are the days when what is usually my stress-reliever can actually stress me out. Finding motivation in these situations can be tough, but in almost every case, I benefit either mentally or physically from getting out and riding.

The most important thing is to give yourself something to look forward to at the end of the ride. For me, when it’s cold and rainy, this is usually a nice hot shower, and during a hard workout, it’s a treat like ice cream or a cookie after the ride. I also remind myself of how satisfied I will be after riding knowing I pushed my limits mentally and physically.

Personally, I am incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to take a year off of school before college to focus on racing, so the first thing I remind myself of if I’m having a tough time getting out the door is that I GET to do this. I have the opportunity to focus on training and ride every day. While most people aren’t in this situation, it’s still helpful to remind yourself that you were given the opportunity to get out on a bike with a good set of legs and lungs and roads or trails that are safe to ride. Even if it is pouring rain, think of it as an opportunity, not an obstacle.

If I’m having a tough workout and I need motivation to finish the last set of intervals or push through the last few miles, I remind myself of why I got into riding. Even for non-racers, it can be easy to lose sight of why you first started riding if you are having a bad day. I remind myself of the feeling of freedom that riding brings, and the endorphins that I feel when I pedal. A junior development MTB program from Colorado likes to label this #NFTF — Never Forget The Feeling. Maybe, you can find a little of that feeling in a tough moment in order to help keep yourself motivated.

Lastly, I like to convince myself that the ride will be an adventure no matter what, and that I should just buckle and and see how it pans out. Riding is meant to be an adventure, and even if it’s a cold, wet road ride you can have fun if you just let go. There were a couple of days this past winter when I went for rides in a serious snow storms and those rides ended up being some of the most memorable adventures I’ve had.

Regardless of whether you’re a recreational rider or racer, it’s always OK to feel like you don’t want to ride. Not every ride is going to be made of perfect “smiles for miles” conditions. If you can use some of these techniques to help you get out and push through, you will almost certainly end your ride feeling satisfied.  

Photo: David Hellmann@davidhellmann

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