The power of enjoyment

The recent increase in people riding bikes is amazing! The sunny weather and quieter roads during lockdown have provided ideal conditions to discover the joy of cycling and embed a new habit. This has got me thinking about how positive experiences can provide motivation.

It’s all too easy to get excited by a potential goal and then feel overwhelmed by the training required to reach it. As a coach I support people to reach their goals and make training achievable. I believe that the (often forgotten) feeling of enjoyment in cycling can help to improve training and achieve an important balance between physical and mental health.

Question your motivation

Explore where your motivation (or lack of motivation) comes from. Intrinsic motivation (from within) really shows when an athlete loves their sport and is driven by a sense of personal satisfaction. Medals, money, praise and social recognition are rarely good motivators alone because they can create pressure and disappointment, having a negative impact.

Find what motivates and excites you. It could be as simple as enjoying a view from the top of a challenging climb. You can use this as motivation for your hill reps. Take a photo from the top and share this highlight with your friends.

Stop looking sideways

Focus on your own goals and cycling journey. Making comparisons to other people promotes feelings of inferiority and actually deprives us of joy. Strava is a great tool to track cycling progress but it can also feed a desire to benchmark ourselves against others. Everyone’s training, physiology and history is unique, so comparisons are unfair.

Celebrate your own successes – and this doesn’t just mean winning! Think about the skills you have learnt/improved or a distance you’ve cycled, the milestones you’ve reached. Build a positive memory bank to remind yourself of achieving your goals and draw upon these to drive your motivation.

Clean up your feed

Use social media and online platforms to inspire you, connect and share the enjoyment of riding. The online cycling community can be a brilliant extension of your own personal support network and a place to celebrate success with others. Facebook groups like VeloVixen offer a welcoming and safe space to share and support others. Keep interactions healthy and take care not to fall into the trap of making comparisons and posting for affirmation or external validation.

Take some time each month to go through your social media feed to work out what makes you feel good and what doesn’t. Try unfollowing or muting accounts that annoy you, upset you, or take up too much of your time.

Do what you love  

It’s simple really. Find the type of cycling that excites you and that you enjoy. If you like mountain biking you might decide to set some goals to challenge yourself and improve your off-road skills. A vital part of any training programme is consistency, which is much easier to maintain if you enjoy what you do.

Taking one ride a week with no data can provide some mental relief. Leave your GPS at home, or if that fills you with too much dread simply cover it up. It’s easy to get caught up in average speed, power and heart rate zones and fixated on the importance of data. Try just riding on feel and noticing how your body behaves at different training intensities.  

How have positive / negative experiences affected your cycling? I’m interested to hear your thoughts. Drop me a comment and let me know!