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What gets you going?

11 August, 2011

 Winter blues, lethargy or just plain feeling flat; how do you get out the door and on to the saddle when your enthusiasm is at a low ebb? Ride On looks at the best advice from scientific research, sports psychologists and experienced riders.

No matter what your riding habits, you will occasionally experience times when getting on your bike seems like too much effort. The weather can have a lot to do with it, and this time of year can be particularly tough – sunshine is in short supply, and the long, glum winter has taken its toll. Well, help is at hand; with a simple shift in attitude, the right equipment, and some gentle prompts, any misgivings will quickly evaporate, and the riding buzz will be back better than ever.

Reframe your thoughts

Just do it? The Nike slogan has been an all-encompassing catchcry for sports motivation over recent times, but research by the University of Illinois has shown that you are more likely to perform a task if you ask yourself the question whether you will do it, rather than simply telling yourself that you will do it.

Reflection seems to be the key. When asking yourself, “Will I go for a ride?” you are more likely to come up with good reasons why you should, and also come up with solutions to any problems that might stop you. You will take back control, feel empowered and are more likely to make a healthy decision.

Slow and steady

Don’t get concerned about setting strict training schedules, making lofty fitness goals or breaking personal records. If you set the bar too high, life will inevitably get in the way, and when things don’t go according to plan, you’ll feel beaten. Modest, long-term ambition mixed with a modicum of genuine determination will take you far. The pledge “I’m going to be a regular rider,” is far more likely to lead to a happy outcome than “I’m going to ride every day.”

Big-picture thinking

Create long-term goals for your riding and break them down into achievable mini-goals. A recent study found that people who focus on long-term goals are more likely to resist unhealthy urges than those who go for the quick fix.

The researchers wrote: “Focussing on the big picture helps us to keep our eyes on the goal and push ourselves harder. In contrast, focusing on the immediate situation only emphasises how we’ve already maximised the extent of our willpower, and hinders self-control”.

When the alarm goes off on a drizzly and cold Monday morning, dismiss contemplating  that particular ride and focus instead on thoughts of the long-term goal; being healthier, fitter, feeling happier, saving money, etc.

You won’t melt

Sure, riding in the rain might get you wet, but it can also be exhilarating, refreshing, and fun. It’s an attitude thing. Kids love the rain, puddles and a bit of muck, but many of us have long-forgotten that joy. Getting wet isn’t a big deal; most people shower every day without too much suffering! Just remember, with good wet-weather gear, you’re more likely to get wetter from sweat than from the rain.

Use visuals

Visual cues will help keep you on track with your goals and focussed on continual improvement. If your riding goal is to lose weight, stick a photo of a healthy, fit body on your bathroom mirror. Leave visual prompts around to remind yourself, and others, that you are a rider. Hang your helmet near the front door and leave your Ride On magazine on the coffee table.

Make it a habit

One of the best ways to increase your riding is to incorporate it into other activities. Meeting up with friends? Ride to meet them, or even better, go for a ride together. Ride down to the local shops to get your morning paper. Ride with the kids to school. Make it a habit to jump on your bike rather than grabbing your car keys. It will soon become second-nature.

What gets you going?

A study from the University of Florida found that people who are less motivated will excel at tasks they see as fun, and people who are highly motivated will excel on tasks that they think need hard work and determination.

Time for some introspection. Find out what it really is that inspires you into action, then adopt your habits to reflect those motivations. Your reasons for riding may change over time, so regularly re-evaluate. On glorious summer days, it is easy to get excited about a ride; the fun level is off the scale. But what about other days, when the weather is a challenge? Are health benefits enough to motivate you? Looking good? Helping the environment? Saving money? Saving time? There are many reasons to ride a bike – choose the motivation that will get you going.

Jump that hurdle

Reflect carefully on the things that are preventing you from riding. Most can be simply overcome with a little bit of lateral thinking. If you don’t like getting up early, get all your gear laid out the night before, ready to go. Too many hills on a commute to your work, or is it too far? Take public transport/drive closer in, and ride the rest of the way. As your fitness builds, you’ll be able to ride further. And why not consider an electric-assist bike? No shower at work may be a problem. How about doing a deal with a nearby gym to use theirs? There is always a way.

Make it public

Leave people in no doubt you are a rider. Beat it up a bit, and be proud. Tell your friends how great you feel, how good it is to ride. Make sure your kids know how important your riding is; you will be setting a great example for them. Ride with your friends or family as often as you can. Be seen riding down to the local shops, in the local park. Be a great example to those in their cars of what they’re missing out on. Enjoy yourself, and make it show. If others think of you as a rider, so will you.

You’re worth it

Small or big, a reward can be a great incentive to make that extra effort. A tasty morning snack (donut anyone?), a new pair of gloves perhaps, or why not a weekly massage? Focus on the promise of a reward when motivation is low. Make sure you keep your promise to yourself, and make it a big deal; tell others why you deserve to treat yourself.

Make it appealing

Get into bikes; how they look, their history, and a bit about how they work. You are part of a grand tradition. Don’t dismiss other riders’ style and way of riding; admire their efforts, their bikes and their gear. Get some nice things for yourself. Be proud of your machine, keep it clean, and spend some money on it. Make sure it is a joy to ride by getting the right gear for you. Even seemingly small things can make a difference to your comfort, and make you want to ride more.

Right clothes, not right weather

In Scandinavian countries, winter can involve several feet of snow, lashing rain and sub-zero temperatures. Does this stop people riding and walking about? Not at all. They may change what they wear, but not what they do.

On chilly winter mornings, no matter how many layers you wear, it will be cold when you first get on your bike. As long as your extremities (head, hands and feet) are well covered, within minutes your body heat will have you feeling toasty and warm. It takes longer for your car’s heater to kick into action, and the constantly opening doors on buses and trains don’t do much to warm you up. As an added bonus, it takes up to an hour for your body to cool down after exercise, keeping you warm for longer.

Bedroom bonus

People who are physically active have more sex than people who don’t exercise. Physically fit people also feel sexier, have more stamina, and enjoy sex well into old age. Exercise reduces erectile dysfunction in men and improves arousal levels in women. Even low levels of exercise help to improve your mood and encourage blood-flow, keeping everything in good working order. Enough said!

Feeling good

There are very few times, if any, that after a ride of any length you will regret taking the bike, and wish you had driven/taken public transport instead. Almost inevitably you will feel better for the ride. Remember this feeling; use it to motivate yourself the next time you are considering whether to ride or not.

What are some tips you use to motivate yourself?

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