Surviving the Winter as a Cyclist

By Gloria Liu

I’ve been thinking a lot about motivation lately. It’s a tough time of year for cyclists. Here in Colorado we’re stuck in the middle of a stupidly cold spell that’s kept most of us inside on the trainer for days in a row. My races seem so far off in the future, and getting on the trainer again feels equivalent to beating the crap out of my soul with a pillowcase full of soap (yes, that’s a Step Brothers reference).

I work with 40 other cyclists and triathletes at TrainingPeaks, and trust me when I say that everyone struggles during this time of year. Over the past week, while waiting in the kitchen together to microwave our various brands of organic frozen burritos (so Boulder), I’ve been waxing philosophical with my colleagues about how we stay motivated to train in the winter.

Visualization and Variety

No ones loathes the trainer more than Bryan Alders, who races professionally for Marin Bikes. He’ll even come into the Pain Cave, our affectionate nickname for the office gym, to shame you when you’re training indoors on a day that he’s deemed suitable for outdoor riding. Bryan keeps himself sane by mixing it up with backcountry and skate skiing, as well as a little running. Some people might stress about missing a day on the bike to do another sport, but Bryan’s philosophy is that there’s a bigger picture. "I’m not just training so that I can race," he says. “I’m training because it’s good for me, it keeps me healthy, and I want to be able to have fun and be active for a long time. It’s a lifestyle choice."

Kelly Steuven, who’s a cyclist and a runner, takes a mental skills approach. "The night before, I visualize how good I feel when I run, and how much I’m looking forward to my workout in the morning. Then, in the morning, I visualize how good I’m going to feel after my run."

My co-worker Adam Haid, founder of Erie Singletrack Advocates, admits that the hardest time is midweek, when he’s already had two or three trainer workouts in a row and he’s scheduled for a fourth. Besides "just getting it done," he also reminds himself, "I never regret a workout afterwards. I’m always glad I did it."

Lessons from a Fortune Cookie and a Set of Rollers

And what about me? What’s my trick? I think I’ve finally got one, but in order to explain it I’d like to talk about Chinese food for a moment. Stay with me, this will make sense.

So I get this fortune cookie at lunch last week, and while I don’t typically take these things seriously, this one was unusually practical. It read simply, "Begin. The rest is easy."

With these words in the back of my head, I rode rollers for the first time on Wednesday. I’d been staring at the set we have in the Pain Cave for months, too intimidated to hop on for fear of riding straight into the wall, or worse, into one of my unsuspecting colleagues. But faced with the prospect of another mind numbing hour on the trainer or the diversion of trying something new, I picked the rollers.

It was terrifying at first. As soon as I put both hands on the bars the bike would get squirrely, and I’d have to stop after just a few pedal strokes. But I kept at it, each time able to push just a few more revolutions before the wobbling would force me to grab the wall again and stop.

What I figured out over time was, the faster I pedaled, the easier and steadier the bike stayed, and that there came a point when I simply had to commit—to keeping my upper body very still, looking straight ahead, and just...pedaling. Each time I stopped, the hardest part was getting going again. But once I got moving, found my cadence, and focused, staying up was...well, easier than I thought.

So, what’s my trick? Remembering that the hardest part is just getting started. Whether it’s starting your workout for the day, or jumping back into training after you’ve been "off the wagon" for a while, getting going is tough. That’s the law of inertia. An object at rest wants to stay at rest. But on the flip side, once an object is in motion, it wants to stay in motion.

March is around the corner and we know that on the Front Range, warmer days are coming. We need to get through the next few weeks, and then before we know it, winter will seem like a distant memory. So if you’re struggling to get on the bike today, or to get outside to do something active, remember that first of all, you’re not alone. Try some of the tips above—mix up your workouts, remember the "big picture", take on a new challenge, or visualize how good you’ll feel afterwards.

Then, begin. The rest is easy.


Author: Gloria Liu

Gloria Liu is a mountain biker, skier, and self-proclaimed "outdoor whoo girl" (you know, one of those girls that’s always outside, yelling, "WHOO!"). Follow her freewheeling adventures on Twitter @thats_my_line or on her blog, http://alpenglo.wordpress.com

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