So, as you can see from my latest vid on Winter Cycling Motivation on the CyclingQuestions YouTube channel, click to subscribe, it was a kind of rough, windy day today. I saw a Met Office weather warning coming up a day or two ago. And far from slacking off and pulling the sheets over my head this morning, I wanted to use it as a reason to think on some of the little mindset tricks and hacks I use when I find the ol’ winter ride motivation juice has dried up!
So you got tips for winter cycling motivation?
I sure do. I had a good rummage round my brainhole thinking of the simple things I do myself just to ensure I get out the door. These five simple hacks form a little mnemonic. SEMI-G. Now, don’t ask what that means in the context of getting out in rough weather. But here you go:
- Smile before you even reach for the door handle!
- Embrace the conditions
- Modest goals only
- Intentions get set earlier in the day of the ride (or night before)
- Gear assurance – when you know no matter what the weather, you got the gear, you’re good to go!
I’ll elaborate on those in turn. Let’s face it though, that’s the hardest task: actually getting out on rough winter days. You’ll already know, I’m sure that once you’re out, you’re out, right? You can decide when you’ve turned the cranks a few times whether you’ll be able to soldier bravely on haha, or just turn back and head for the comfort of home again. I get it, of course I do – some days are literally too treacherous for riding. Ice for one thing! As I mentioned on the video, last winter I came off one evening, suspecting – but not quite realizing – that it was icy. No big deal, the usual scuffs and a banged up hip on my right side. The following week, the son and I both came off, super low speed seeing if we could make it to the end of the street! Hip crack on the other side and woohoo a matching pair of bruises haha. So yeah, I get it.
But then again how many times do we just use the weather over winter as a convenient excuse for not riding? Sometimes? I know if left unchecked, I’d have a tendency to do that a lot. Winter’s the time for it certainly! That’s why I’m interested in the little tricks, dupes and hacks to overcome my own sense of procrastination. And at times just simple idleness!
But I switch to the turbo trainer!
If you don’t get outside on your bike as much over winter but you’re getting time on your indoor trainer then awesome. I mean, this post and the idea of these five simple hacks for getting out on your bike, is ultimately just about you enjoying your cycling. Wait… you do enjoy your turbo trainer sessions do you? I mean…? Just kidding, I assume at least you enjoy your indoor sessions as much as you would going out in the freezing winds of winter. If that’s the case, a ride’s a ride irrespective of whether it’s indoors or out I guess.
For me, there’s a pecking order to riding my bike. Getting outside feels more enjoyable than a turbo session. A turbo session feels better than no saddle time at all. I don’t have a slick virtual reality trainer so that must be taken into account. Then again, would my mind change if I did? Did yours? I’d be interested in hearing if it did, Dear Reader 🙂
Naturally, myriad circumstances will do their best to moderate that order of preference, winter weather and darkness among them. But I’d always try to get out and ensure that any reason for not doing so wasn’t a thinly-veiled excuse. As I say, icy conditions for example = valid! haha. And the reason for my apparent dogmatism here is simply subjective…
I feel best when I get out on the bike as opposed to riding indoors or not riding at all.
Yep, it’s about how I feel. And riding outdoors just feels best. For me I’ve yet to replicate that indoors or sitting on my ass not riding at all! So if that’s you, but you sometimes (or often) find it difficult to just get out the door, then these are my five simple hacks as illustrated in the vid #semiG lol.
S is for SMILE (before you go out the door)
I know, it sounds trite. Twee maybe. But just go with it. If it works, who cares, right?
What the smile is, is an acknowledgement, a signal to my procrastinating predilections to say, hey! I’m going out and it’s gonna be fun. I’m going out despite my lazy-ass inner voice, but it’ll be worth the effort.
What the smile does is, believe it or not, both a simple psychological ping to our minds, and also a physiological corroboration of that mind-ping. True, the muscles involved in smiling, when activated, trigger the production of endorphins, the feelgood chemical. This can lower stress, and, more relevant to us here, can improve mood. So, a simple hack whose premise operates along the lines of fake it ’til you make it, as it were. Try it. The worst that can happen is that you’ll appear to be smiling at the prospect of riding in the rain. Which is exactly what you will be doing. And weirdly enough, feeling good about it #whoknew 😀
E is for EMBRACE the weather
So maybe it’s tipping down rain outside. Maybe it’s bitterly cold, or maybe howling winds would push you back into the comfort of your home. That’s winter for ya, right? And our E tip is to embrace this? What, as though it was some gloriously temperate day outside?
Yes! Why not! What I’m advocating for here is to be mindful of the weather. Sure, objectively speaking, it’s comparatively colder or wetter or windier than your favoured cycling weather. But we can go with the flow of it – well, providing that flow isn’t a dangerously torrential flood! #kidding 🙂 Joking aside though, how can you just embrace what you don’t like? Well exactly, it’s a choice.
Let me paint a picture to illustrate my point here. Imagine, after some unfortunate incident, that you could never ride your bike again. Healthy in other ways, but like never again will you be able to ride that bicycle. That’s gone. How do you feel about that as a prospect? Not so great I imagine. But now imagine finding a way to overcome that. A cure, a treatment, a technique. You thought you’d never be on a bike again. But now you can. Can you imagine how your first ride might feel? Imagine how it’d feel riding for the first time since the life-changing incident in the torrential rain too! Suddenly, the feeling is different, yes? Yet, nothing’s changed about the weather. Only you your self have changed 🙂
To embrace the weather – or anything else from chores to difficult decisions – how we perceive and respond to these situations is absolutely always our choice. So, E for Embrace the weather! 🙂
M is for a Modest goal
As I’ve said previously, I was never a fan of goal-setting. It always seemed too driven and too competitive or something alien to my own sensibilities. But with age and experience I guess I’ve grown to appreciate simple goals. Why? Because a system of (modest) goals and appropriate rewards help sustain motivation, help increase confidence and improve our moods.
The key, is in the letter. The goals for motivation ought to be modest. And motivation for getting out in the winter weather is really what we’re talking about here. Goals are often used to drive us forward. But here, as with matters of mood and depression I know from professional work as a counsellor, must be modest and easily achievable. Goals they are nonetheless.
In this case, the goal is maybe as simple as getting out on the bike. Maybe it’s to ride a few miles. Maybe it’s to get in one or two intervals, maybe it’s a particular short climb or stretch into a headwind. It really doesn’t matter. What matters is that you set your goal that’s appropriate for you given the winter weather conditions. You know the goal is M for modest. You know it’s easily achievable. Just do it. To follow up, you must also acknowledge the completion of the goal as a success. Don’t invalidate that success if you have a critical inner voice! #shakesfist 😀 Acknowledge it no matter how comparatively small a success it is. And then reward your success. This creates a very virtuous cycle that will spur you to complete other, similar goals for your outdoor winter cycling. M for modest goal 🙂
I is for Intention (and setting one)
It’s most obvious here with I for Intention-setting, that what we’re doing is a mind hack. Because nothing about setting the intention will help us in actually getting out that door into the winter weather. What it will do though is to prompt us from when we set it until when we’ve decided to take action and go out. That prompt sits in the background reminding us with it’s flag waving – hey, you’re going out cycling later, I’ll keep you right with that!
It’s an unwritten plan. It’s an unsigned contract with our selves. We’ve decided to do something. I think it’s a sweet little hack. You simple make the decision. For me, this takes the form of a combination of actions. First, I’ll mentally pin that to my internal to-do list. Or maybe it’s on my internal fridge with a magnet. Or maybe my internal cork board lol. Secondly, I’ll leave out my cycling gear. It’s right there every time I walk past, it calls to me. I can’t escape my unwritten plan haha. And thirdly I’ll set an alarm. I’m a morning cyclist mostly so when the alarm’s set, that’s it.
I mean, sure I can back out of it. But I’ve found that I’m way more likely to follow through on this unwritten commitment to get out in the weather if I have set it as a firm intention, as opposed to when I haven’t. Not setting a firm intention to get out, is as good for me as an excuse to lie in bed! Mmmm #cosy haha 😀
G is for Gear
It’s not just about having winter gear per se this one. You know, the gloves, undergloves, socks, overshoes, underhelmet cap, neck warmer, layer upon layer etc etc. The right gear is imperative if the ride is to be enjoyed in its own context. Okay so maybe endured is a better word! Lol. But either way, it’s not just about having the gear – that helps when we’re actually on the ride. But if we’re talking about getting out the door, how does gear help?
Well, G for Gear is about knowing you’ve got the right gear. It’s about having a feeling of assurance before you go out. That assurance tells you that no matter what the weather decides to throw down, you’re covered (pardon the pun) for gear. You won’t be too cold, wet or uncomfortable. Well, you might be a little bit, but it is winter after all. Just ride harder! Haha. I hope that one makes sense.
I’m a bit of a cheapskate in general #notwealthy lol, but I do try my best to get gear that, while it isn’t top of the range, at the very least it does the job maybe without the bells and whistles. I’ve tried loads of gloves, socks and overshoes in particular over the years when I was commuting daily to work. It’s always a case of trial-and-error since one person’s hot hot glove is another person’s frostbite. I tend to run on the cold side so I do appreciate the value of layers in most things. but you get the idea here. It’s about assurance. Because that assurance is what, in this point, helps us out the door. Sound plausible?
Only way to find out is to give it all a try. If you’re in the same situation as me: you like cycling outside as a preference but tend to use winter weather as an excuse for loafing around off the bike, well, who knows, some or all of these might give you a boost. And if gives you enough of a boost to get you out the door, you know you’re already successful at achieving the goal!
I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you have alternative ideas, fire them my way. Leave a comment or you can get me direct as ever in the contact form as ever.
Meantime, enjoy your riding however you do it. Go easy on yourself. If you can’t get out, don’t ever use these things as an excuse to berate yourself either! I mean it! #lifestooshort. Take care out there, ride safe, have fun, and warmest, kindest regards to you, Dear Reader, David.