For when your motivation is nowhere to be found…
When you are consistent with your training and steadily working towards a long term athletic goal, or even for some when you’re committed to a several weeks-out goal, there will undoubtedly be dips in your natural enthusiasm for training. You’ll go from eager to get out there and conquer a workout to struggling to even start a workout for the day. It’s frustrating for many, and can lead to training completely derailing for some.
What should you do when this happens?
Here are some tips for when your motivation needs a jumpstart.
Remind yourself what you’re working towards and that each workout is an important building block towards getting you there - Whether that goal be a race result or performance goal.
Stop expecting EVERY workout to be fun
Normalize your ups and downs in order to take the sting out of the moment. Some workouts never FEEL fun! Some people hate VO2 work, some people don’t enjoy those four hour endurance rides - even for those who do enjoy all types of workouts: there will inevitably be days where you just don’t feel that same level of enthusiasm and it’s important to just “get er’ done”. All of these workouts are important parts that lead to development as an athlete however, so get in the saddle and be prepared to power through some underwhelming feelings on occasion.
Have a coach and/or an organized plan
It’s much easier to stick through those days of “Not feeling it” when there is some sort of accountability set up. You don’t necessarily need a coach, but some form of a pre-set plan helps keep you on track when inspiration fails.
Change up your route or routine
Training can be tedious, there is no way around it, try to change things up once in a while… Join in on a group ride! Change your route or location up, even if that means driving to get there! Small changes can do a lot to boost motivation.
Give yourself credit!
Be kind to yourself and check in with your inner dialogue. Make sure you’re not beating yourself up for feeling off and unmotivated. Remind yourself that it’s natural to have ups and downs.
Keep up on your sleep, nutrition and stress levels in your life
Everything else around training… has an impact on your training! Take a look at these other factors and see if there’s an area affecting you that you can address. Can you head to bed an hour earlier? Are you eating enough and at the right times to support your training?
If, however, you’re dealing with ongoing fatigue on top of a lack of motivation, it may be time to adjust training as something else may be at work, such as overtraining. Don’t hesitate to talk with your coach and/or reach out to a healthcare professional if you feel that overtraining may be the case.
Take the workout step by step
When we are unmotivated, completing an entire planned workout can seem overwhelming, especially when you’re struggling to even get out the door.
Try just focusing on the immediate next steps versus the entire workout: Focus on preparing your nutrition and getting on your kit. Then focus on your warm up. Then interval number one.
Often, when you deconstruct the task and take it on bit by bit, the task ends up becoming far less daunting.
Give yourself proper credit for when you do make it out!
If you manage to get out and do a workout, even if it was not exactly what the plan had for the day: make sure to give yourself credit and a pat on the back! We’re often our harshest critic, and getting through a slump can be tricky - it truly is something to be applauded when you get out and manage to get a workout done when you aren’t feeling like even getting on the bike at all.
This is actually something I wrote not directly related to cycling a while ago, but it is DIRECTLY relatable to training toward a difficult athletic goal or achieving success in an athletic event. I developed these tips on the playing field so to say through my years as a competitive athlete, and they have been wildly helpful wherever I go - Whether it is on the tarmac getting through an especially challenging interval or showing up for a very uncomfortable first day at a new job.
How to Survive Sh*t Hitting the Fan
How to thrive through tough times and the importance of seeking these experiences out.
What I’ve learned by committing to deeply uncomfortable and vastly unfamiliar goals.
Some of the most fulfilling experiences in life involve accomplishing tasks that build self-confidence and actual competence in skill sets. Making it through a process that greatly challenges you creates a deeper understanding of self and sense of potential as a result of completion.
I consider myself a master at completing difficult tasks I set out to achieve. While I’m still enjoying the process of self-development and my journey ahead, wherever that leads me, I have comfort in knowing that my likelihood of success is very high when I commit myself wholeheartedly to achieving a goal. I’ve developed a list of four elements which have been pivotal in helping me get through my difficult, defining moments.
SUCCEEDING WHEN THINGS GET HARD (also known as: HOW TO NOT QUIT WHEN YOU FEEL LIKE QUITTING):
WRITE DOWN YOUR GOAL AND KNOW WHY YOU’RE DOING WHAT YOU’RE DOING. The power of writing down your goal and defining why it’s important to you is crucial to keeping your focus. There is a power in the act of writing, the goal becomes real, it’s out there and now you’ve created a sense of accountability. As an athlete I did this, I defined my race season and my target races, this was my roadmap that dictated daily training and motivated me to get out there when I didn’t feel inspired at the moment.
I use this in the professional work realm as well, I define my goals and they help keep my mind focused during the ups and downs. Writing goals down is an amazingly powerful tool for attaining WHATEVER major goals you want to accomplish.
SHOW UP. When you’re discouraged and feel like quitting, one sure fire way to accomplish that creeping initiative (quitting) is to not show up. This is when it’s CRITICAL to literally just show up! There were mornings when I was in field training as a new officer, I had some incredibly rough and discouraging days, and days where I was massively sleep deprived. My confidence was anything but strong, I honestly did not KNOW at that time if I was even going to make it through the process. And I just started each shift by showing up, no matter how discouraged I felt at that moment. Simple as that. And six months of showing up later, what do you know, I passed field training.
DON’T TRY TO HIDE YOUR WEAKNESSES. When you’re doing something that challenges you and is new to you, you will not immediately be great at it. That’s why it’s called a “challenge.”
Tackle your weaknesses, work on them relentlessly and bring them out in the open. By making weaknesses known and facing them, you not only have an easier time overcoming them, but you will generally gain the support of those around you. People KNOW what you’re weak in; it shows great strength to face those weaknesses.
DON’T TRY TO ANTICIPATE YOUR FAILURE POINT. When you’re committed to accomplishing a difficult task, things will get rough, pressure goes up, setbacks happen, and it is SO tempting to tell yourself when things are going to shit, “This is it. This is a sign that I’m not meant for this! I need to just quit because it’s obviously not working out.” FOR GOD’S SAKE DON’T DO THIS!!! Instead, let the failure point be decided by the process itself. Let OTHERS decide when or if you’ve failed. You’ll be amazed at what you can make it through, how much discomfort you can stumble through and STILL MAKE IT OUT SUCCESSFULLY AT THE END. True failure is rare indeed and most people give up far before that point.
Now, go out there and accomplish stuff!
Stage Racing Basics-
Using Tour de Bloom in Wenatchee, WA as our example.
This post is organized as -
WHAT TO EXPECT
PRO TIPS DURING
STAGE RACE SPECIFIC PRE-RACE TRAINING:
WHAT TO EXPECT:
Format is multi-day, usually it's going to be either a Friday or a Thursday through a Sunday.
National level races often stretch from a Tuesday or Wednesday through Sunday.
*BLOOM will be Friday through Sunday.*
FOR Tour de Bloom : you'll have four stages, consisting of a ROAD RACE on Friday, a TIME TRIAL and CRITERIUM on Saturday, and then Sunday is another ROAD RACE. There is ONE winner at the end of the weekend, and it's determined by the total time to complete
the combined events - whoever finishes the fastest overall, wins. Riders can also choose to focus on individual stage wins versus going for the overall win.
The first road race for Tour de Bloom is a shorter one to get things started, it'll establish a basic order. Road races are mass start according to the rider category.
There is either one big loop or a shorter circuit to be completed multiple times according to category distance - Bloom’s Friday race will be a 29 mile circuit to be completed between 1 and 3 times depending on category.
The time trial for those who have never done one is an individual start event: it's each racer against the clock on a several mile stretch of road - The course is a relatively flat and non-technical out and back. It's VERY HELPFUL to do several practice time trials that mimic the approximate distance of the event as it's tricky to figure out what your maximum sustainable pace is for time trialing - this is a practice, practice, practice skill set.
Not practicing your race-pace threshold effort may likely mean you go too hard (which means you "implode" somewhere mid-ride) or you ride too easy and at the end of the event finish feeling like you could have actually pushed harder.
Time trials have specific rules of conduct which often include rules for passing people, NO draft rules in effect, centerline rules, and special race number placement on your jersey (this may or may not apply, the other rules are nearly universal for time trials on open roads).
After the Time Trial is the criterium. Criteriums are small circuits set in downtown areas, usually about a city block or so in size. They are timed and mass start according to the rider category.
Bonus laps called “primes” usually help make the criteriums highly competitive and fast! Prime laps are announced in some form via loudspeaker or bell, and consist of money, gear prizes or other awards like time bonuses.
The final lap of a criterium is marked by a bell or loudspeaker announcement.
If a mishap like a flat tire happens during a criterium, there is a mechanical station called a "Pit" where you will be able to go mid-race to receive mechanical help (A wheel swap is most common). You will then be instructed to re-enter the race at a certain time and you will be able
finish with the other riders as long as the mishap happens within a certain number of laps to go. It is important that you move quickly to the pit if a mechanical does happen, so make sure you're familiar with where this is.
If you crash, it's the same premise, you will go to a location the organizers should make known at the beginning of the race and they will tell you when you can re-enter.
The final stage for Bloom on Sunday is another road race.
PRO TIPS DURING:
Personal organization and orientation is important for these events: read the technical guide closely, but DON'T hesitate to ask other racers questions and to have them check you over for proper bike number placement on your jersey and bike.
Get to the event early (yes you, earlier than you think you need to) if possible to become familiar with the start of the first event.
If you have time, previewing technical parts (climbs, tricky descents) of the road races or time trial is a good idea. You can do this from a car to save time and energy. This is not necessary but it can be really helpful, especially if you struggle with pre-race anxiety.
*On the same note, you should consider it a necessary for safety’s sake to preview a criterium course before racing - racers usually do this by arriving a race or two before their
event and jumping in to ride a lap between events when they open the course briefly to riders.
You want to keep an eye out for trouble areas like manhole covers, big cracks and other general safety hazards. It's also useful for getting the hang of certain corners in the race.
For stage racing: You need to focus on eating and drinking and resting between stages!!! EAT ... EAT ... EAT. You often won't feel super hungry when you're in the middle of a really demanding event like a stage race and you can't rely on traditional hunger cues - regularly fueling your body and re-hydrating. Put reminders in your phone if you need to and always have extra snacks on hand.
It can also be tempting to be social during a stage race: it's GREAT to hang out with friends, but keep in mind that you need to recover too - try to stay off of your feet between races as much as possible.
Warm up: Generally the longer events (road races) you don't need to warm up as much - that being said, some road races start with a hill very early on and you should be more warmed up for road races with immediate elevation gain. The shorter events like a time trial and criterium need a proper warm up - your body physically needs to raise it's temperature with "work" (a warm up) to produce power as efficiently as possible. A warm up should not take more than
about 30-45 minutes and should be completed no more than 15 or so minutes before the start of the event (you don't want to cool down again before your event).
*The exception to a 30 minute or so warm up is if it is very hot outside, shorten the warm up or take safety precautions so that you do not risk overheating.
Pack a LOT of gear! Do you want to wash your kit mid-race in the sink in your hotel room? (Totally acceptable for stage racing…!) OR, do you have additional changes of kit to bring along.
Take kit for EVERY type of weather, ESPECIALLY for early season races in spring weather! It may look nice and sunny in the weather app for your race weekend but DON’T rely on that information.
DO NOT rely on local bike shops or stores to supply your race nutrition. Have that sorted before you head out, methodically go through every day and plot out your pre, during, and post race nutrition and recovery. This is VERY IMPORTANT! Race nutrition should be dialed in before the event.
Pack sleeping gear… ear plugs and face mask if necessary to try and guard your sleep. You may be sharing a hotel room etc and nothing is worse than having a preventably botched night of sleep in the middle of a stage race.
Bottles! Take bottles that are NOT your $25 special-to-you bottles. The road race stages usually have at least one neutral support section where you drop your empty bottle and collect a full bottle… take advantage of this! Stay hydrated during your race! But also… say goodbye to the bottles you brought with you! You’ll almost 100% end up with a mix of new bottles at the end of a stage race weekend.
STAGE RACE SPECIFIC PRE-RACE TRAINING:
As I already mentioned - get in some threshold-specific workouts to get yourself used to time trial efforts. If possible research the distance of the event and replicate that effort at home.
As far as overall stage race prep: Try to get in several weeks of training where you include multiple harder days in a row. You need to feel what training through fatigue feels like as well as get your body used to that. If you don't have a coach, make sure you then schedule proper recovery time after a focused block of several days of harder training.
THIS IS A LOT OF INFORMATION, and stage racing can be daunting! But we all go through this first-time experience! You’ll have LOTS of fellow racers surrounding you who’d LOVE to help out with any questions. And, mistakes happen and it’s part of learning: Big breath! AND HAVE FUN! That is definitely number 1. Stage races are HARD, but they are absolutely a blast as well. You’ll bond with people and share an incredible journey of a race.
Email me with any questions you have, I’d be happy to answer them.