Struggling with winter training motivation? Read on to see the ways in which I deal with a lack of motivation!
Last week, I put up a question box on my Instagram (@imogencotter) asking if you guys had any questions about Winter training! I was expecting to get a lot of questions on strength training, what type of endurance training people should be doing etc. While I did get those questions (and have a blog coming on it in the next few days!), the main theme of the questions I got was surrounding motivation, and how to get out on the bike on those dark and gloomy winter days and evenings.
There have 100% been A LOT of times in the past where I have just wanted to stay on the sofa, eating chocolate and watching Netflix.
I decided to put together a blog post on some of the tips and tricks that I do to deal with lack of motivation, and especially over winter. I think a lot of people think that because I cycle at an elite level, I never lack motivation – which couldn’t be further from the truth! I am lucky to be in a routine at the moment where I’m thoroughly enjoying training but there have 100% been A LOT of times in the past where I have just wanted to stay on the sofa, eating chocolate and watching Netflix.
So, what do I do to pick myself out of that rut and get back on track? How do I entice myself to get out on the bike if it’s raining? Read on…
When it comes to dealing with bad weather, I think as athletes we can be pretty harsh on ourselves! There’s that famous Velominati Rule #5 which tells us to ‘harden the fuck up’ when it’s raining outside. That’s a bit extreme! I try and take everything into account. How bad is the weather? If it’s pouring rain, you’re going to get more benefit from training indoors – and it’s going to be safer. If it’s just drizzling and a bit cold, then just layer up! What kind of session do I have to do? If it’s a short recovery ride at a low heart rate, I might hop on the turbo instead of risking getting sick by being outdoors when it’s cold and wet.
You always feel hardcore when you’re out and everyone else is at home on the turbo.
It always feels worse when you’re looking out at it, but once you’re on the bike it’s pretty enjoyable, plus you always feel hardcore when you’re out and everyone else is at home on the turbo – bragging rights! A phrase I have heard people using here is ‘you’re not a sugar cube’; a little bit of rain won’t melt you away!
Back in October, I hit a wall in terms of motivation. 2020 has been tough for everyone, and as an athlete, I had a real struggle with constantly trying to stay race-ready when everything was being cancelled. I knew I needed to switch something and so I decided to meet with a sports psychologist who I have chatted with in the past, the brilliant Anne-Marie Kennedy. Via Zoom, Anne-Marie helped me to switch my way of thinking around. She encouraged me to focus on my process goals, and that helped immensely! Try and get specific with your goals – instead of telling yourself that you need to get outdoors because you’re doing a sportive next July, re-frame it. Try and set a goal of ‘I will get on my bike 3 days this week and start being consistent with that’. Having a weekly goal will keep you more motivated than a far-off event.
One of the questions I got was ‘Are you ever mentally prepared for a session but your legs just don’t show up?’. Ummm YES. Literally at least one of my interval sessions each month consists of me being ready to smash it and then having to adjust my expectations after a rep or two. That is life! I think the thing that makes you a good athlete is dealing with these things on the spot and rationalising it. I never go home after one bad interval session or one bad race and let it get me down.
You cannot always expect your body to be ready to do what you want it to do.
You cannot always expect your body to be ready to do what you want it to do and you can’t beat yourself up about it. As a runner, I never grasped this and would train through injuries and illnesses because I couldn’t miss a session. I remember reading Sonia O’ Sullivan’s autobiography and seeing that the week before one of her best performances she skipped a session because she didn’t feel good and I thought ‘Wow, I would never do that’ – which is silly. You don’t need to be a martyr. Listen to your body and you’ll get the best out of it.
You need to make your time work for YOU.
For the 99% of cyclists who aren’t professional, winter is a tough time to be a cyclist. During the week, it’s already dark when you get home from work, and the weather is usually shite on the weekends. You need to make your time work for YOU. Motivating yourself to get out in the cold, wet, dark nights of November/December/January probably isn’t the most beneficial or safe thing to do. With most of the athletes I coach, I give a max 1.5 hour turbo session on weekdays, and let them get theirbase miles in on the weekend mornings. You can get plenty of benefit from turbo sessions on winter nights that won’t leave you lagging behind when it comes to race season, if you use the time to work on weaknesses.
When I was a runner, one thing I used to do when I was lacking motivation was the following: I would get ready to go and do a run, but I’d tell myself that I was only going to go for 20 minutes. By the time I got to 20 minutes, I’d usually want to keep going! But if I didn’t, at least I had 20 minutes done. Do the same with your turbo training – tell yourself you’ll just get on and do a 20 minute spin. Usually the hardest part is getting dressed and getting on the turbo, especially if it’s a long spin ahead of you. This trick can help.
If I am having a really crap day on the bike and just want to head home, I tell myself how good I’ll feel when it’s done. I put on a good podcast, I try to enjoy the views, and I tell myself that when I get home, I’ll treat myself. That might be a stop to the nearby bakery and a big pot of tea when I get home, or a long bath to fully defrost. It might be different for you, so try to find your own way of spoiling yourself. I enjoy these little parts of my day so much more when I feel that I have earned them in a way.
I hope these little motivation tricks help you! Let me know if you use any to get through your winter training sessions.