If you ride consistently, chances are, eventually you will suffer some kind of setback. Maybe an injury forces you off the bike for an extended period, maybe outside life/family/work stress gets out of control and riding takes a backseat for a time. Whatever it is, you are forced off the bike, fitness has dwindled and now the thought of starting over is overwhelming. You worked so hard to build fitness previously and it feels insurmountable to get back there. How do you find the motivation to start where you are and get back to where you were – and beyond?
First and foremost, let go of previous measurements of success. Be where you are now. The goal is to get stronger and faster and to do that you need to be honest with yourself about where you are right now. Instead of stressing about where you were or where you want to get back to, focus your energy on how make progress.
Once you are being honest about your current fitness and have a desire to build on that, start with consistent training. I have a friend who would say, ‘just put on the chammy.’ That’s the main thing, put the chammy on and get out the door. Worry about the rest after that.
If you have not been riding at all or only sporadically, start with two to three days per week. Try to work up to four days of riding per week. That might be all your schedule allows. That’s fine, four days is enough to build fitness. If you have been riding a little more than sporadically, increase to five or six days of regular riding.
The main tenet here is to ramp slowly and not increase your days, volume, or intensity too quickly. Ramping up too quickly will lead to burnout or injury. If you are not sure how to approach that, a coach can help. If you are short on training time, a coach will also help you make the most efficient use of that time. (See my article on the efficacy of interval training on page 16 in the May issue of Cycling West and here too: https://www.cyclingwest.com/fitness/coaching/six-tips-to-get-started-with-intervals/ ).
If you are training with a power meter, this means no training with a vanity FTP (functional threshold power) or using a previous FTP for your training zones. Do a power test and be honest with the results. If you find accountability difficult in testing yourself, find a coach who can administer a test.
As you start to get back into regular training, remember to celebrate the victories as they come. Maybe you take your second power test and the number has gone up. Celebrate! Maybe the number still isn’t where you want it to be or where it was previously. You put in work and saw improvement, enjoy the moment! Maybe you were only riding once every week or two but you strung a few weeks together with four days of riding. Again, celebrate! Don’t dwell on the disappoints. Cycling training is hard work! So enjoy the successes.
Celebrating the victories along the way will help you shift your focus from the outcome to the process. Try to see the goal not just as an end to reach but the whole journey as part of the goal. We hear it so much it is a cliche, but ‘be present.’ Be in the moment and enjoy the work you put in toward the goal. Let go of the anxiety around where you currently are or are not. View your goals with excitement so you can soak in and enjoy the process of getting there. If you put in smart, consistent work, and make the process effective, the goals will come.
Sarah Kaufmann is the owner of K Cycling Coaching. She is an elite level XC and CX racer based in Salt Lake City, Utah. She can be reached at [email protected] or 413.522.3180.