January is a popular time of year for giving things up – such as alcohol if you are following dry-January and indulgent food if you are on a weight-loss mission. It’s also a favourite time for self-improvement and committing to harsh new fitness regimes, but is now the right time? With short days and long, dark, cold nights, not to mention the doom-cycling of news channels, now isn’t the time to give up things that give us pleasure, let’s be a bit kinder to ourselves! Things are tough enough without inflicting more hardship on yourself!
That said, feeling fit and healthy is good for our mental state and can help with managing the difficult feelings arising from lockdown. You might not feel like going out some days but cycling can help with mental health problems and having a reason to get outside is increasingly important if you are working from home. Even in January, as long as you wear the right kit and dress for the weather, riding outside is a pleasure, giving a small taste of the freedom and travel many of us so desperately miss.
Here are some of the things we have been trying to boost our own motivation, find pleasure in the small things and keep our eyes focused on a happier and healthier 2021…
Set yourself a flexible short-term goal
Goal setting is tricky in times of uncertainty so make sure you pick something that you can control. A monthly distance or time goal that you can do inside or out allows plenty of flexibility and signing up to a challenge on Strava is a great way to keep track and make yourself feel accountable for sticking to it. As the month goes on you can see how far you still have left to cycle which will keep you on your toes!
If you normally pick getting fit for a sportive or a cycling holiday as your goal you can use Race at Your Pace to set yourself a challenge in a more flexible way. This allows you to cover your chosen distance anyhow and anywhere, instead of signing up to a physical event. They’ll even send you a medal when you complete it!
A bit cold for that in January you might be thinking, but a ‘streak’ in cycling and running parlance simply means the number of days (or weeks, months even years) you can cycle in a row. You don’t have to commit to times or distances, just promise to get on your bike for a ride every single day. Runner’s tend to set a one-mile minimum but you can choose your own rules. Get some inspiration from a 25-year cycling streaker or the most famous streaker of all time Ron Hill, with a 52-year running streak!
Exercise with a friend – just the one!
Under current regulations, you are allowed to exercise with one person who is not from your household. This is an absolute lifeline, especially for those who live alone, and a really important way to maintain social interaction. Riding with someone else is always a bit more motivating, not least because you have made a commitment to meet up, so you can’t just stay in bed if the weather looks bad! Once outside it is easier to laugh in the face of adversity, headwinds, rain and punctures if you aren’t doing it on your own.
With online platforms such as Zwift you can ride with friends from anywhere, at any time of day or night, making it much easier to fit around the demands of work, home-schooling and daylight hours. It takes a bit of commitment to set yourself up on Zwift – you need the right type of turbo trainer, a monitor to watch it on and a paid subscription but if indoor cycling meets gaming is your type of thing you are sure to find it addictive! You’ll find a warm welcoming cycling community that offers social interaction, you can chat your way around your ride just the way you would in the real world.
Ok – so your closest friend isn’t a cyclist? Well, if you want to spend time together in real life, now would be a great time to get them started! Getting a friend into cycling can be a great experience for both of you. If in the past they have seemed disinterested, with gyms shut, team sports cancelled and travelling on public transport undesirable you might now find them more receptive! There really has never been a better time to ride your bike.
Try something new
We are passionate about pedallin’ but even we know that other sports are available! If riding the same old roads and trails is getting you down we can guarantee that the passion will come back stronger if you give it a break for a while.
Running is less time consuming than cycling, even just 20-30 minutes is enough for a good work-out, and there is much less kit and bike washing to be done afterwards! The slower speed of running will make staying local feel less restrictive and you might discover new footpaths and tracks you haven’t used before. Running will give your heart, lungs and legs a good work out which will help maintain your cycling fitness for when you feel ready to get back on your bike.
Cyclists are notorious for ignoring their core strength but core stability is a really important component of staying comfortable on your bike and avoiding aches and pains. Sign up to a 30-day yoga challenge and find the benefits of breathing, stretching and strengthening in a low impact way, without even leaving the house. You might be surprised how much this seemingly unrelated exercise makes you a better cyclist.
Go deep, not far
Many of us travel to broaden our horizons but with current restrictions our range has shrunk to places local and close to home. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find new places and fresh things to see. Now might be a good time to explore and see what hidden gems there are in the space that surrounds you. The Ordnance Survey has some fantastic advice and route-finding tools to help you explore from your door.
Set a different type of goal
A goal doesn’t need to be about getting fitter or faster. Many of us ride our bikes for the pleasure of being outside and exploring so we can create goals that reflect that. How about challenging yourself to take a picture on every bike ride in 2021 to create a visual ride diary?
Using an online photo journal and following the #365photochallenge gives you a reason to get out on your bike as much as you can without fitness being the main objective.
Create your own motivational poster
If like us you wouldn’t give wall space to a cheesy motivational poster try using your own pictures and memories to make something meaningful to you. If you’ve got a favourite photo from your last Skedaddle holiday, tools such as Canva allow you to pick your own words, font and design to create something that will remind you of the good cycling times. They will be back again!
Dream now, travel later
We’re still planning, preparing and plotting our cycling holidays in anticipation of the moment we can get back to what we love doing best – helping you have a great time on your bike! There is nothing more enjoyable, or motivating, than booking and looking forward to a cycling holiday. It gives you a reason to stay focused on your fitness and you can warm yourself with thoughts of sunshine and adventure to come whilst battling the cold and wet weather of a UK winter.
Whether it’s the physical rush of high-mountain climbs, a long-distance challenge, or a place to place to journey in the UK, such as the C2C – having something to look forward to is a great way to lift your spirits and a reminder that there will be a return to normal, this isn’t forever. We’re all looking forward to pedallin’ with you soon!