How many times have you looked outside and talked yourself out of going on a ride? Crummy weather, long work days, or even just laziness can drive many of us to see the couch and Netflix as a better option than getting out on the bike (especially after a long holiday season of traveling and hanging out with family). This time of year is the worst for me personally. Short, cold, and damp days make getting the bike out seem like a major chore. I have lights. I have plenty of cold weather gear. I even have a hardtail that I don’t mind putting up dirty! So what is it that makes us as mountain bikers lose our motivation to get out on the trails?
Athletes in all sports at some point experience burnout. Most of us won’t admit it, but we just don’t always feel like riding our bikes. And that’s ok!! There is nothing wrong with being tired of gearing up and heading to the trails. Don’t beat yourself up about not getting in the same mileage that you do during the warmer months. It’s good to rest! Your body needs some down time to really recover. Now is the time to allow all those little nagging aches and pains that you shrugged off all season to heal. I personally don’t ever put the bike away fully, but if you need to just take a full month or more off the bike then do it! Just make sure that you are doing something to maintain your fitness. You don’t want to lose everything you’ve worked towards!
So what do you do all winter?
This is a fantastic time to take a look at what you want to improve with your riding (or fitness in general) and make a plan! If you want to work on your technical riding, then take some time to research skills clinics and instructors. Then go ahead and book it! Maybe you have toyed with the idea of hiring a coach? Whatever you need to do, commit to bettering yourself! Don’t find yourself finishing up another riding year looking back wishing you had done more to improve. I am trying to work on my strength and flexibility this winter to help me to ride stronger and with fewer injuries next year. I have been a little one minded about mountain biking for a while and my body is starting to give me some not so subtle hints that it is time to work on a few things in order to keep pushing my riding forward!
The words many mountain bikers dread, Cross Training. I’ve realized cross training matters more and more as I’ve gotten older. Now I know there are some people who only ride bikes and just crush it without ever having to think about heading to a gym or lacing up some running shoes. Most of us aren’t these people. Stretching, running, yoga, lifting weights, skiing, hiking, and even just doing a few pushups and sit-ups are just a few of the ways to improve your overall fitness and consequently your mountain biking. My wife, Jenna, (who is a lot more dedicated than I am) worked out last winter using Insanity DVDs. She came into the spring riding stronger than ever. A few hours a week of cross training can make a HUGE difference.
Learn to work on your bike. Go spend some time in the garage with your bike and some Youtube videos. Derailleurs a mystery that you just can’t figure out? Take some time and learn how they work. Tired of paying someone to do a basic service on your fork? Buy some oil and see how easy it can be! Be smart, take your time, and ask questions! Next summer your riding buddies will be super impressed when you’re able to change a snapped derailleur cable or fix a broken chain trailside without a fuss!
And lastly, the best possible thing you can do when you are trying to talk yourself out of going on a ride: GO ON A RIDE! Rarely have I ever regretted getting out on the bike once I’m clipped in and rolling along. This is where you just have to overcome your number one enemy, yourself! If it’s cold you’ll warm up. If it’s raining you’ll get wet and it’ll be ok. If it’s dark then you get to use your cool lights and experience the trails in a totally different way. Don’t force yourself to ride for three hours. Don’t pressure yourself to set PRs. Just have fun. Often times just getting out and pedaling for 45 minutes is all you need. You’ll feel like a badass and your mind will be happy that you got some miles in.
Basically use the winter to your advantage. Don’t beat yourself up about not getting a ton of miles in. Find fun ways to build fitness. Identify areas where you can be better. Get stronger. Improve your flexibility. Eat healthy. Plan riding trips! If you are intentional and put in the work to improve yourself then you’ll come into spring stronger than ever.