Anyone who has trained in any sport for long enough has probably experienced rat in the cage syndrome; just going out and riding/training/sportsting because you feel you have to, rather than you want to. It’s the sport equivalent of eating weet-bix with organic soy milk for everyday of your life; yes it’s probably good for you but goddamn it there’s no joy there.
Usually when I start to feel this way it’s because I am out of balance. Not in a chiropractic/reiki/chakra alternative-medicine kind of way, just in a fun:work ratio kind of way. It doesn’t even necessarily mean I am doing extra shifts or anything like that, it can just mean that work itself is so busy I can’t catch a breath, I have gotten up to ride at 0400 a few too many times in a week, or the housework has gotten on top of me. Riding is an ‘out’ but when you take your stress from your life on the road or trails then it can cease to be.
I find that my legs get heavy, I am super grumpy and my motivation gets low. Then I get sick, every time. I am sure other people can relate.
Two things I find that really helps is to change it up a bit, and to ride with some awesome people.
For example, I was accosted by a local roadie chick who is as gung-ho about developing women’s racing on the road as I am about the mountain bike, and somehow coerced to do some fun women’s road events at a local and state level. One thing lead to another and suddenly we have ‘fat arse Wednesday’ (ok, I named it…) sprint sessions with a group of cool groovers. Having not raced heaps of road, and never having tried to improve my particularly unimpressive sprint, this was totally new. And awesome! Wednesday is one of my favs. Sure, we average about 17km/hr but the skills and techniques with cool people make it a very worthwhile session.
Riding with awesome people always helps; as I have said you can work the shittiest job in the world and be with good people and have a blast, and alternatively work the best job ever, work with dickheads and have a shit time. Bikes are the same, a good crew are worth their weight in gold. I have been super lucky to have some awesome training and riding buddies on the mountain bike, meaning that the 4hr rides seem like 2hrs (ok ok, before my 3-week hiatus getting sick!). Good people to have are good conversationalists, great to have a coffee with, and not dickheads.
What doesn’t help me? Self-flagellation on the wind trainer, long days solo with crappy legs and continuing to get up at 0400 when I am flat out whacked. The hole I can dig is deep and difficult to climb out from. So if you’re feeling like the cardboard-like consistency of soggy weet-bix is a parallel to your riding and life, maybe try new things and hug good people, after all isn’t fun the reason we ride our bikes anyway?
I leave you with a music clip from one of my favourite bands (showing my age…)