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The mental side of cycling (how do you push yourself?)

chrisw28chrisw28 Posts: 187
edited September 2009 in Training, fitness and health
I've never been a very confident person, or had much faith in my own abilities, so when it comes to cycling I find I'm always thinking negative thoughts. Things like "my legs are feeling bad today", "I'll never be able to keep up this effort", "I won't be able to hang with these guys", "the weather is censored " etc etc are all I think about.

It's getting to the point where I'm dreading every training session with myself and others because it's causing me more stress than if I were to just sit at home! If I were to ride with a group of people faster than me, I'd be thinking only about when I can drop off the back, rather than how I can test myself. I know it's bad, and I'm trying to find ways to think of training in a more appealing way. Putting yourself in pain isn't fun (be honest!), so how do you cope with it?

I find trying to motivate myself to keep up a hard, hour-long ride, very difficult, I simply give up somewhere in the middle. Do you guys have any hints or tips to make the rigours of training seem more pleasant or worthwhile? Any ways of thinking about what you're actually doing to make it seem less censored when you're out there, breathing hard with sore legs? What sort of things work best for you?

Maybe this is just a late-night rant, no doubt in the morning I will regret posting this, but any input is appreciated :D
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  • teulkteulk Posts: 557
    Why dont you just go out and ride, ride fast if you feel the urge or just go out and ride at a comfortable speed that is neither too easy or too hard but fast enough to feel like your actually acheiving something. Im no sped freak and i ride my mountain bike on and off road, i try to enjoy my rides, after all who gets enjoyment of an hour of head down censored up and going like the clappers. The speed will come eventually, you may never be as fast as everyone else but does it really matter ? Enjoyment has to be the most important factor.
    Boardman Team 09 HT
    Orbea Aqua TTG CT 2010
    Specialized Secteur Elite 2011
  • Try to focus on something other than the pain or your negative thoughts. Some things that I like to concentrate on are my cadence, my breathing, or thinking about race tactics and how to put myself in position to win. This is not saying that you shouldn't concentrate on the road (not doing so could be dangerous), but focusing on something other than how your body feels seems to ease the pain.
  • brownboshbrownbosh Posts: 602
    Riding in agony IS fun. If you don't enjoy it give up and do something you do enjoy. You don't want it enough if you are not prepared to suffer,
  • If I'm riding on my own for an hour's hard ride, I try to focus on things other than how bad my legs/lungs feel such as speed, heart rate, cadence, gearing etc. I also break the ride into smaller sections (that straight, this climb, this descent etc). Before I set off, I'll know the time/ave sp it took last time to do exactly same route and my best time. I use this as an incentive to match or beat (allowing for weather conditions).

    With Club training sessions I'm always thinking ,"Can I be first up there, tonight?" or, "I'm going to hang onto his wheel until..."

    I find riding with others easier to motivate myself because I don't want to be dropped and group riding means your have to concentrate on positioning, through and offing etc so the pain aspect gets pushed further back in my mind.

    On the other hand, if I go out feeling tired and lack lustre I don't try and kill myself but have an easy ride instead.
  • brownbosh wrote:
    Riding in agony IS fun. If you don't enjoy it give up and do something you do enjoy. You don't want it enough if you are not prepared to suffer,

    What a load of censored . :roll:
  • fuzzynavelfuzzynavel Posts: 718
    brownbosh wrote:
    Riding in agony IS fun. If you don't enjoy it give up and do something you do enjoy. You don't want it enough if you are not prepared to suffer,

    I guess there are masochists in all walks of life....but I think he speaks some sense...you are never going to get any better unless you push yourself. Mild discomfort is what you should be feeling...raw pain is a step too far unless you are in an olympic final and it is all or nothing..
    Feeling the muscle burn is part of the fun for me....maybe fun is the wrong word but I get some satisfaction from knowing that I am working hard and even more satisfaction if I beat my PB for the route at the same time.

    I can appreciate the riding in a group thing....I can put in so much more effort when I am chasing someone elses wheel....I don't have the willpower to keep pushing on my own and let myself slow down when I get past a certain pain point.
    17 Stone down to 12.5 now raring to get back on the bike!
  • zammmmozammmmo Posts: 315
    Some thoughts I had when reading your post:

    1. Use music for motivation and it helps keeps spirits up if you find yourself flagging on long 'fitness maintenance' or aerobic conditioning type rides.

    2. Play mental games. I regularly think things like 'just 100 more pedal strokes at this intensity going up this hill'. Break efforts down into chunks.

    3. Start following the pro scene - and imagine (just in your head!) you are one when out on a ride. If you think you look good you will ride better.

    4. To a certain extent, if you are really into cycling, you must be somewhat addicted to the pain and effort. I get restless if I go more than 2 or 3 days without exercise. Embrace and accept it.

    5. Remember that we all worry about not getting dropped and sometimes I think this can lead to hightened awareness and ultimately a BETTER performance.

    6. I think pushing yourself from a purely physical point of view can mean a) recognising your weaknesses (situations that lead to negative thoughts) and working specifically one them and b) knowing your strengths e.g. if I know a hill I can more than happy to go at my own speed knowing that someone might pull away from me but I know I can raise the pace significantly to close that gap towards the top because experience has taught me that I have good anaerobic ability.

    7. Sometimes we think too much. Energy is wasted worrying. Live in the moment.
  • liversedgeliversedge Posts: 1,002
    Riding on the limit, gasping for breath, lactate aching in your quads and going faster than everyone else or you've ever gone before IS brilliant fun.

    Noodling around, smelling the flowers and chatting with mates IS brilliant fun.

    Choose you poison - its not a punishment its a reward.
    --
    Obsessed is just a word elephants use to describe the dedicated. http://markliversedge.blogspot.com
  • AnonymousAnonymous Posts: 79,667
    Regarding pushing myself or maintaining a training level -

    I got myself a power meter just before christmas. Oh my word. Improvements were unbelievable! I improved my power output by 1 watt per kilo in 3 months, the difference in my riding was amazing. This was due to the fact that the numbers were always relevant, they were a target for me and the incredibly structured training was very easy to follow.

    However, there were also times when I just went out and rode my bike, for nothing more than pleasure / looking at scenery / social reasons. These were equally important to me. I didn't take a computer on these rides at all...
  • liversedgeliversedge Posts: 1,002
    NapoleonD wrote:
    I didn't take a computer on these rides at all...
    :shock: :shock: :shock: struggles. for. breath. does. not. compute. crash.
    :lol:
    --
    Obsessed is just a word elephants use to describe the dedicated. http://markliversedge.blogspot.com
  • AnonymousAnonymous Posts: 79,667
    It does feel odd at first!
  • markos1963markos1963 Posts: 3,724
    You've got to ride for yourself. If that means you want to achieve something then thats fine, but cycling is a broad church, there's touring, audax, racing, MTB or just going to a country pub, choose your nirvana. Its only when you are doing something that you want that you can motivate yourself by setting a goal(however modest that may be)

    I have set some goals for this year: 5x century rides, sub 26 min 10TT, hang in with the fast group on the club ride, try some low level racing. Now that I have set the goals I have looked at training plans to achieve then and I am trying to follow them. I don't always achieve what I set out to do but the important thing is I don't beat myself up over the failures, just accept and move on.

    I have to say its only recently on a fast club ride that I fully realised that riding to the point of total exhaustion CAN be motivating(its never fun) You get a sense of self achievment that you have come through and out the other side. It put into perspective previous rides where I now realise I was just tired and not exhausted.
  • fuzzynavelfuzzynavel Posts: 718
    markos1963 wrote:
    . I don't always achieve what I set out to do but the important thing is I don't beat myself up over the failures, just accept and move on.

    Why just accept and move on?? Why not set a new goal to get closer to, or surpass the previous target that you didn't get?
    If it is too unattainable to bother setting a new target then it was obviously unrealistic to start with. No point in having unrealistic targets as that will just de-motivate you when you fail to reach them!
    17 Stone down to 12.5 now raring to get back on the bike!
  • markos1963markos1963 Posts: 3,724
    fuzzynavel wrote:
    markos1963 wrote:
    . I don't always achieve what I set out to do but the important thing is I don't beat myself up over the failures, just accept and move on.

    Why just accept and move on?? Why not set a new goal to get closer to, or surpass the previous target that you didn't get?
    If it is too unattainable to bother setting a new target then it was obviously unrealistic to start with. No point in having unrealistic targets as that will just de-motivate you when you fail to reach them!

    Agree, but you must'nt set too easier a goal otherwise who are you kidding.
  • Late nght rants can often speak the whole truth.Sounds like your gone stale
    You seem to have forotten the most important thing.
    Why do you ride the bike.
    You must have had confidence in your ability to do it in the first place so go back and find your initial reasoning for starting out.If you have a mtb maybe a few rides just in a differet enviorment ,testing yourself in a different skill zone will relight the road spark.
    Go neiri on bothar leat.
  • voxegamvoxegam Posts: 244
    chrisw28 wrote:
    "I'll never be able to keep up this effort", "I won't be able to hang with these guys"

    If you want me to slow down when we're out Chris...you just gotta ask :lol:
    Trek Madone 6.5 Pro
    Planet-X (now winter-bike)
  • a_n_ta_n_t Posts: 2,011
    markos1963 wrote:
    sub 26 min 10TT,


    thats one of mine too! Did 27.34 for the first one [in the wet] so should get there.
    Manchester wheelers

    PB's
    10m 20:21 2014
    25m 53:18 20:13
    50m 1:57:12 2013
    100m Yeah right.
  • BhimaBhima Posts: 2,145
    Go out by yourself and do some time-trialing. Do a specific route every so often and try to beat your best time. Seeing your times drop is probably the most motivational thing you can experience.

    I do a 5-mile stretch every now and again which, 6 months ago, I could only do in 22 minutes. Now I can do it in just over 14. It makes me want to go out and push harder every time, so that I can get better and shave even more seconds off.

    Also - try going out riding somewhere you've never been before - don't use a map, just go exploring and the fun of seeing new places (especially in rural areas) can take your mind off how hard you're pushing things... The same old routes get boring after a bit.
  • markos1963markos1963 Posts: 3,724
    Bhima wrote:
    Also - try going out riding somewhere you've never been before - don't use a map, just go exploring and the fun of seeing new places (especially in rural areas) can take your mind off how hard you're pushing things... The same old routes get boring after a bit.


    Definatly agree with that. I do that regulary and I was amazed at how little I knew my local area. Its great fun finding little hamlets and some very nice pubs :lol:
  • LittleB0bLittleB0b Posts: 416
    Firstly - I would do a double check on your diet and nutrition - just to make sure you are getting all the good stuff and giving your serotin ect all the help you can. There's a strong link between behaviour and food. For me lethargy is usually linked to my iron level dipping a bit

    Sometimes going out can be the hardest step - (I possibly sound that like that gym advert "the hardest thing about going to the gym is going to the gym") - If i'm in two minds I usually tell my self that i'll just go out for a bit, or if its climbing that i'll just go and do a few easy climbs and belay my mates. I'm clearly very gullible - cos once i'm out i just see how it goes and usually end up doing a full session.
  • chrisw28chrisw28 Posts: 187
    voxegam wrote:
    chrisw28 wrote:
    "I'll never be able to keep up this effort", "I won't be able to hang with these guys"

    If you want me to slow down when we're out Chris...you just gotta ask :lol:

    I KNEW you'd find this thread, damn you :lol:

    Thanks for the all the responses guys, I've had a little think about it and realised that I'm riding almost completely goaless at the moment.

    I'm gonna take a break from cycling for a month or two, get some other stuff out the way, and hopefully come back with some goals for myself, which will help me 'justify' the pain and training.

    Good stuff, thanks all. :)
  • Chaz.HardingChaz.Harding Posts: 3,144
    zammmmo wrote:
    3. Start following the pro scene - and imagine (just in your head!) you are one when out on a ride. If you think you look good you will ride better.

    .......

    7. Sometimes we think too much. Energy is wasted worrying. Live in the moment.

    Well said. Agree with both of these. If you try watching some main-stream races, or even just the highlights to be honest, it makes you want to get out and ride. Try and be like your favorite pro rider(s). Come on you lot, I KNOW everyone has a rider they aspire to ride like, and wish to do well.

    Also, if you loose sight of why you are out cycling, then stop. Dis-associate yourself completely with bikes and cycling as much as possible. A day, week, month... Heck, even several months off, and you'll see just HOW much you missed it all. I had to spend 8 months off when I was in Iraq. I missed it like mad. Made me realise just how much I LOVE to cycle, and how much it sets me free. Just me and the road, pushing up that hill, just a little, bit, further... Or trying to catch the granny 300m ahead before she passes the next lampost, or trying (often in vain) to catch up with the car infront (obviously in 30 zones :wink: )

    Hope this helps you a bit dude! 8)
    Boo-yah mofo
    Sick to the power of rad
    Fix it 'till it's broke
  • jimmypippajimmypippa Posts: 1,712
    markos1963 wrote:
    Bhima wrote:
    Also - try going out riding somewhere you've never been before - don't use a map, just go exploring and the fun of seeing new places (especially in rural areas) can take your mind off how hard you're pushing things... The same old routes get boring after a bit.


    Definatly agree with that. I do that regulary and I was amazed at how little I knew my local area. Its great fun finding little hamlets and some very nice pubs :lol:

    Yes, a six mile radius from your house is 113 square miles... Probably lots to find within a short cycling distance. I only know my Dad's area well because of cycling (not driving) round it as a teenager, as smaller roads are more fun in a bike

    ....(IMHO)
  • Homer JHomer J Posts: 920
    I get someone else to motivate me, usually my mate texting "you up for a ride you lazy git!"
    itworks :shock:
  • Frank the tankFrank the tank Posts: 6,553
    markos1963 wrote:
    You've got to ride for yourself. If that means you want to achieve something then thats fine, but cycling is a broad church, there's touring, audax, racing, MTB or just going to a country pub, choose your nirvana. Its only when you are doing something that you want that you can motivate yourself by setting a goal(however modest that may be)

    I have set some goals for this year: 5x century rides, sub 26 min 10TT, hang in with the fast group on the club ride, try some low level racing. Now that I have set the goals I have looked at training plans to achieve then and I am trying to follow them. I don't always achieve what I set out to do but the important thing is I don't beat myself up over the failures, just accept and move on.

    I have to say its only recently on a fast club ride that I fully realised that riding to the point of total exhaustion CAN be motivating(its never fun) You get a sense of self achievment that you have come through and out the other side. It put into perspective previous rides where I now realise I was just tired and not exhausted.

    This man speaks sense!!!!!!!!!
    Tail end Charlie

    The above post may contain traces of sarcasm or/and bullsh*t.
  • guillianoguilliano Posts: 5,495
    The hardest thing about going out on the bike is actually getting out in the first place. I've set a goal to be able to ride to work in 40 mins (14 miles, undulating road). My first ride on the bike was that route, from work to home, and it took me 44 mins so I only have to improve 10% which is very attainable. I find myself looking out the window of cars or buses and thinking "this looks like such a nice riding road" so I'll just go and ride them at some point. Just explore roads off the route, see where I end up. When I'm out on my own and I feel I need a rest I allow it, but set a target first, such as the top of the next climb, or 5 more miles...... but when I reach the target I don't want to stop! If I feel really adventurous I'll just get the train to somewhere and plan to ride home, making my front door the goal. I always find that when I get home I'm disappointed that I'm not still riding, so the next time I go further away. I'm finding more and more that once I'm out, especially when I'm out alone, that riding a bike is its own motivational technique when taken at my own pace.
  • PokerfacePokerface Posts: 7,960
    I just look at the £xxxx worth of bike sat in the living room and feel guilty if I don't get on it and ride it!

    Some days I REALLY don't want to ride. On those days - I don't. Rest days are as important as training days.

    Most other days -I just get on the bike - and tell myself I'll take it easy - just get out and keep my legs moving. Once out there - I find adrenaline kicks in a bit and it gets a lot easier.

    As others say - I try and ride some regular routes and push myself to improve my times. I want to do some racing so keep that in mind (if I don't train - I will suffer badly later on).

    I look in the mirror (this is a big one for me). I lost 6 stone through cycling - and I remind myself how easily that weight will pile on again if I don't get out and exercise. If I want to eat a lot - I have to exercise a lot to make up for it!
  • ToksToks Posts: 1,143
    Hey all great responses guys. I'm not sure what else I can add. How about the following...

    1. Unless you've got that boundless I'm-so-glad-to-be-doing-this-energy' of a newbie or someone returning to cyling things are gonna get flat at times :cry:. This can and will include - racing for the sake of it or doing group or solo rides.

    2. As has been mentioned set yourself achievable goals
    - a sportive (just to finish or set time;
    - racing (finish, get in to breaks, win, move up a cat etc)
    - solo rides (complete 2,3,4,5 per week, do a set time, do 2 long ride + 2 short rides)
    - fast group rides (tell the guyswhat your plan it! - sit in with them till the dual carriage way, take turns for the first 30 mins, etc etc)
    TELL OTHER WHAT YOUR GOAL IS - THAT EXTRA PRESSURE MAY HELP OR NOT!

    3. Promise yourself little treats for everything you've managed to achieve (yes even if its weight loss) - favourite meal, new kit etc

    4. Try and fight Mr Noddy Negative he's stopping you from achieving things you can do(he show's up in your head when it rains, your slightly tired, you've been dropped etc)

    5. Big Yourself Up!!! ( I'm better thann so and so and given time application and training I'll continue to improve). Create a Mantra ("I'M SO STRONG" - REPEAT it to yourself WHEN YOUR STRUGGLING!)

    6. Get a coach, change your routine, try a short fast morning ride with perhaps and easy evening ride

    7 Go ride with a different set of people and on a different course

    8. Read motivational books, look at what others have done to do so well ( I often think of those amazing wheel chair athletes I saw at Richmond Park once powering along on a freezing cold winters day.

    9. Break things up so they're not so daunting (rather than a fast hour try a fast 20 mins take a five min break then go fast again for 20 mins. If you make it treat yourself - Malteasers or strawberry Milkshake does it for me.

    10. Be realistic and don't be afraid of not making those goals initially. Reassess and give it another go. If its important enough like I said perhaps you need a COACH!!!
  • I used to hate cycling up hills as I always got dropped and it always hurt. Then after several years of this hell I discovered the following:

    1. It doesn't matter how fit you get hills hurt the same, you just go faster
    2. It must be the same for everyone, so I'm going to bury myself and see if I can crack someone else for a change.

    Result: I love hills now.

    So a change in mental attitude might be all you need.......
  • When I told a friend of mine that I had similar issues to yours, he told me to train my mind, go out when it is tipping down and cold.... great advise? I consider I suffer from mild depression, so perhaps not!

    I eventually (most of the time) find that having a goal is useful, a sportive or TT perhaps. When I train on my turbo trainer, I sometimes mentally ride up the hill that is causing me issue, not stopping at the break point like I would on the road. Perhaps do the same, mentally seeing yourself keeping up with the pack. Of course there will be times where you drop of the back of a group, but may be there are others where you could pull away from them too, hills usually destroy the sprinters for instance! Also, I believe that if you are playing catch up you are getting a better workout too, you are not getting the wind relief for a start.

    If you keep going, things will get better. I only started earlier this year, I could barely manage 4 miles on the flat without needing a rest, I recently finished my first 50 mile sportive in under 3 hours, unthinkable a short few months back. My aim over the winter is to get my 16mph average up to 19mph, I know it won't be easy, there will be days like you I will look for any excuse to cut a ride short but ultimately I will crack it and so can you....
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