For reasons that are many and varied – but are mainly Christmas, work commitments, family commitments, and Christmas (because it seemed to be endless this year) I have not been able to ride my bike at all during the last month.
Usually I’m out on the trails three times a week but by the first week of January I was beginning to wonder if I’d ever find the motivation to get back on a bike again. It was cold. I couldn’t find my kit in the pile of family washing. My headset needed greasing. And I had a pile of lovely new books – Christmas presents – which I could read in the warm instead.
And, having consumed my body weight in Nigella Lawson Christmas cake, I began to fear that I had lost my fitness somewhere down the back of the sofa. So when my friends suggested a group ride I made excuses in case I couldn’t keep up. It was a slippery slope, indeed.
Clearly it was time to get back into my routine, and quickly. So, as the Christmas decorations went back into the attic, I gave myself no option but to go for a ride, even if I only managed fifteen minutes.
We all know how this story turns out – because this is mountain biking, it’s wonderful and it always wins, right? Two hours later I rolled home, awash with happy hormones having had a fantastic ride AND (despite my lack of faith in my fitness) having conquered a short but very steep and rooty climb that I had never managed before (powered by Christmas cake, I swear).
So I’m back! If you’re in a similar boat and struggling to get out to ride this January, then this little list of motivators may just help put your butt back in the saddle.
- Be realistic
It’s super tempting to think ‘from now on I’m going to ride every day!’ but that’s just a pipe dream for most of us, especially as this time of year. Being realistic about how much riding you can do will give you the best chance of succeeding. If once a week is more achievable then work towards that instead, then savour the satisfaction of meeting your goal.
- Share your intentions
The night before I returned to riding I published a post on Instagram in which I said I would be riding the next day. Once I had made others aware of my intentions then there was no going back, simply because I didn’t want to lose face. I posted again after the ride to confirm I had done it – and enjoyed all the ‘likes’ that went with it (@adele_writer if you want proof!).
- Enter an event
Enter a mountain bike event and your rides will have a purpose as you work towards getting fit and fast ahead of it. Better still, enter two (or more!) events: short term, ‘easier’ events can act as stepping stones to something much bigger later in the year that will really test you, and that you can work towards in the long term.
- Make it fun
If you feel daunted by the process of getting fit then switch your focus to building skills instead. Not only will you become a better ride as a result but repeatedly sessioning a tricky descent, testing singletrack or challenging climb will rapidly improve your fitness too (without you even thinking about it!).
- Focus on the fringe benefits
There is so much more to mountain biking than riding a bike: from friendships and benefits to your mental health to planning your dream bike build and sharing your ride on social media, there is so much joy to be had so its important to remind yourself of that.
And finally, think how happy you will be to have all those fitness miles in the ‘mountain biking bank’ in summer when the trails are perfect, the skies are big and all you want to do is get out there and ride as far and for as long as you can.
Here’s to a great year of riding!