Friday Group Ride #435

Friday Group Ride #435

This is not a post about New Year’s resolutions. I am over the idea that I can resolve to do something that I don’t actually want to do. Any “will power” that I can muster toward a task I’m not into is short-lived at best. Resolution is garbage. Motivation is everything. In many ways, I think resolution puts the cart before the horse. If you’re not motivated to do something, you won’t.

So where does motivation comes from? My wife and I, she teaches spin and group fitness, had a long, rambling talk about it the other day while strolling in the woods with the dog. Here are the basic ingredients we came up with, though not all of them are necessary all the time: 1) Accountability to someone other than yourself, like a training partner, group, or coach. 2) Faith that the outcome will be more positive than the pain of the action. 3) Positive reinforcement along the way, i.e. recognition from someone else and/or quantifiable date to suggest progress. 4) A lofty goal., and 5) Outside inspiration.

Taking these in order then, I can tell you that (1) I exercise most consistently at a bootcamp I’m part of in my neighborhood, where the social dynamic pulls me back twice a week, come rain or shine. I am not naturally an exerciser simply for the sake of fitness, but the group trumps the monotony of banging out push ups and doing sprints. It’s real. I don’t even ride as regularly and consistently as I show up for that group.

Getting out bed is the really the measure of my success, so (2) the realization that I always feel better after exercising than I do before is key to being able to continue getting out of bed. As the alarm sounds I do a panicked rationalization about whether I’m going out to ride/run/workout, and it (almost) always ends with me going, because of my faith in the positive outcome.

I have a joke with my friend Kimberly. When I see her, I say, “Pssst…hey…you’re doing really great,” and we laugh. But seriously, having a coach, partner, or mentor to appreciate your effort is highly motivating. Data can work in the same way, but personally, data doesn’t do much for me. I prefer the glowing praise of an actual human, even if it’s not 100% sincere. I can live with that.

You’ve heard of racing to train? Lofty goals (4), events you need to train for, lead to training, because you don’t want to embarrass yourself, OR maybe you even want to do well. This last year I said yes to a few big rides and a trail run, and those things got me out doing more.

Finally, there’s (5) outside inspiration. For months I was watching skate videos. Then I switched to hiking and climbing. Now I’m into ultra-marathoning. It doesn’t matter that I’ll never run an ultra. The people who do are kinda bad ass, and they make me want to do more of the stuff I do. Ultimately, that’s all I want, to do more stuff.

This week’s Group Ride asks, what do you want to do? What are you lofty goals? Who encourages you? What are you watching? How do you keep the stoke alive? RKP is a cycling blog, and riding is obviously central to what we do, but in my opinion motivation is priceless and you have to follow it wherever it take you. So what motivates you?

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  1. rides-in be

    People motivate me. As you said, people who are sharing life with you both on and off the bike. For example if I commit to a ride or a trip in my mind it doesn’t move me until I say it with my mouth to someone. And then when they jump in the motivation multiplies.

  2. Pat O'Brien

    I ride because it is fun. And, after 10 minutes on the bike, the normal worries or cares of the day are flushed away. All that remains are the sights, sounds, and smells of the environment and staying in the “zone.”

  3. Michael

    Well, somebody needs to get this conversation going. I do nearly all my riding and running alone. I do it because I love doing it, especially when in shape, and because I like how I feel afterward. I don’t watch any videos or listen to any podcasts. I really enjoy running into friends out on the trails or roads, but can’t really plan when that will happen. Yes, some mornings I don’t feel like going, and sometimes I don’t. Once or twice a year, I’ll participate in some organized event, and I will try to train for that, being more diligent about training with some sort of plan for speed instead of just going out for as long as I can. But motivation is not usually a problem for me, only finding time because of my job and family pressures.

  4. Parker English

    In whichever way it’s acquired, I think the feeling of increased strength and stamina we associate with active cycling can enhance a person’s sense of satisfaction and well-being. That by itself has been sufficient to keep the stoke alive for me fifty years after my strength and stamina first increased in significant ways.

    I’m also happy that such a stoke has supported good health more than is true of many classmates. Plus, it supports occasional bikepacking adventures.

    If I were stronger, I might be more interested in competition and the robust motivation that requires. As is, I don’t mind pushing myself only when that actually feels good. As is said, different strokes for different folks.

  5. Hal

    Motivation to ride has taken different forms for me over the years. In my younger days, a newfound thrill of competition got me out the door. Then I started evaluating lifestyle elements (nutrition, rest, training) that factored into the equation of pushing my body and mind into the unexplored. I became my own science experiment.

    Then came serious schooling, work, family. Add in a persistently aging body and my trajectory of self discovery in the saddle has evolved. Nowadays it is competition with myself (thanks to tools like Strava) and adjusting personal expectations from competitive rider to being a fitness rider. Some days it is capturing a PR on a segment, other times it is just enjoying the cross-training of running or weights that I know will translate into a strong start on the bike in the Spring.

    Every year, Mother Nature presents me with a different body, so there is always something else I want to try to improve. After all of this time, I don’t know of any other way to be.

  6. Rose

    I appreciate the questions about motivation and goal setting. I think as I’ve gotten older, my answers to these questions change. When I was younger I was all about winning, competition, pushing myself to the limits, no pain/no gain mentality. As I’ve gotten older, I’m more focused on the long game. Being able to ride my bike when I’m 80, enjoying the ride versus being obsessed with my time or speed. These subtle changes keep me excited to ride versus seeing it only as a way to exercise. My hope for the new year is that I have the courage to bike camp for a few nights and build the strength to lug over 20 lbs on my bike!

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