Solutions to the Top 10 Motivation Killers

From time-to-time, everyone has problems getting motivated to train. This is normal. The secret is to figure out the root cause. Once you understand why, then you can move on to what you can do about it.  Here are the common top 10 reasons for lack of motivation and what you can do to get back on track:

  1. You are physically tired.
    • Look at your training load. Are you training like crazy?  Are your muscles aching and sore?  You may need additional recovery time after a hard ride. If you’ve been training for several days straight, your body may need a break.  Part of training and increasing your fitness is working hard and then resting.  Rest gives your body a chance to get build back up stronger than before. So, learn how your body responds to training. If you are nursing an injury, or feel unusually tired, there’s nothing wrong with taking a day off.  If you feel sick, don’t make it worse.  There’s no trophy for punishing yourself. Take a day off.
  2. You feel stressed out.
    • It is hard not to be stressed out these days. Time, family, work, finances, politics, self-expectations…the list of reasons to be stressed out is endless.  You need an outlet.  Worrying and stressing out is what people do while they’re waiting for something to happen.  So, in this case take the bull by the horns and force yourself to workout.  Even if it seems impossible, take a ride. There’s nothing like a ride to burn off stress.  You will feel better and more able to cope with life challenges.
  3. You feel depressed.
    • Depression is a very serious problem. Depending on the severity of your condition you may need medication and therapy.  Additionally, it is very important to understand that exercise and training always helps.  This is one of those life secrets everyone should know. In several studies, exercise has been shown to be as effective as medication for combatting depression. That’s a good way to think about training, if you struggle with depression or anxiety, training is a dose of much needed medicine.  There’s no better way to combat depression and release feel-good endorphins than exercise. 
  4. You are short of time.
    • Life conspires to rob us of time. Family responsibilities, job requirements, appointments, travel, traffic, unexpected complications, dwindling daylight, and waiting in lines are part of modern life. There will be days when you run out of time for training and miss a workout. This happens. However, it is important that you avoid stringing together several days of misses. If you break your workout habit or commitment, it is very hard to get going again. What you can do to avoid this issue is to schedule your workouts for first thing in the morning before your day has a chance to go off the rails.  Alternately, you can invest a little money into a trainer, so you can ride at home anytime of the day or night. Also, don’t be afraid to shorten your workout.  For example, you can always reduce a two-hour planned workout to one hour and ride at a higher tempo to keep your training load up.
  5. The weather is terrible (too hot, cold, windy, rainy, snowy).
    • When the weather is terrible, ride indoors. Invest in an ERG enabled trainer and an application like Zwift or Rouvy. If you are using the weather as an excuse not to ride, look at the rest of this list and find your real root reason.  We’ve found that the weather is additional friction.  If your motivation is waning for other reasons, the weather is a convenient scapegoat.  Also, if you hate riding indoors, gear up for the seasons. There is a huge industry out there designed to make your ride more comfortable regardless of weather conditions.
  6. The type of workout scheduled for the day fills you with dread.
    • Let’s get real. Some workouts are hard!  An FTP test or interval workout can make for a super-tough day.  Many people prefer to avoid these rides. The problem is that your progression as an athlete can stall if you never stress your system to its limit.  You must make the mental commitment to try hard knowing that you will ultimately be a much better rider and closer to reaching your goals.  On the opposite side, many people dread the “easy” ride.  It seems like a waste of time.  We assure you that it is not.  Easy rides are designed to give your body “active rest.”  Easy rides help your ligaments, tendons and joints stretch and continually adapt to the bike as you recover.  
  7. Training is boring – You are doing the same old thing.
    • When training is boring, it is time to shake up the old routine. A bike is an endless experience machine!  Here’s some easy things you can do.  Change your route. The roads and terrain are limitless!  Ride with a friend or group. Ride gravel. Try a new type of goal; cyclocross, a criterium race, a time trial, a Gran Fondo etc.  Hit the gym and try cross-training.  Sign up for a triathlon.  If you are bored, you have yourself in a mental box.  Open the door and let yourself out!  Only you can unstick yourself from same old, same old.
  8. Training is lonely.
    • Motivation is a funny thing. Some people are motivated by having time alone. Others are motivated by interacting with others.  If you find you are lonely, find a riding buddy, join a club, or do a group ride. The cycling community is vast!  Put out a few feelers. You’ll be amazed by the number of people who ride.  Your local bike shop can often clue you into cool rides and clubs in your area.  If you are one of our loners, you should still do an occasional group ride.  Group rides require a much different skills set than riding alone.  You can only learn drafting, bike handling, and holding your line through experience.
  9. Training feels selfish.
    • Keeping yourself fit and healthy is not selfish! Full stop.  Being fit and healthy gives you the strength and endurance needed to live a full life and be a source of strength for others. Healthy and fit people have more energy reserves to handle life’s endless challenges.  Ever see those people who seem to have boundless energy and drive?  We guarantee you that they work out.  If you think that your job is to work and then die, or be a parent and then die, you are not living a full life.  In fact, it is selfish NOT to work out.
  10. You don’t feel like you are getting results.
    • Everyone wants instant growth. We are an impatient species. It is important to manage your expectations and be realistic. You are not a training movie montage where the hero becomes a champion in a two-minute music video. Sometimes it is difficult to see day-to-day improvements. That’s why all good training plans are a minimum of 8-weeks.  It takes your body that much time to adapt to the new load you are putting on it. People are often shocked at the end of an 8-week program when they see how much they’ve progressed.  If you’ve been self-training for a long time and are a very experienced rider, gains can be harder to find.  It may be time to employ a professional coach to unlock your full potential.

Training Zones vs. Training Speed

Many riders focus on the average speed or distance of their rides. Apps like RidewithGPS and Strava encourage this sort of riding and, although it can be fun, it’s usually not an effective way to train.

What’s more effective is sticking to your prescribed workout and training zones. This means that, although you may not go as far or as fast as you need to in order to PR on a certain segment, you’re getting more effective training over the long term. For example, simply hammering every time you ride will get you fit in short order, but before long you’ll plateau and eventually you’ll burn out. Hammering without rest also puts you at greater risk for injury. Resisting the temptation to hammer every ride can be difficult. Our bodies anticipate and crave the exercise endorphin rush. Hammering also doesn't require much planning or thought.

Balancing your easy, rest, tempo, and interval days in the ideal combination prescribed by VeloPro will get you fitness that peaks when you need it to and helps avoids burnout. VeloPro makes it easy by taking care of the planning for you. This methodology is proven by exercise science research and is how the pros train. It does requires a little discipline to hold yourself back and follow a plan. However, it works and we promise that you will still get your endorphin rush.

Setting a Goal is Important for Cycling Training

VeloPro is unique in that our training plans are organized around specific event goals.  An event can any organized cycling experience.  Riders use VeloPro to train for criterium races, stage races, time trials, cyclocross and non-competitive endurance rides like centuries, gran fondos and randonnees. 

Why do we organize our training plans events?  In the training business, this is called “goal specificity.”  Train for what you want to do.  Sounds simple right?  If you are going to destination and you want to get there as quickly and efficiently possible, you use a map. A training plan is a map designed to get you to a fitness destination.  Without a plan, you are just riding around.  While this may be fun, it won’t help you be a better cyclist.  Without a destination or “goal,” it is hard to chart improvement over time. For example, if you want to train for a hill-climb event, your training plan should include workouts that help make you a better climber.  You should be able to track your progress as you train.

There is another benefit when training for an event.  It allows VeloPro to structure or “periodize” your training with an end date in mind.  Periodization breaks up the training into phases where we build your fitness while carefully balancing it with recovery and rest periods, so you avoid injury.  This is all put on a calendar, so you arrive at your event in peak fitness, confident, and ready for maximum performance.  

Perhaps the best benefit in training for an event is that it gives you something to look forward to.  You Events are powerful motivators. You can visualize your success. Events are exciting and a great way to challenge yourself. Also, events support your local cycling community.  Events give your supporters an opportunity to cheer for you.  Best of all, completing an event that you’ve trained hard for is extremely satisfying. 

*Photo credit: Harry Apelbaum Studios

A Note from Coach Kadir on FTP

FTP is a tricky thing. Riders obsess over it. Coaches analyze it. Confidence and even self-worth can sometimes be dependent upon it. FTP, or Functional Threshold Power, is defined as a rider's maximum power output over a 60-minute period. Basically, it's a measure of your long-range aerobic fitness. Typically, FTP is derived by taking 3-5% off your best 20-minute power.

What's most vexing, however, is that this number fluctuates. Certainly, it changes from the regular season to the off season (at least it ought to), and it changes as you get more fit. More importantly, it changes depending on the day. Because FTP Checks are integrated into riders' training schedules, it's possible to be a bit tired going into them. It's also always possible to have a bad day. This happens all the time.

There are a few ways to deal with this. First, don't stress about it. Everyone has off days. Second, make sure the circumstances of your FTP test are always the same. Ride the same climb, or section of road. Do it at the same time of day, and in similar weather conditions, if that is possible. You can even eliminate all the outdoor variables and do your FTP tests on an indoor trainer. Just make everything as consistent as possible. Third, don't watch the numbers. It's easy to try to peg your current output to your target goal, but this can mess with your head and cause a worse result. Put your cycling computer on the map screen or something similar, do your best effort, and let the numbers fall where they may. Fourth, don't start too hard! This is a sure way to load your legs with lactate and scuttle your chances of doing a good ride. Get a good warm up, think of it as a 20-minute time trial, ease into the effort, and push to the maximum as you're ready.

Keep in mind that FTP can vary and just because it doesn't rise significantly compared to your last check doesn't mean you're less fit. You could have had an off day, or you could be a bit tired. Let it be what it is, stick to your training plan, focus on the future, and it's likely your next check will be much better.

10 Quick Bike Safety Tips

We’ve all seen the increasing incidents of cyclists being injured and killed by motorists. This is a global phenomenon as distracted driving and poor cycling infrastructure persist. In fact, a recent study out of Australia shows that drivers don’t consider cyclists fully human! It is vital that you protect yourself while on your training rides. If this is something that’s has you worried, here are a few quick tips.

  1. Lights always. Day and night.  Flashing red rear light.  Blinking clear light on front (if your local laws permit).
  2. High-viz clothing may feel dorky but can improve your chances of being seen. Socks that glow with the motion of your pedaling is a smart choice.
  3. Reflectors may be dorky and heavy, but recent advances in reflective tape are awesome. Apply them to crank, frame and rims for eye grabbing results. ***
  4. Be very careful when riding at dusk and dawn. Blinding sunlight in driver’s eyes is a recipe for disaster.
  5. Be present. Don’t daydream.  This is especially important if you are riding a familiar route.  Don’t let your guard down, ever.  The routes you ride the most are often where accidents happen.
  6. Take extra caution at intersections, tops of hills, and road bends. Drivers at speed often don’t expect to see cyclists pop up in these places and may not have time to slow down or stop for you.
  7. Take extra caution riding after a storm. This is often when bike lanes and road edges are filled with standing water and nasty debris. Drivers don’t understand this and are greatly angered when a cyclist takes the lane, especially when a bike lane exists. Yes, we have the law on our side, but would your rather be right or dead?
  8. Your local path can be just as dangerous as the road. Runners, stroller moms, kids and dog walkers make for unpredictable conditions. Bike bells work. Use them. It is not rude to be safe. Also, watch your speed on these multi-use paths.  This is no place to do intervals.
  9. Invest in bike cameras. Front and Rear. Your humble author rides with Cycliq  The cameras won’t keep you safe but can capture all the crazy.  It is hard to know exactly what happened when everything goes wrong.  Cameras can help you identify the dangerous drivers and make police reports.
  10. Ride more gravel.   Gravel riding has exploded the last few years as road cycling as has become more dangerous.  Also, there's no shame in riding a trainer in the safety of your pain cave. VeloPro workouts can easily be converted into indoor rides for Zwift or your .ERG compatible trainer. If in doubt, be safe.There’s nothing better than car free riding.

***Thanks to Dave Anolik for this photo of his blinged out bike!***

Why Train?

When most people think of athletic training, a movie montage speeds through their minds.  An athlete drinks a dozen raw eggs, lifts logs and hurls giant rocks, sprints up and down a stadium staircase and other cliches--ad nauseum. Months of training is portrayed as 30 sweaty seconds before the hero goes on to crush the competition and raise their hands in glorious triumph. Training is treated as an unpleasant stop on the way to greatness.  Training equals suffering.  

The truth is that training is 95% of any athlete’s life.  It’s not a side show. It is the show. Good training is not suffering. Can you imagine if 95% of your life is suffering?! Good training is simply the purposeful and structured way to work toward a meaningful goal. If you are not motivated to train, I’d suggest you haven’t found your "meaningful" goal. That’s the beauty, you get to decide what is meaningful. There are as many reasons to train as there are people. Training is where you see growth and improvement on a day-to-day basis. Training is the opportunity to have a small victory and get dose of that "meaning" with every workout. It is exciting and fulfilling and something to look forward to every day.  

The truth is that training is the ultimate self-care.

Athletic training, including cycling training gives you an endorphin buzz that fights depression, enlivens the mind, builds your confidence, and reduces stress.  Training helps you power positively through all of your life challenges. Why train? The real question is why aren’t you training?

Cycling Training Terminology

Making the transition from just riding around to riding with purpose can be overwhelming.  If you are just starting to train, you will be flooded with unique jargon and acronyms. Check out these helpful definitions.

  • Structured Training--A systematic way of organizing training to best use your time, in preparation for peak performance for an athletic event.  The training comes in four phases and consists of specialized workouts tailored to your event type. The length and intensity of each phase depends on your starting fitness and the number of weeks until your event:
    • Base Phase--Builds basic fitness focusing on endurance.
    • Build Phase--Builds intensity of workouts to increase power, speed and endurance.
    • Rest Phase--Consolidates training gains by giving you recovery time for muscles to recover.
    • Event Phase--Taper down from the intense build phase workouts until your are fresh, rested and ready for your event.
  • Goal Specificity--Training planning that optimizes a rider’s fitness and performance for their target event.  For example, training for cyclocross requires different structure than training for randonnée events.
  • Periodization--The systematic planning of training around a schedule designed to bring the athlete to peak performance for their goal. The training schedule is built around periods of steadily increasing effort, followed by periods of rest.  
  • Workouts--Specific rides designed to train your body to produce an athletic effort for your specific event.  Each workout has a Training Load (TL) goal.
  • Training Load--A numerical value that quantifies the total effort for a workout.  The higher the number the more intense the workout. For example, an easy workout could have a training load goal of 40 while an endurance workout could have a training load goal of 100.  The higher the TL number for the workout, the more time you will need to recover from that workout. All your weekly workouts combined will give you a training load goal for the week. For example 350.     
  • Training Zones--Differing levels of intensity within a workout designed to elicit a specific performance from your body.  See the chart below. The amount of effort required to be in a specific zone varies greatly by athlete.
  • Workout Intervals--Segments of time within a workout dedicated to operating in a specific training zone.  
  • Interval Training--Common vernacular for a workout designed around short intense bursts of effort followed by rests, repeated in a sequence. There are many types of interval training workouts with rising intensity including;  Lactate Threshold, V02Max, Anaerobic, and Neuromuscular Intervals. A common misperception is that intervals are simply all out efforts. There is a range of interval training types designed to increase your performance for specific event situations. 

 Cycling Training Acronyms

15 Signs You Need More Recovery Time

Recovery time is critical for improving cycling fitness. Endless hammering without proper recovery is a guaranteed ticket to injury, illness or the dreaded “Overtraining Syndrome.”  VeloPro uses the latest training science to formulate structured training plans to help you establish your base fitness, build improvements, and then peak for your event.  To do this, VeloPro builds training workouts of varying length and intensity into your plan to help balance growth and recovery.

While the VeloPro AI is smart and learns about you with every ride, it is not omniscient.  VeloPro’s insights are limited to your cycling performance. VeloPro doesn’t know if you are ill, injured, working 12-hour days or experiencing additional physical and mental stress in your daily life.  These factors can add greatly to your need for additional recovery time. Every rider is different and must proactively monitor and manage their recovery needs. To help, VeloPro makes it easy to mark time off for any reason. VeloPro doesn’t judge!  We’re here for you.  VeloPro does requires that you know you need time off.  It is essential that you learn how your body responds normally to the training doses in your workouts.  Sometimes in our “no excuses” driven society this can be hard to figure out.  Here are 15 signs to help you recognize when you need more recovery time.

  1. Trouble Sleeping. Proper sleep is essential for recovery. If you are exhausted but unable to sleep, this is a warning sign that you are overdoing it and need additional recovery time.
  2. Lingering Fatigue. It is natural to be tired after a good workout. The harder you work out, the more recovery time you need. Learn your recovery rhythms for each workout type and length. With good nutrition and sleep you should feel your body recovering. If you are still very fatigued at the time of the next workout, you may need more recovery time.
  3. Brain Fog. If you are having trouble concentrating, making decisions, or remembering basic things, this is a sure sign you need more recovery time.
  4. Dizziness. If you get lightheaded when moving from a sitting or prone position to a standing position, pay close attention. If you are not on HBP meds or have been diagnosed with low blood pressure by a doctor, this should not happen if you are well rested and recovered.
  5. Demotivation. You just aren’t feeling it. This isn’t like normal everyday procrastination. Most cyclists like to ride. If the thought of even taking an easy ride around the block to get an ice cream cone or coffee fills you with dread, you need more recovery time.
  6. Age. Athletes over 50 years old need to pay extra diligence to their recovery needs. The bottom line is that it takes more time for older athletes to recover. The reasons for this are specific for each athlete’s unique lifetime of wear and tear. While we all believe we are still 30-years old in our heads, our bodies don’t always cooperate.
  7. Your appetite is suppressed.Pay attention if you are not hungry even several hours after a workout. Athletes in training are hungry! If you find yourself rapidly losing weight and are not hungry, this is a sure sign you need more recovery time.
  8. Reduction in Performance. Numbers don’t lie. If you are putting in the effort and find your power decreasing, heart rate increasing and overall speed diminishing, you need more recovery time.
  9. Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE). You should develop a good feel for what kind of effort it takes for each type of training ride. Rate each effort with a number from 1-Easy to 10-I think I’m dying. If a workout that is normally a 5 suddenly feels like an 8, you need more recovery time.
  10. Inflammation. Take note of the swelling in your joints. Ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, wrists, and neck are all culprits. It goes without saying you’ve had a proper bike fit, yes? If you have swelling that doesn’t reduce with rest, ice compression and elevation, you may need more recovery time.
  11. Dead legs. Muscle soreness is a natural result of any kind of training. You should be able to cope with normal soreness without resorting to ibuprofen or acetaminophen. These analgesics have been shown to extend recovery time. However, if your legs feel like they are made of lead weights and you have trouble lifting them, you need more recovery time.
  12. Heart Rate Responsiveness. You should know and monitor your resting heart rate.  If your resting heart rate is consistently elevated beyond your normal range, this is a big warning sign. Also, you should have a good idea on how long it takes your heart rate to recover from zone-to-zone. Heart rate can be variable, but if it takes you double or triple your normal time to recover from your V02Max HR to your Endurance HR, this is a good sign you need more recovery time.
  13. Physical injury. Injuries happen for many reasons, but overtired athletes are more prone to injury. If you are injured for any reason, rest and recover! Risking further injury or additional injuries is just plain dumb.  You are not a wimp, we promise.  You are smart to take a break and ride another day.
  14. Illness. If you are ill, please rest! If you are experiencing frequent colds and or GI distress, you could be training too hard without proper recovery time and suppressing your immune system. If you are continuously getting sick, this is a huge warning sign to back off and spend more time recovering.
  15. Caffeine. Many of us judiciously use a caffeinated beverage, gel or foodstuff to give us a lift to finish strong on a long ride. If your normal caffeine hit doesn’t give you a lift, this is a sure sign you will need additional recovery time.

Do I Need Cycling Gloves? What is Right for Me?

A quick glance at any pro peloton will show you that all options are on the table. There are plenty of great reasons to wear cycling gloves, but ultimately it is a personal choice.  We here at VeloPro err on the side of wearing gloves. Here are our top eight reasons:

  1. Crash protection.  If you hit the deck, gloves can keep you from skinning your hands.  This is reason enough to wear them.
  2. Grip improvement.  Great bar tape is the best thing ever, but gloves also help you keep a tight grip regardless of the weather.
  3. Vibration protection.  Again great bar tape is key.  Some gloves also offer extra padding (leather or gel) to help mute road vibrations and make riding more comfortable.
  4. Keep your fingers warm on a cold day.  Cycling on a cold, rainy or snowy day can numb your fingers and hands.   Wearing full gloves is essential to avoiding hypothermic digits. 
  5. Keep your hands dry on a wet day.  Slick hands are not helpful when shifting and breaking.  Good gloves can repel water, keep your hands dry and improve your control.  
  6. Sweat protection.  Let’s just say it.  Some people have hot, sweaty hands.  Sweat can affect your grip and shorten the life of your bar tape.  Gloves can keep that moisture away from your cockpit. 
  7. Convenient way to wipe your nose.  Slightly gross?  Yes, but essential for many of us.  Most gloves have a soft “snot pad” located between the thumb and index finger.  This is designed to help you wipe your nose due to cold weather, allergies, or a head cold.  Trust us, it is really hard to pull out a hanky while going 20 kph on a bike.  
  8. Style.  Frivolous?  Maybe. However, if you want to get all pro and matchy with your kit, add a bit of pizazz, or an additional touch of high-viz, gloves can be your ticket.

Here’s our recommendations.  Wear full gloves on cold, wet days.  Wear fingerless gloves whenever it is warm enough. Don't wear gloves only when riding indoors or on low-speed outdoor rides where you are less likely to fall.

The Importance of Sleep to Recovery

Sleep is the single best way to recover from training. In fact, top athletes are infamous for sleeping 10 hours a day and routinely incorporate napping into their training routines. Since most of us can’t spend that much time in bed or even nap after training, it pays to know how much sleep you need to get each night. The ideal amount of sleep for a person depends upon several factors - their natural sleep needs and rhythms, their exercise-related fatigue level, and their life stress level. Most people do best with between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night. The key is to get enough sleep to achieve 1.5 to 2 hours of “deep sleep.” Deep sleep is when the body releases the growth hormones that are key to recovery. You can estimate that deep sleep will be 20% of your natural sleep cycle.

The bad news is that we live in a sleep deprived world. So, how do you get that ideal amount of sleep? There is no magic solution that works for everyone, but here are a few well known sleep hygiene practices. Try to stick to a consistent bedtime and bedtime regime. Habit is critical for getting to sleep and staying asleep. Avoid caffeine after 5:00 PM. Avoid excessive amounts of alcohol. You may think alcohol helps you get to sleep, but too much impairs natural sleep cycles. Avoid screens at least 30 minutes before bedtime (60 minutes is ideal). The blue light emitted by cell phones, computers, tablets, and TVs inhibits the production of the hormone melatonin. Melatonin controls the circadian rhythm and sleep-wake cycles. Reducing melatonin makes it harder to fall and stay asleep. Learn the optimum amount of sleep for you and set a nightly sleep goal. Shoot for that and you’ll be more likely to get the most out of your training. Studies show that well rested athletes recover faster and perform better.