I’ve noticed in the first week of my fitness quest that a very different mindset (for me at least) is required when riding now versus when I was fit a few months ago. For example, today when I was riding up a 26 per cent frost covered climb, I had to tell myself to sit, as standing caused my rear tire to lose traction. Okay, this has more to do with the weather and gradient than my fitness…I’ll try to think of some better examples.
The first real necessary adjustment I noticed was the need to change my focus when on group rides from ‘winning’ the sprints, to making it to the sprint. Like when you’re in a class and you have an entire hour left, so you divide it into four, 15 minute quarters to tackle more manageable lengths of time. On recent group rides, I would worry at the start about whether or not I could make it to the end. It often seems impossible given my current fitness. So instead of aiming for the sprint I tell myself to make it to lap two, then lap three and so on.
This technique is something I’ve often used in breakaways even when I’m fit. Eventually, I get to a point during the race where I’m exhausted and don’t think I’ll make it to the end so I’ll tell myself, “One more pull” or, “Just 5 more kilometres” repeatedly until the end.
I’m also paying a lot of attention to what I’m taking in as fuel. I’m more careful right now, because cracking is essentially inevitable on every ride these days, so I need to make sure my breakfast is substantial, and that I pack plenty of ride food to get me through. My banana intake has increased three-fold. The picture is much the same with peanut butter as well. Balanced post-ride meals are key, too. I find the best post-ride meal is leftovers from a balanced dinner the night before. It’s ready when I get home, and stops me from simply sitting on the floor and taking a spoon to my 10 kg bucket of peanut butter with protein content as my excuse.
Other considerations have included whether or not it’s wise for me to start in the fastest group some days. So far I’ve stayed in the A group, and been dropped, but have definitely considered going down a group and that’s at least a start, right?
Something else I’ve noticed is that other’s expectations of me have also adjusted a little. Riders have been encouraging me on rides with “You’ve got this buddy!” or “Atta boy, Oli!”. Some have even put their hand on my back and given me a little push. This support and sense of comradery have really motivated me to get faster and show up to rides. I love it. Even if group rides are a little hard right now, my extroverted personality uses this support as fuel. Maybe they’re just being nice because they know they can kick my ass, but I think they care a little too.
The riding is hard. I’m pushing myself, and others are pushing me even harder. I have literally suffered on my bike every day that I’ve ridden since my last article. But I’m motivated. I honestly find being unfit and on a journey to fitness to be such an exciting time. Progress is quick and seeing the changes in my riding in just a week is pretty neat. I think that by making these necessary mental adjustments to my training approach, I am less likely to become discouraged or demotivated. Having reasonable expectations of myself when I’m unfit, and having a really encouraging group to ride with is paramount in a sustainable training plan.
If you’re trying to get back to fitness, consider these adjustments too. How can you make sure that riding is enjoyable? You don’t have to be fit to have fun on your bike. Enjoy the process! The fitness will come.
Oliver Evans 20-year-old cyclist from Winnipeg, currently living in Victoria. In 2019, he will race with Trek Red Truck Racing.