January and February historically have been the hardest months for me to train. I’m reminded of this right now as I see more and more posts from fellow riders who are struggling with some form of mental challenge during the winter. Some have reached out to me.

The view from the West Maui Loop ride! I know that I have to go somewhere warm to stay healthy every winter.

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I’m not positive that I have advice to offer on this matter, but I can’t stress enough that there is value in talking to your coach, your family and your peers about what you’re experiencing. Don’t ignore the fact that you might be struggling.

Winter can be hard. That’s a fact. And if you are struggling, you aren’t the only one. Alienating yourself and trying to hide your struggle will make it worse. There’s no shame in feeling a little down.

Here are some of the things I’ve done to help my mood past winters:

1. Used a SAD lamp. Often easy to borrow, rent or even buy one at a pretty low cost. I like to use it every morning before a dark, cold ride. In the fall I wrote specifically about strategies for training with Seasonal Affective Disorder.
2. Spiced things up with non-bike related activities such as hiking, skiing or running.
3. Talked to a professional.
4. Checked my iron and B12 levels.
5. Gone somewhere warm. I realize not everyone can do this, but if it’s plausible, this can offer a fantastic break.
6. Written about my feelings.
7. Opened myself up like a book and held nothing back. It feels great.
8. Allowed myself to take a break.
9. Cooked with friends.
10. Hot yoga. Embrace the practice. Consider it a therapeutic time.
11. Gone out for a long, easy, unstructured ride. Cycling in itself is therapeutic. Just go have fun.

If this winter is proving to be hard on your head, hopefully some of my tips can inspire some helpful coping strategies. Listen to and take care of yourself. At the end of the day, winter is temporary, and biking is just biking. Keep it fun and keep it healthy. Talk about your feelings too – it’s a really hip and cool thing to do!

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