Cycling Priorities: 7 Steps To Find Your Balance

Get Your Cycling Priorities Straight

If you’re like most people I know, you learned how to ride a bicycle when you were a kid and are now coming back to cycling after some extended time off. Perhaps you seek the benefits of low-impact cardio workouts (let’s say your knees are shot). Maybe some of your friends are cyclists and you are interested in joining them on rides, or you saw a race on TV and all of a sudden you dream of being a pro. Or maybe –just maybe– you threw a leg over a bicycle again and all of a sudden the memories of joy and freedom rushed back and you decided to start riding again. Identifying your motivation and setting up goals should be the very first step in getting your cycling priorities straight. Do this and you will find balance.

#1: Identify Your Motivation and Set Your Goals

What do you want out of your renewed (or newfound) passion in cycling? A hobby? Fitness? Competition? Bragging rights? Whatever it is, you must identify what is pulling you back to cycling again. That way you will be able to properly align your expectations with your experience.

Once you have identified your motivators, establish some (attainable) goals to get you going.  Examples could be:

  1. Lose ten pounds by “X” date.
  2. Ride your favorite multi-use path this [week|month|year].
  3. Complete a charity ride by “X” date.
  4. Ride your favorite route in “X” time.

Goals should be a) well-defined and b) measurable. It doesn’t hurt for them to be realistic either, but don’t limit yourself: goals should pull you out of your comfort zone.

Goals should be a) well-defined and b) measurable. It doesn’t hurt for them to be realistic either…

#2: Accept Your Challenges

Please know that there will be a process of adaptation before your body stops complaining and you start feeling comfortable and confident.

Even if you just want to ride your bike around the block for fun you must realize that if you haven’t done it in a while it is going to be difficult at first. Your body may not be ready for holding a position on a bike, or you overestimated the level of fitness you thought you had. Please know that there will be a process of adaptation before your body stops complaining and you start feeling comfortable and confident. If your goals lean more towards the competitive aspect of the sport (racing, fondos, etc.) then there are additional training phases (base, build, peak) that you must go through to achieve your goals. In the words of Greg Lemond, “It never gets easier; you just go faster“.

#3: Get On With It!

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Don’t take that first step, and the journey never starts. Take that first step, or any number of steps after that first one, and then STOP, and the journey ends.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Don’t take that first step, and the journey never starts. Take that first step, or any number of steps after that first one, and then STOP, and the journey ends.

My favorite technique while climbing long and steep hills when I am spent is to focus on one pedal at a time. Just one crank revolution, repeated by another, and another, will eventually get me to the top of the hill. Another good technique is to pick a signpost or marker (tree, rock, utility pole, anything!) and just focus on getting there… then pick another.

The lesson here is that in order to climb your hill, or achieve your goal, you must be willing to sacrifice and work STEADILY. If you don’t have time then make time. If you feel “tired” but you really know that it is just you trying to justify your laziness go on and ride through it. You need to push through in order to achieve anything worth doing.

#4: Don’t Let Setbacks Discourage You

On the other hand, recognize that life IS GOING TO HAPPEN. There will be sudden obligations to tend to (family, work) that will prevent you from following your plans and will require a certain amount of improvisation. Sickness and injuries may keep you off the saddle and diminish your hard-earned fitness gains. Keep your focus on your long-term goals and when you’re ready to come back, don’t overreach. Stay steady, consistent, and before long you’ll be back on track.

#5: Embrace The Lifestyle

In my opinion you must make lifestyle adjustments in order to facilitate going after your cycling goals.

If you’d rather ride before work you’ll have to get up earlier, which means going to bed early as well. That also means having everything ready the night before, starting with your nutrition, clothing and gear. If possible have a planned route and a fitness goal for the ride, whether that is to just ride five or ten miles at a comfortable pace or achieve a personal best.

Are you riding for fitness or to lose weight? Then a long hard look at your nutrition is in order.  Training and nutrition go hand-in-hand: most times you won’t be able to out-train a bad diet.

Training and nutrition go hand-in-hand: most times you won’t be able to out-train a bad diet.

Learn how to fix a flat and perform basic maintenance to keep your equipment in tip-top shape. This can be the difference between getting back home or having to call someone to pick you up.

Read up on cycling topics, most importantly on safety, the rules of the road (not only for motorists but for cyclists too), and anything else that can keep you informed and help you make better riding, training and purchasing decisions.

#6: Overcome Gear Posing Syndrome

There are hordes of cyclists that pay more attention to how they look on a bike than on cycling itself.

I cannot stress the gear purchasing point enough. There are hordes of cyclists that pay more attention to how they look on a bike than on cycling itself. While it is true that everyone is entitled to do what they think is best with their money, please don’t allow yourself to be deluded with the idea that you need expensive equipment to enjoy cycling. A $10,000 bicycle may be better than a $1,000 one, and you may be able to afford it.  But the question is: are the marginal improvements worth $9,000? That’s the decision everyone gets to make for themselves.  Make it, live with your decision, and let everyone else live with theirs.

#7: Have Fun

Riding a bicycle is fun!  Being able to ride fast is also fun. Riding fast for a long time is greater fun still. Enjoying great scenery while cycling is a blast! The meal after the ride is definitely something to look forward to.

You can double the fun by sharing your love of cycling with your significant other.  My value system ranks my wife much higher than cycling, so I made the decision to train indoors during the week and ride with her on the weekends, even if that meant no rides with the fast groups. That is one of the best decisions I have ever made. What really matters at the end of each ride is that WE DID IT, TOGETHER. In my personal experience that is something that nothing else in cycling can beat.

Our household is full of cycling-related items (pizza cutters, clocks, mousepads, etc.) that reflect the lifestyle we have chosen in order to pursue our fitness goals and spend time together. Before each ride we pray for safety and unity and come back grateful that both requests were granted that day. For us cycling is a lot of fun.

Bonus: Be Thankful

Be thankful, and you will be happier.

Whatever it is that you are going through today, perhaps it could be worse. Think of the millions that are going through worse and still face their realities with courage.

Tomorrow is not guaranteed and yesterday is gone; all you have is today. Be thankful today for what you have, and don’t begrudge what you don’t have. With thanksgiving, everything we have and are allowed to experience is more than enough.

Be thankful, and you will be happier.

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