The annoying tone of my alarm interrupts an otherwise pleasant dream, I reach across my bed searching for the snooze button, “It’s dark. . . it can’t possibly be time to get up”. Slowly I drag my sorry ass out of bed and into the shower. Once dressed I draw back the curtains only to find out that not only is it dark but it is pouring down. Without warning my much enjoyed summer commute has come to an abrupt end. This is not good and I am not happy.
Riding to work, with a constant stream of water running down my face and a complete disbelief that it is still dark every revolution feels like very hard work.
There are of course those narcissistic individuals who have no idea what I’m talking about, who some how enjoy life the harder it gets and take huge pride in every struggle. For the rest of us here’s my top 5 tips on keeping motivated through the autumn months.
1: Be kind to yourself.
Whether you cycle to work every day or just some days remember that you make a sizeable contribution to both your own well being, the well being of others and the well being of the planet you therefore deserve some goodness in your life. For some of us the problem inherent to such a suggestion is that we’ve gotten locked into a way of thinking which equates ‘goodness’ with ‘glut’; 'treat yourself' has become code for ‘find a short term rush of sugar and devour’. As folks committed to more healthy alternatives we find it impossible to reconcile ourselves with such thinking. I’d like to suggest that as we head towards the autumn months what we actually need is to be really kind to ourselves, to eat really well, to make sure we’re getting really good sleep and enough time with friends to keep our minds in a good place. None of those things are accidental, they wil involve a deliberate and well focused grocery shop, a refusal to let the work diary dictate our entire lives and enough discipline not to take the ipad to bed.
Surviving short days and endless rain is about being in a good place long before we hit the bike.
2: Share and be sharing
Isolation sucks! Yet for many urban cyclists isolation can become a common experience.
Do what ever is required to find some cycling buddies with whom you can share at least a part of your journey. Bang out a mass circular email, pin a note to the works noticeboard or simply change your route to one with slightly more riders on it. This latter suggestion may mean you cycle a little longer than your ordinary route but it should also mean you cycle a lot happier. Which leads me on. Can I boldly suggest it’s high time urban cyclists began to be a little more sharing of the goodness we possess. Offering a few gentle words of encouragement might transform another riders day and will almost certainly cost you nothing, ‘good morning’, ‘how you doing?’, ‘nice bike’, ‘hell the weather!’. Simple sentiments which express empathy also offer real demonstrable encouragement.
3: Talk it out
Had a bad ride? Fed up of the dark mornings? Talk it out with someone who wont simply meet you with tedious solutions. If you need a little encouragement or would value a brew when you arrive at work, tell someone. The odds are that you’re surrounded by people who think you are amazing, we’re just not very good at communicating such things. Talk out your frustrations while keeping your eyes fixed not on future goals but on current attainments.
4: Make life easy
There are few things worse than riding into a head wind with insufficient pressure in your tyres, a stiff link in your chain and a saddle more akin to medieval torture than something designed to assist your ride. Keep on top of your bikes maintenance needs and your ride will be a whole heap more enjoyable. Invest in good quality necessities like base layers, waterproofs and over shoes, heaven knows you deserve them.
5: Be clear about the alternatives
When you’re in what feels like a dark mental place it’s easy to get blurry eyed about the alternatives. Too easily we assume that other people are enjoying infinitely more pleasurable alternatives than we are. Talk to the boss who actually had an affair with his secretary and you’ll quickly discover that such romantic imaginings bear little correlation to reality. Whatever the autumnal months might throw at us it remains a fixed truth that cycling has serious advantages over and above other forms of mobility, our health will remain good, our travel times consistent and our bank balance considerably healthier than if we turned to the alternatives. If the bike feels tough take a moment to calculate the real cost of the alternatives, endless traffic jams, parking fees, gym membership, unpredictable travel times and the stress of forever being late . . let me know if I need to go on.
You’re doing well, really well. Keep riding, keep smiling, you are AMAZING!