Getting Back On The Horse, 11 Tips

Okay, so maybe you’ve been off the bike for a while.  Maybe a really loooong while.  Maybe you were injured, work got crazy or life just got in the way.  It happens. Don’t fret! You can still get back on the horse bike! Before you go riding off into the sunset, take a minute to recalibrate to ensure a successful and safe return to the trails.

1. Take It Easy

So you can’t do that long 3-hour training ride you used to, either because you lack the fitness or the time to complete it. Don’t beat yourself up over it! Avoid the “all or nothing” type of thinking. Forgot how fast or strong you were in the past and focus on the present. Anything is better that nothing. Even with a short ride you’ll be moving in the right direction!

2. Buy A Cookbook

For a lot of us, an extended period of inactivity is often times accompanied by some not-so-great eating habits. Go to a book store and find a cookbook you like! The inspiration from a few new recipes can get you charged back up for making good food choices and fueling for rides.  Keep your dietary preferences and time constraints in mind when checking out the recipes so that you don’t get frustrated and slip back into bad eating habits.  Hint: If you are crunched for time, Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” probably isn’t right for you.

3. Set Goals

Set SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.  Then, write them down and read them frequently.  Put a sticky note on your bathroom mirror, add a daily reminder to your calendar or stash a list of goals in your wallet. Those little daily reminders are great motivation for getting (and staying) on track. Start small with your goals and push yourself to work back up to where you were before. Who knows, maybe this time you’ll come back even stronger?

4. Reward Yourself

Be nice to yourself! Reward yourself for success (not necessarily with food). If you successfully complete your goals for the week, go get yourself a massage! Or, perhaps some new gear for your bike? New cycling shoes! Whatever your reward, making it something that will remind you that You’re on track! You’ve got this!

5. Try Something New

Try a new activity that compliments your cycling goals. Maybe your local trails are closed for the winter but you really want to ride? Find a local indoor spin class! Spin classes are a great way to build your cardiovascular fitness back up.  Maybe you want to rebuild your strength? Try Cross Fit, rock climbing, skiing, yoga, Barre, TRX…whatever suites your fancy! Just be sure to ease into whatever you choose to reduce the risk of injury.

6. Analyze Your Excuses

Figure out what got you off track in the first place. Was it a busy work schedule or some other time commitment? Be honest with yourself to identify any excuses that have been preventing you from getting out for your ride. Formulate a plan to overcome that excuse this time around! Perhaps wake up earlier or adjust your social calendar. One less happy hour never hurt anyone…

7. Look Within

Take a few minutes right now to remember how good it feels to be out on your bike.  Do you enjoy watching the sunrise from your saddle?  Are you are an adrenaline junky? Does riding gives you more confidence?  Remember WHY you ride. Write down your “why” along with your goals so you can remind yourself that it’s all worth it.

8. Be Positive

Positivity goes a long way and that means you have to stop beating yourself up over the past. Replace those negative thoughts – “I’m so out of shape” with positive ones, “I’m so excited to be back on my bike!“.   You may want to increase your fitness or find your confidence on technical terrain again, but constantly saying negative things about your current fitness will not help. Recognize where you are now and start taking the steps to get where you’d like to be!

9. Suck It Up

Yeah it’s a bummer that you’re off track, but it is what it is. There’s nothing you can do about the past but there’s a lot you can do about the today. And no, it won’t be easy — it wasn’t last time. Do the work, it will be hard, but worth it in the end.

10. Journal Your Progress

Photo Credit / Steve Shannon Photography

Write down your rides and/or workouts. How did you feel? What did you see? Any special observations? A good old spiral notebook will do the trick here but if you prefer a digital tool, checkout Training Peaks and/or Strava. Writing things down is a great way to pick up on trends, both good and bad, and make adjustments accordingly.

11. Find an Accountability Buddy

Find a friend to ride with, hire yourself a coach or enlist the support of a family member. Find someone who can keep you motivated and on track, but who also won’t buy into any of your excuses.

..and with that, you are ready to get back on the bike!

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About Richard La China

Richard La China is a former professional mountain bike racer, IMBA Certified Mountain Bike Skills Instructor who coaches beginner to pro cyclist. Currently working with mountain bike XC, Endurance and Enduro racers and other competitive and non-competitive mountain bike riders seeking to become their best.

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