Did you know that around the 19th January each year (according to data analysis carried out by Strava) most new year’s fitness resolutions get laid to rest and are forgotten forever, or until next year at least?
Today, we look at why so many well intended plans last just 19 short days and explore how to make them stick. More specifically, we’ll look at these plans and commitments through the misty lens of a cyclist’s glasses and see what action can be taken to keep you spinning through to the warmer summer months and beyond. So how is your own fitness resolution progressing?
Around 58% of the UK adult population make some sort of new year’s resolution each year – with the most popular by far being some sort of plan around living a healthier lifestyle through exercise. With just under half of those resolutions enjoying success, that’s a huge number of people making positive ongoing life changes – and in many cases the bicycle is the weapon of choice.
Cycling resolutions come in numerous forms, from grand and ambitious to slow and pedestrian. It matters not what you commit to, but that you see it through. You might want to ride your first century, try a new discipline, enter your first race, climb a certain mountain or maybe just commit to riding to and from work three times a week. The key is that all these are specific and success can be measured with a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’. Saying ‘I want to cycle more’ just won’t cut it!
Perhaps the most important thing to remember over the course of your endeavour is to embrace the experience itself – cycling is a fun activity! Don’t kid yourself though, at points you will wobble (possibly around now!), but if you don’t manage your planned rides one week, dust yourself down and make doubly sure you do the following week. Having a friend to join you on your journey is also a godsend – going for a freezing February Saturday morning ride is way easier and more enjoyable if you have company.
Now let’s dig in to more practical, specific actions that will help you. The first is to plan – sounds simple, but really, plan everything! Look ahead to the spring or summer and plan events, longer rides or holidays that will either contribute toward your fitness goals or form part of the end goal itself. These will serve as motivational beacons in the dark winter months.
Next plan on a weekly level – check the weather forecast religiously and if possible tailor your riding week to the better days whilst still meeting your quota. With your week’s activity set out, then plan for each ride itself. The day before, get your clean kit out and put it somewhere accessible (not having to rummage around for that odd leg warmer makes a big difference in the morning). Also check that your lights are charged, tyres pumped up and water bottles are clean. Build these habits into daily routines and they become much harder to break.
Much of the above planning is about removing blockers – a fairly minor issue (dirty kit or a lost glove) can easily derail your planned ride. Many of these barriers can be removed entirely through kit choice. Good gloves and jacket are essential, as are overshoes for road riding (to keep your toes warm and shoes pristine) and have a stock of warm base layers and merino socks for the week so they are always to hand. The right clothing makes even sub-zero cycling enjoyable. But if the weather really is too bad to get out, the ultimate all-weather solution is to invest in an indoor trainer set-up to supplement your riding – then there really is no excuse!
Your bike and how it is maintained and set up is the biggest single source of reasons not to ride. Something as simple as a puncture on a cold, wet ride could put you off cycling entirely and abruptly end your fitness goal. But fear not – there is plenty you can do. Fit winter tyres to ward off those pesky punctures and mudguards to avoid being covered in road grime. Get your bike serviced regularly and set 6 monthly reminders on your phone if riding most days, it will be more efficient and way more enjoyable to ride. In between services invest in some bike cleaner and chain lube, use them weekly for smooth running (your bike will last way longer if kept clean). A top tip is to give your chain a quick wipe down with a cloth after every ride to prevent a build-up of damaging black ‘gunk’. A clean, well-maintained bike is one you’ll look forward to riding.
If you are part way into your cycling resolution, hopefully you will sail through the next two months with ease by following just a few of the above pointers to cement your new habits. Remember, the hard work you put in now will pay dividends come the warmer months, so good luck and keep on spinning into summer!