Finding motivation when the going gets tough

by Simone Giuliani


No matter how much you love the bike there is always the odd wet morning or can’t be bothered day when getting out on it seems a chore. Often all it takes is a bit of a quick reminder of how exciting cycling is, like maybe watching an exciting race of reading about a gutsy ride, to reignite that drive to get out.

However, there are those other times when life gets so hectic that no matter how good your intentions are, ride after ride just seems to get shuffled down the priority list until it falls off the bottom. A remote pick me up just doesn’t seem to help then and its too easy to look at professional riders and say to yourself “but hey that’s their job”. What’s needed at those times is more than a little bit of distant inspiration, what’s required is a massive dose of motivation to squeeze the bike into what already seems an impossible schedule.

These are the times when I look close to home.

There are some women out there in our riding community that excel at breaking new ground or cooking up crazy schemes. They are women with plenty of other commitments in their life, like families, businesses and busy work schedules. When you see their latest scheme on social media, talk to them about their plans at the side of a race or have a chat on that social ride they make you feel that anything is possible. In short they are the women who motivate me, and probably many others like me, when I need it most. But what motivates them?

The cyclocross national champion

2N4A4110-1024x683[1]

Lisa Jacobs is a three-time Australian cyclocross champion who formerly raced on the road in Europe. She fits in her training for cyclocross around a full-time job as a lawyer, and had been working hard toward a top 20 finish at this year’s UCI Cyclocross World Championships, which was held in January. Her international season however didn’t go to plan, with a poorly timed illness forcing her to pull out of the World’s race not long after starting. Hits to cycling motivation don’t come much harder than having a target you’ve been working diligently towards, taken out of reach by circumstances beyond your control. So where has Jacobs found the drive to pick herself up and start all over again:

“I split it into extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. Extrinsic is more straightforward. I think of the goal I’m aiming for and it’s like an exam – you can’t expect to do well without preparation. So focusing on the goal motivates me to put all the right preparation steps in place. I always think of how much better races are when I know I’ve done my best and prepared properly. Even when it’s hard to get up early in the mornings, or you’re getting a bad case of the CBFs, sending my mind back to that goal makes it easier. It’s generally not a results-based goal, but it’s usually a race or concept that I’ll target that I want to prepare well for.

Intrinsic is, for me, a bit more mercurial. I worked for years on my intrinsic motivation because I’m very goal focused and sometimes I overlook the ‘fun’ aspect in the process. What I realised is that life is easier when you love what you’re doing. So if you can find out what is most important for your sport, or your improvement, and learn to love it, then that motivates you internally. For cyclocross, mud skills are really important. So I learned to love getting out in rubbish weather and sliding around in the mud. I used to hate the gym, but I realised I needed to do it and so I learned to love it. Having mates who are willing to do it with you helps too – that definitely adds to the fun!”

The endurance rider

13072643_10153460838136960_7131322182750366122_o (1)
Photo compliments of Curve Cycling

Sarah Hammond is an endurance specialist so she has to find the motivation to push on when she is in the middle of an excruciatingly long challenge and to just keep going further while training, even if her riding buddies are heading for home. She has completed four Everesting’s which is riding up and down a single climb until you reach at least 8,848 metres of ascent  has chased an Australian 24-hour team distance record and in June will head off to the 2016 Trans Am which is a 4,400 mile (7,080 kilometre) self-supported bike race across America. A solid work schedule means training time on the bike has to be squeezed in whenever possible, even if it means riding through the night.

“Motivation is different for everybody, there is no wrong or right answer. It’s what drives us to achieve. As human beings we all need goals and the goals that seem sane to one may seem ridiculous to others. For me my motivation lies within testing my comfort zone, I regularly find myself so easily sitting within the ‘safe’ zone of my day to day life. Riding allows me to extend beyond that. It challenges me to be afraid, and excited at the same time, of what I am about to take on.

With any ride I tackle, the decision is always that I don’t go home till I reach the end. No matter what that may involve. You make your mind up and you go.”

If you would like to help Hammond get to the Trans Am she has set up a gofundme page.

The 24 hour world solo mountain bike champion 

Jess Douglas MTB 3
Photo compliments of Norm Douglas

There are no shortcuts when your main game is spending 24 hours on the bike. Jessica Douglas, a three-time 24 hour world solo mountain bike champion, threw herself into mountain biking when she was was in her mid-30’s and had a child to work around. She quickly built up her skill levels with the approach of creating manageable targets and always moving forward, even if only by small increments. Consistency and time took care of the rest. Douglas is also a mountain bike skills instructor, a coach and has set up the women’s cycling site Ride Like a Girl.

“As I ‘mature’ I have found I am less and less motivated by glory or by beating an opponent. These are by products of my true motivation being realised.

Firstly I have to feel like I am about to enter into an adventure. Secondly, it has got to be fun, either the route, the location or the people.  I am not wasting my time on races for racings sake. Thirdly, and most importantly I really thrive on devising a plan, a process that I can follow and see it through to the end.

The process is not about being in total control either, its more about how I deal with adversity and challenges and push through the unexpected hiccups.  In fact when things go wrong, its actually fun to problem solve.”

So that’s what motivates just some of the people that help motivate me, but I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by so many more. They range right from Bridie O’Donnell who managed to take an hour world record around working as a physician, to a person I know that is battling with a chronic illness. It’s hard to justify petty excuses when instead of bemoaning what she can’t do, she just grasps every opportunity to indulge in the joy of cycling in a way her health allows.

Who are the figures in your local cycling community that motivate you?

Editors Picks