June 29, 2007

Motivation to cycle…

Writing about Exercising is rubbish from Autology: John Dale's blog

John wrote a while ago about how hard it is to enjoy exercise, and hence to keep doing it. I’ve not really been in the mood for exercise this week after being ill last week and not having fully recovered yet. But I did more that the bare minimum of cycling anyway and thought I’d write about why.

In general I do enjoy cycling, both the activity itself and the effects. The activity gets me out and about on local country lanes and when the weather is good (or even not co good) that itself is quite enjoyable. It also gets me thinking differently. Mostly about different stuff, so that I can come back to a task afterwards and approach it with a fresh mind. Sometimes, though, I have a flash of inspiration while cycling. More than once this year I’ve been stuck on a problem all morning, only to have the solution come to me during a lunchtime cycle. And even if that doesn’t happen, taking lungfulls of (mostly) fresh air for an hour certainly wakes me up and makes me more alert for the rest of the day. I’m convinced I’m more productive in the afternoons on the days when I’ve cycled at lunchtime.

All of that makes me look forward to cycling. Generally. But sometimes I’m just not in the mood. Like this week. What motivates me then is targets. I’ve set myself a mileage target for the year, but I translate that into lots of mini- (or micro-) targets to provide motivation every day. Some examples:

  • 3000 miles a year translates to almost 9 miles a day. My direct commute is only 2 miles each way so I have a small detour I can add to make it up to 5. The need to do 9 miles a day to keep on target is enough motivation to make me keep adding that detour day after day and not wimp out.
  • That 9-miles-a-day figure is every day, including weekends. So there’s some motivation to find an extra 18 miles during lunchtime rides to make up for the fact that I typically don’t cycle at the weekends
  • There are times I know I’m going to be away. If I’ve got a week off planned, then I need to be 60 miles ahead of my target before that week to avoid slipping behind. This is going to be my motivation for the next few weeks, as I’ve got holidays planned in July & August.
  • Nice round numbers are good motivation. I’ll often go out at lunchtime if I know that will take my annual total above a multiple of 500 miles, or my weekly total over 100 or my monthly total over 300.
  • etc., etc.

Usually when I go cycling motivated by targets I find I enjoy it after all, for all the reasons at the top. I don’t remember ever coming back wishing I hadn’t bothered.

Of course, targets aren’t a substitute for enjoyment. You do need to fundamentally enjoy your chosen form of exercise. But I find targets provide an extra motivation and keep me going when I’m just not in the mood for whatever reason.


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