The Off Season: Part 4, The Power of Discipline and Habits
Like an archer an arrow, the wise man steadies his trembling mind, a fickle and restless weapon.
I think that I always feel a little bleak in February and March. The bliss of the holidays starts to wear off, and we continue on into the rest of winter. It's dark, it's cold, the days are short, and the thought of riding the trainer in the basement is...meh.
We are deep into winter here, and it looks like there are no clear roads or outside rides in sight. And yet, somewhere in the near future is April and road racing, gravel riding, and all kids of other opportunities. We want to be ready, and yet we know that maybe we aren't quite ready yet. What do we do?
So, let me propose two simple plans of action.
Hey, just don't worry about it. It is February. The good weather will come, and you will be ready when you are ready. Life is just fine. You have a healthy lifestyle, and it is important that we do take time off to recharge our batteries, heal our bodies, and settle our minds.
Winter is a great time to put some things on the back burner. Try something new like snowshoeing or xc skiing or lifting weights inside. Try to establish a simple yoga routine and do it a few times a week. Put no pressure on yourself, just have a little peace and harmony. Have some fun.
You will lose some "road" fitness, but you probably have a good base built up, and you will get it back in time. If you are planning on racing this season, just make sure you do not put all your hopes on the first race of the season. Let it come when it comes, and if you do well then it will be a bonus. This is an especially solid plan if you are a cyclocross rider because you have a long season ahead of you.
If you are like me, you know that the season is ahead, and we often worry about what everyone else is doing. Who was on the trainer today? What are they doing? Are they using Xert? TrainerRoad? Zwift? You might be asking yourself, "How could I ever possibly catch up? Is it too late?"
If these thoughts lead to a lot of aggravation and stress in your life, I would highly recommend that you try Plan One for a few more weeks. Work on being a little more mindful. Steady your mind. But if you cannot simply wait, you need to begin to utilize the greatest tool we have as an athlete: discipline.
If you are ready to go and you just cannot wait to jump on the bike and get working, try to find some discipline and start readying yourself for the riding season.
Often, we sit at our desks at work, and we ponder if and when we are going to work out later. We get home and the dog needs to go out, and the phone rings, and dinner is waiting (or someone else is waiting for dinner), and we easily end up not riding at all. Why? We end up not riding because we were relying on being motivated to go get dressed and then head over to the bike. Our motivation wasn't greater than the tasks we had sitting before us. So we fail.
As I continue to struggle with motivation, I am coming to think that motivation is really overrated and that discipline is the thing I need more of to be successful. And here's why....
Motivation is the "reason(s)" we do what we do. We want to win. We want to be ready to ride with our faster friends. We want to be healthier than before. We want to lose weight. These are all noble things, but relying on how badly we want to see these goals realized is not always the best course.
It is easy for doubt to creep in and undercut our motivation.
Maybe winning isn't everything. I mean after all , I'm almost 50! I bet my friends are all out of shape, too. I am way healthier than I have ever been. I may be not 160 lbs yet, but I'm not 190 lbs anymore.
Maybe you have felt like this also?
Motivation is too often a road to failure, while discipline more easily takes us down a road to success. The reason for this is simple. Motivation relies on us feeling good or trying to feel good about doing something while discipline simply relies on us doing something. Remember, Yoda said, "There is no try, only do." By initiating action, we can cut the middle man out and get more stuff done.
Discipline works when we start first and then think later. Discipline starts with committing to new habits or revisiting ones that were successful in our past. It could also start with removing temptations that keep us from starting or that lead us down a destructive course.
What does discipline look like?
Discipline is making plans the night before with a friend to ride a Zwift event at 7 am.
Discipline is leaving out a jersey and bib shorts by the bedroom door, so that when we wake up from the alarm we set for 6:40 am on a Saturday, less barriers exist for us.
Discipline is taking a look at the calendar and charting out a few spots where getting a workout in might happen.
Discipline is rearranging some time in your calendar so you have more time for training.
Discipline is agreeing on workout times with your partner and being available at other times for their needs.
Discipline is removing sugary treats and alcohol from your kitchen and saving them for special events.
Discipline is having the bike and trainer software set up and ready to go at a moments notice.
Discipline is full water bottles on your trainer bike.
Discipline is wiping your chain and keeping it lubed after rides on the trainer.
Discipline is starting a training plan on Zwift, TrainerRoad, etc....
You get the picture. Notice how all the items above have nothing to do with you heading to the bike to start a workout. These are all done before hand. It has nothing to do with whether you feel like riding or not at the time. It has to do with commitment to action. Set up habits that eliminate road blocks and then commit to action.