I’m sure we all know the struggle: It’s been raining for days. You come home from work tired and stressed out. Your apartment is a mess and needs urgent cleaning. Plus, you want to spend time with your partner or your family.
And the bike? It’s just standing there, staring at you. If it’s in your shed or the garage, you know it would be staring at you if you were in the same room with it.
The result: You feel guilty for not getting on the bike more often! You know it makes you feel good once you’re out, but something’s holding you back anyway. Oftentimes, this can lead to anger and frustration that sends you into a vicious cycle of „I want to ride“, „I need to rest“ and „I’m just being lazy and I need to push through“.
Personally, I have experienced two different kinds of guilt if it comes to not riding my bike: Guilt for prioritizing other things over cycling and guilt for not being persistent, strong, healthy or disciplined enough. Today, I’d like to talk about those two troublemakers!
1) Guilt for prioritizing other things over cycling
This kind of guilt is the „justified“ kind. It’s a clear warning sign that a shift in your priorities is happening, and that you need to act now if you don’t want your passion to slowly fade away.
Need an example?
You sit at home and prefer to watch Netflix instead of kitting up and hitting the road. There is no obvious reason why you shouldn’t go on a ride, but you prioritize an activity that will later make you say “I should’ve gone cycling instead”.
If that happens a lot more often than you‘d like it to, it’s probably a good idea to rethink your priorities and how important cycling really is for you.
2) Guilt for not being persistent, strong, healthy or disciplined enough
In short: For being a cry-baby that should go out on a ride, no matter what, because that’s “what real cyclists do“. This kind of guilt is the toxic one that you should avoid at all costs.
It often starts like this: You look at your Strava stats. Then you go on Instagram and scroll through the posts of your followers. They’re all out on their bikes, having a blast and getting stronger, faster and more professional than you with every passing day. Meanwhile, you sit at home on the couch and rest, while you could actually be on the bike.
But here’s the thing: Having to take some time off training because of specific circumstances doesn’t make you less of a cyclist! I know that you know that, but the little devil on our shoulder tends to disagree when we’re weak and vulnerable. If your life gets turbulent and you force yourself to do and achieve even more, instead of taking a break and giving it a rest… now, that will put a ton of pressure on you and your passion for cycling.
I massively suffered from this kind of guilt about a year and a half ago, and it nearly broke me: Mitch and I always trained together, but at some point he started to ride a lot more often and chose more intense routes, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep up until I increased my time on the bike. He even registered for a crit race, and I really really wanted to be part of that, too (more on that topic another time).
But I had to deal with a divorce, move into a new place and find a second job. This is already a lot to handle for someone who doesn’t burn for cycling. Yet, I beat myself up over it, again and again and again. Until someday, I had a serious panic attack on the bike!
That was when I started to tell myself: No, Aline, it’s okay. You need to deal with those things now and not worry about your training too much. This is your priority because it has to be your priority. If you could chose otherwise, you would. So don’t beat yourself up over it and just get through it.
Of course, that’s an extreme example, but I think it ultimately applies to all kinds of things that can happen in everybody’s life. Most people are not immune to bad moods, nasty weather, fights with family members or significant others, or trouble at work. We all deal with stuff as best as we can.
Always remember: You’re only good on the bike as long as you FEEL good.
Training when you‘re mentally and physically in a bad place is a terrible idea. It not only makes you feel like a failure because you won’t be able to “just push through” but might also make your current situation worse.
When I’m sick - but technically not sick enough for a workout - I personally still skip the training because I don’t want my body to have to fight a cold AND the effort of a bike ride. But I know that everyone’s different, and a lot of people actually go on a ride anyway. Which is great! But please, if you don’t feel well and you want to stay at home, don’t beat yourself up over it just because others do it differently.
The same goes for mental issues - I do believe that most of the time, we have a pretty good radar for when to go on a ride and when to sit it out. I know that I’m among those people who proclaim that #ridingistheanswer, but to be honest, it isn’t always a good idea to get on the bike when you’re very emotional. I not only had the aforementioned panic attack but also rode my bike very aggressively and kind of recklessly a couple of times when I was really angry. That’s just a recipe for making an already bad situation worse. Listen to your gut and choose another coping mechanism instead if you’re prone to these kind of behaviors!
Last but not least...
I hope you won’t fall prey to rider’s guilt - it’s definitely going to take the fun out of the sport. Choose wisely what kind of guilt you experience and act accordingly. I promise, you won’t regret it - even after looking at the 1000th awesome cycling picture on Instagram ;-)