I have to admit that I’m not a great fan of silly acronyms but I was rather proud of myself when I came up with FONKU – Fear Of Not Keeping Up. For me, it sums up my fears and lack of self-confidence and from talking to other female road cyclists it really is an issue.
When I first wrote about FONKU I got some great comments from other riders like “Great acronym – I knew straight away what you were talking about! I think another “fear of” that stops me riding with bunches at times, is that I’ll be slow and that someone might feel the need to wait or go slow to stay with me; but it’s usually all in my head,” from Delwyn.
And this on Facebook from Julie, “This is so me, but luckily I ride with a very supportive group who are always encouraging.”
I’ve suffered from FONKU from time to time when I decide that I won’t be able to keep up even before I leave home and I avoid rides where I fear I won’t keep up. I often hear similar laments from other female riders. For me, it’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy because it often comes true. But it’s not always because of my ability, but more to do with my attitude. So what can we do about it? Here are a few of my tips for dealing with the dreaded FONKU.
That voice inside your head has a huge impact on your life. Use your quiet time to focus on the sort of things you say to yourself, and practice changing them to positive statements. One of my favourite phrases I say to others who are struggling mentally is ‘Be Kind to Yourself’, but I’m not always great at practising it myself. Also try – “I will keep up”, “I will stay with the group”.
I’m not a very athletic person so I know that to keep up with my more athletic counterparts, I need to ride more. The expression that ‘you need more Ks in your legs’ definitely applies to me. The more I ride, the easier I can keep up with other riders. When I’m fitter my regular ride buddies always comment on how well I’m riding and what they are really saying is “You’re keeping up”.
Find another group to ride with
If you really are riding with people who are always going to be faster than you, no matter how much you train, then maybe you need to find another group to ride with. Although it may be, that you will be able to keep up over time, so don’t give up on that group that’s just a little faster than you believe you can ride. As your fitness improves you will be able to hang on for longer.
Take it step-by-step
For some group rides there might be the option of taking some shortcuts so you can rejoin the group. You could utilise those shortcuts for a while until you have increased your speed and can keep up for the entire ride. I did this when I first joined my cycling club. Thankfully we did laps around Sydney Olympic Park and there’s plenty of shorter options.
Improve your skills
Attend a skills workshop or hire a coach so you can improve your riding skills. You’ll go faster if you corner correctly, descend well, pedal efficiently, and get the most out of your equipment. And if you can’t find an actual workshop there are some great books and online resources like this blog where you can learn about skills. Then practice, practice, practice.