I found a great article published on theconversation.com about how to improve your motivation to exercise and everything that the authors said really resonated with me and can be applied to cycling. The authors are academics from the University of South Australia. You can read their original article here, but I’ve borrowed their ideas and turned it into a cycling-specific story. And if you don’t already subscribe to regular updates from The Conversation I’d recommend it. Interesting stories that land in your inbox daily.
Why do some people ‘hate exercise’? Clearly, they haven’t discovered the joys of cycling!
Humans didn’t evolve to ‘exercise’
Caveman and woman had to move to find food, and once they were fed, they rested to conserve energy, because they didn’t know where their next meal was coming from.
Even my grandmothers and great-grandmothers didn’t need to fit exercise into their busy days because they spent all their time cooking, cleaning, washing clothes, and running after their offspring.
But modern man and woman have evolved into a bunch of couch sitters. We have so many time-saving devices at our fingertips that we don’t need to move much to make food or do domestic chores. I know what you’re thinking, you run around the house doing all manner of jobs but relative to our ancestors, we are all rather sedentary.
What are some science-backed ideas to get motivated to exercise/ride your bike?
According to psychologists, there are two main types of motivation: extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation arises from within – doing something for a personal reward or challenge of it. Extrinsic motivation comes from external factors, like trying to earn a reward or avoid a punishment.
You can boost your intrinsic motivation by identifying why exercising is important to you.
Identify your “why”
Do you want to ride your bike for your health? Cycling has long-term benefits for health and function and immediate effects on mood and vitality. Being clear in your mind about what you want to gain from exercising, can help prompt you into action.
Extrinsic motivators can also help you get started with exercise.
Arrange to meet a friend to ride together
You’ll be more likely to follow through, as you won’t want to let your friend down. This is one of my favourites and really works for me. I hate to let anybody down so will drag myself out of bed to meet a friend.
Reward yourself with something new
Buy yourself something new for cycling – a new bike, kit, shoes, helmet and make it a reward for actually riding. You need to earn it.
Track your activity
Get a bike computer or activity tracker. Bike computers and fitness trackers have a host of features designed to boost motivation, such as prompts, self-monitoring and goal-setting. There is plenty of research suggesting activity trackers increase physical activity.
Exercise at the same time each day
You need to make it a habit. I prefer to ride my bike first thing in the morning, and do other exercise sessions early too. This is backed up by research that suggests exercising in the morning leads to faster habit formation compared with evening exercise.
Do an activity you enjoy
Cycling is tailor-made for this point. There is nothing better than feeling the wind through your hair. Increase your chances of sticking with it by doing an activity you find enjoyable. Also, you’ll exercise at a higher intensity without even realising it, if you are doing a form of exercise you enjoy.
Like any exercise, you should start small and build up with cycling. You’ll be surprised how far you can go in a fairly short amount of time.
Make a financial commitment
I’m not sure that this one always works, especially when it comes to gym memberships many of which go unused. But for cycling, you can make a financial commitment by buying some great gear that you just feel compelled to use, or join a cycling club. It gives you some skin in the game.
According to the learned academics, it takes around three to four months to form an exercise habit. After that, the intrinsic motivators take over to keep your exercise routine going. Who knows, maybe you’ll be the one hooked on cycling and inspiring your friends and family a few months from now. Cycling is very addictive.