The benefits of an exercise bike include the sheer length of time you can use it for, in your own home, without running into obstacles. Long-distance cycling is a way to get a great calorie burn, boost your heart and lung function, and improve muscular endurance.
It also involves a significant amount of sitting in one place and - if you’re not careful - more than a little tedium. Today we’re talking about how to get over the challenges of the gruelling nature of long cycle rides indoors.
10 tips for staying motivated on a long-distance bike ride:
1. Zone Out and Ignore It
Sometimes, you don’t need to be motivated, you just need to zone out for long enough to get through your workout. This kind of “empty head cycling” is a common strategy for getting through long-distance cycling.
Clear out your head and make it a meditative practice, if you can. Expect the tiredness and be ready to simply ignore it and zone out.
2. Background Entertainment
One way to zone out and improve your motivation for long cycles is to have something going on in the background. On an exercise bike, this is especially easy: you can throw the TV on or watch a video, or even listen to a podcast while cycling.
This kind of stimulus is a great way to focus on something other than the soreness in your legs and the heavy breathing. It’s a great strategy and exercise bikes make it easier to blast through miles without even thinking about it.
3. Break the Distance Down
If you’re really struggling, the best approach is to ignore the amount of distance ahead. Instead, just focus on the next stride, the next 100m, or the next kilometre. These individual short-term goals are much more achievable and you can just tell yourself to make one more every time, and you’ll reach your goal in no time.
Breaking down big tasks into smaller sections helps you progress through the section and take your mind off the size of the whole workout.
4. Fuel Better, Feel Better
Getting demotivated is easier when your workout feels unnecessarily hard. Fuelling properly helps you get through these kinds of long workouts with less exhaustion, demotivation, and suffering.
Proper carb-feeding or fat intake in the 12 hours before a long cycle determine how much energy you’ve got stored up. This also includes during-workout carb and water intake, which regulate your energy levels.
It’s easier to be motivated when your pace is good and your muscles have the energy they need, so make sure you carb up before you begin the session..
5. Keep Your Goals in Mind
Motivation works well when you appeal to your big goals.
Why are you on the bike in the first place? Keep that in mind when things get hard. It’s a cliche to say “remember why you started” but keeping that goal in mind is an important part of connecting the hard work and discomfort of a long cycle to the results you’re trying to achieve. .
It’s easier to stay motivated when you feel like you’re causing positive change. Each stride does exactly that, so keep going.
6. Interactive Training
Technology has made staying motivated easier than ever before. There are systems that can produce virtual cycling environments, deliver personal trainer-led workouts and provide ways of tracking your output and comparing your data to friends, and strangers, all over the world.
Many models of exercise bikes integrate with apps like KinoMap, Zwift, Strava and others, offering a more rewarding and motivating cycling experience. Other models feature built-in interactive training systems such as iFit. These kinds of features make for really enjoyable sessions and tracking/comparing your workouts against others can add a very motivating dimension to all your training sessions. If you get bored easily it’s certainly worth taking a look at these types of models.
7. Expect The Difficulty
If you’re expecting the discomfort and exhaustion of a workout and prepare yourself for it, your coping mechanism is going to be more effective helping you to keep going through the tough moments..
A little visualisation of a workout before you start can help you to anticipate the exhaustion and discomfort and deal with them before you reach that point in your workout. This is a well known sports psychology technique that helps people successfully get through tough workouts.
Prepare for the workout beforehand and you’ll continue even when things get difficult.
8. Rest Well
The good work you do on the bike is built on a foundation of rest and recovery between workouts. Don’t hamstring your long cycles by resting poorly the night before.
High-quality sleep takes the edge off, just like good nutrition, and will help you to achieve better results. Equally, make sure you’re getting some rest the day before your long cycles so you’re not coming in fatigued and limiting your mental and physical performance before you even saddle up.
8-9 hours in a dark, cool, quiet room are the best medicine for exhaustion and discomfort. Set yourself up to win.
9. Embrace the Struggle
Take pride in the discomfort you feel in sessions. The challenge of endurance exercise is to do more work! This is what you signed up for and it’s the exact challenge that provides character growth and improves toughness.
Yes, it’s exhausting and uncomfortable and sore. However, the ability to embrace the challenge and discomfort is what will help to drive your personal growth from the experience, and it’s something to be proud of. This outlook attaches a positive emotion to the struggle and discomfort.
Don’t just look at your long-term physical goals but also pay attention to your own mental strength. Build a sense of pride that says “yes, I like doing this difficult thing, and I’m a more resilient person for it”. Hard work is a defining character trait and the reason endurance performance gets such impressive results.
10. Suck It Up
This is the ultimate in motivation: You’re not feeling motivated, but you just keep going. The fact is that you don’t always control how you feel but you do get to choose to keep going or give yourself the easy way out and hop off.
Sometimes, it’s just a matter of sucking it up and not being soft or making excuses. Making the choice to keep going isn’t always about motivation, it's about building habits. All you need to do is make a habit of not giving up and it won’t be long before you notice just how far you’ve come. .
Your mental toughness and endurance need to progress a little at a time, just like your physical endurance. Making the choice to endure establishes a pattern that you’ll be able to draw on next time — it’s this basis that allows you to push through when motivation runs out.
Staying motivated on long cycles
Counter intuitively, the first and most important thing to improve your motivation is to get away from relying on motivation! Take a disciplined approach and treat your session as a “this is not an optional thing ”as this tends to be a more reliable way to ensure you see things through and workout regularly. Commit to your process and each workout will help you to build more long-term staying power.
Most of the motivation of a paced long-distance cycle comes from putting your head somewhere else. Beating boredom usually involves not just cycling but distracting yourself with a way of contextualising all that pedalling or just putting your mind elsewhere. The more you can break cycling down to the next stride, the better you’ll stay on-task.
This is important for long-distance cycling where the main risks are poor energy levels, cardiorespiratory function, and mental fatigue. Long-distance cycling is relative to your ability but typically, long-distance cycling will refer to anything above 20km, or any session that lasts for more than an hour. Most experienced cyclists will happily work in the 50-100km distance in a matter of hours in a weekly ‘long ride’.
Any distance that expands on your current abilities or sets a personal distance record is a great way to train for endurance. For a beginner, that might only be 10km. For an experienced cyclist, a good distance on an exercise bike could be a Saturday morning century ride (either in miles or kilometres).
Distance is personal. The idea is to work into longer ranges over time, hold a good pace and put in the time and effort that makes you fitter, healthier, and a better cyclist.