Lost your Mojo? – Part 1: All in the Mind

We’ve all been there, no motivation to train or even do a social ride. We met up with renowned sport psychologist EUGENE OPPELT to find out how we can motivate our minds once more.

Eugene Oppelt is a psychologist focused on high performance with athletes, including some of the best cyclists in the country. He loves to visit the Alps every year with his bicycle and is often spotted on the trails on his Scalpel. Twitter @eugene_oppelt

Every now and then I hear that Kenny (fictitious name), one of the cyclists in my social network is ‘not up to it this weekend’ or ‘needs a break’ or ‘can’t get out of bed’ and needs a ‘time out’. Months later, he eventually accepts a ride invitation, looking like his kit shrunk by two sizes, and ends up fighting with his mountain bike to the nearest hilltop like a beginner, frustrated and in agony from the effort. Eventually, he disappears again for a while and pops up again, unexpectedly, on the street corner where we meet on Saturday mornings at 06h30 for the weekend’s long ride. Not too long after, we heard that Kenny sold his cycling stuff. So strange, as I have clear memories of him enjoying his cycling and telling us how much it means to him. Have you heard of a story like this before? Sounds familiar? Ever been in his shoes or somewhat close to it?

Only Human

Working closely with the psychology of professional mountain bikers, there is one obvious similarity between them and you, the weekend warrior.You are a human being first and a cyclist second. The other
similarity is that there must a desire or mojo to get into the saddle and stamp those pedals, like anything in life.

Motivation or Mojo

As human beings, having strong motivation or mojo is essential to you enjoying your cycling. The weekends spent in the hills and exploring new routes in the mountains are meant to be fun, enjoyable and a very helpful escape from the stress and pressures of the week. Without strong motivation or mojo, it is impossible to enjoy one’s hobbies, interests and passions. It is a bit like having a beautiful Ferrari in one’s garage and having no desire to enjoy it on that coastal ride on a Sunday afternoon.

Not to worry, all you need to do is take a few quiet moments, organize yourself and build a plan to protect
your mojo and boost your motivation. With this, you can end up riding consistently, with all the ‘gees’ and
flatten those trails.

Here are a few useful strategies to reset and boost your mojo:


The 30 Day Fast

This step will take courage. It may sound absolutely crazy but fasting from cycling is something that I even
recommend to elite cyclists. Lock your bicycle up out of sight and give your best friend the key and he is only allowed to give it back to you in 30 days. Psychologically, a total break helps the mind to detach from cycling, recover and then allow you to slowly develop your appetite and hunger again to get in the saddle. Remember, no matter how much you love, say, pizza, not even the biggest pizza lover wants pizza for
breakfast, lunch and supper!

Adjusting to life stress

This step will take self-awareness. Often, we go through periods of tremendous stress at work or at home,
like a big work deadline or someone you love is ill at home, and then we want to continue our cycling as if life is normal. However, trying to keep up your cycling buddies while carrying bricks of stress in your jersey pockets can really deflate the mojo. So, adjust to the reality of your life situation in the best possible way. Small breaks in your cycling can only help you to get through the tough and stressful times. Be honest with
yourself, make small temporary changes and then keep your mojo going.


The magic of the short ride

This step will take discipline. Many weekend warriors focus on the big long ride and then do little or nothing in-between. This can often lead to exercise shock, exhaustion and often injury too which can dent one’s cycling mojo. What the elite and professional cyclists do very well is that they ride and train consistently to prevent these setbacks from happening. It takes a bit of discipline and planning for your
calendar, but the reward for the mojo is fantastic as you can stay fit, supple and injury-free. So from, for example, the one big Saturday morning ride, try adding one or two short and higher intensity rides during the week. Even a 30-minute ride can do wonders for the mojo – 10 mins warm up, 10 mins time trial, 10 mins cool down!


The Quest

This step will take dreaming big. One of my favourite ideas is the psychology of a quest – a challenging and tough target for your cycling. Set intermediate goals (If I reach 75 kg, I will buy me that blue jersey.)


Burning up the mojo

This step will take rethinking your habits. Most weekend warriors train too hard in too little time, not allowing their bodies and mojo to recover from the last effort. This is one of the quickest ways to burn your mojo and leave you feeling demotivated and uninterested in swinging your foot over the saddle. So, when tired take an extra day to rest. When you are spent in the saddle, peel off and head back home. When you need more sleep, make the time. Do not worry about what your cycling buddies may say as only you understand your own body.

Finally, cycling is one of the toughest sports and can be wonderful when the mojo is running strong and absolute torture when the mojo is down.

Keep on rolling!


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