From fitness that’s taken an inevitable dip to negotiating red tape in ‘the new normal’, recovering from ill health, or too much sitting on the sofa watching Netflix, it’s no surprise that some of us are finding it hard to motivate ourselves to get outdoors again.
We caught up with some of our ambassadors, on the cusp of new projects and adventures, to hear their experiences, and share some of our own thoughts too. Ultimately it may just be wise to adjust our expectations, be kind to ourselves, and ease back in!
“So, back to normal or is it?
Looking back, there were some plans for coming off pause back in August last year but before any of them were turned into adventures, travel restrictions were back in place making them impractical and later on, illegal. Autumn turned to Winter and most of us never got to enjoy the incredible snow conditions enjoyed across the Scottish Highlands.
The “off pause 2020” targets included a fastpack of the Bob Graham round with a view to a sub 24hr attempt this year, another Abraham’s Tea Round to improve on my first completion time, a social day out on the Glencoe Skyline race route, the Cairngorms 4000s route and given a fair wind a full traverse of the Skye Cuillin Ridge.
One major flaw with all of the above – they require a solid level of mountain specific fitness which simply cannot be built / maintained whilst trapped in Glasgow. I was deeply grateful for some runs in the Campsies but even the most imaginative routes don’t compare with the height gains, terrain or technical nature of the high Scottish summits.
In all the years of playing out, I’ve been very fortunate to have never dealt with injury other than falling off / falling onto things but in recent months have picked up niggles in my achilles and muscular back issue – guess time is catching up not helped by being stuck in civilisation.
As I sit here typing, I cannot even start to think about any of those targets happening in the near future. I am very grateful for avoiding COVID, but there has been a real and negative health impact.
So the plans may be shelved but not cancelled, what is left of spring and the summer will be spent trying to rebuild the mountain fitness, brush up moving over technical ground again and get some vans nights parked up in the wilds. Hopefully, by late this year, I’ll be able to confirm that life is once turned back up to eleven.
One of my first post lockdown 'adventures' is getting Cranked Kids Cycle club back up and running. While we had the first session on Sunday, we have a number of Covid/Scottish Cycling requirements and teething issues to resolve before next weekend, coupled with having to redo our entire club management tool.
And as Chair, I can't really leave it all to the rest of the team. So the next few evenings will be given over to Zoom calls to try and figure things out to make sure next Sunday is even better for the kids.
Motivation has generally never been that much of a problem for me (work or leisure), but the last 6 months during the winter lockdown (and following an operation on my back in November) has been hard.
I think fitness has played a part and I’ve lost a lot of fitness in the last 2 years due to sciatica and have just been ticking along doing what I can. It’s always a challenge starting with minimal fitness with the aches and pains that go along with it and frustration with one’s body not functioning at a level previously. This is perhaps exacerbated with life being in limbo and not having a goal like a competitive event, a planned trip – or even just being able to hook up with friends and enjoying the same fitness level around a particular activity.
The other (and perhaps more interesting part) has been the mental aspect and I’ve been questioning why my motivation has been affected over the last 6 months. For me life actually feels not much different during Covid and surprisingly in some ways busier, but working from home has sometimes been challenging to maintain motivation and momentum.
Is it perhaps trying to keep this motivation and momentum that has sucked mental energy from motivation for physical activity? Or is it a feeling of guilt about working separate from colleagues and feeling the pressure to demonstrate a full day of work, whilst balancing relationships and personal responsibilities alongside work? For me this results in taking personal time to go for a bike ride (just for the sake of a bike ride) feeling frivolous and maybe a little pointless. Chatting with friends I don’t think I’m alone in this thinking, but I also know that fresh air and exercise does wonders for how you feel and that it’s not something to stress about and my mojo will be back in its own good time!
As the restrictions ease we can look forward to travelling further afield. During the last year (and whenever we were allowed to exercise with one other person outside) I have ridden my mountain bike on our local trails with my best MTB buddy. She has totally defined what it means to be a best friend in this time as I had a particularly hard 2020 with the loss of both my parents. There have been some very emotional moments on those rides, and she has been there for me every time despite the pressures that the pandemic had inevitably put on her too.
This year and with everything ‘opening up’ again we decided to start planning a little adventure – the 350km King Alfred’s Way cycling route. It’s a new route that crosses ancient and historic lands, including Stonehenge. I’ve never actually visited Stonehenge before, although I’ve just driven past it many many times on the way to Cornwall. Approaching it via ancient lanes and tracks and on a bicycle feels far more appropriate.
In order to get used to putting in those miles, we’ve dusted off our road bikes and started training (or at least, extending the amount of miles between coffee stops!). We’ve both done over 100 miles in a day on road bikes before, but at the moment 40 miles is feeling far enough so I think we’ve got some work to do.
But, just to remind us that we’re not out of the woods yet, we’ve had a bit of a pandemic ‘Groundhog Day’ setback. This week my friend has had to go into isolation due to a family member coming down with Covid. So this morning I went on the training ride alone (frankly, I need it more than she does) and my pal stayed indoors. Out of frustration at not being able to ride, she apparently ate three chocolate brownies.
We’ve all been there, right?
All being well, we’ll be back to training next week. We’ll also be very, very appreciative of the fact that, after everything we have been through, we can finally have an adventure again.
BOOK OF THE WEEK
The Brave Athlete by Simon Marshall & Lesley Patterson
This book gives you tools to overcome negative feelings and the resulting lack of motivation in sport and life.
I first read it whilst researching an article I was writing about fear and mountain biking, and it gives really good mental ‘tools’ to help you feel more positive. It’s structured around common issues (confidence, body image, injury, anxiety for instance), so you can easily dip into it for advice, although its worth reading the whole thing first because it’s really interesting!
PODCAST OF THE WEEK
The Dirtbag Diaries
The campfire tale is ubiquitous in mountain culture and in March of 2007, Fitz Cahall launched The Dirtbag Diaries, a grassroots podcast dedicated to the sometimes serious, often humorous stories from wild places.
What began as a solitary experiment has evolved into collaboration between writers, photographers, artists and listeners to produce the type of stories that rarely find homes in the glossy pages of magazines.
Head over to www.dirtbagdiaries.com to access over 250 episodes of wilderness stories.
MUSIC OF THE WEEK
Bricks by Dave Hause
A wee Dave Hause track, suggested by our ambassador Graham Kelly, about starting afresh and building a new way forward.