After 10 months away from my road bike, I decided to get back on and train for a century ride. With only a month and a half to train, I had my work cut out for me. To get back into the swing of things, I went out for a 3-hour, 40 mile ride on a Saturday morning. I chose the hilliest route I could find since the century ride I signed up for features two massive hills.
Midway up the fourth hill on my training ride, I began to lose steam. My quads burned as I reminded myself to relax my arms and focus on my breathing. With each exhale, I tried to push harder and pedal up the hill. I was already in my lowest gears, and looking ahead, the top seemed so far away despite my progress.
Behind me I heard the whirring back wheel of another cyclist. The cyclist was in much better shape than me, tackling this hill like it was flat ground. “Ugh, this sucks,” I muttered.
“Keep it up! You’re almost there!” said the cyclist as she passed me on the left. Startled, I said “Thanks.” Feeling a surge of motivation, I pushed my tush back further on the seat and pedaled harder up the hill until I reached the top.
Later on in my ride, another female cyclist offered encouraging words as she passed me on the final whoa-sized hill of my training ride. Once again, the encouragement helped me to pedal harder and faster up the hill.
It may be a small gesture, a humble act of kindness, but encouraging words from strangers are powerful motivation. Unlike your friends and family, strangers don’t have to support or motivate you. Sure, there’s the camaraderie of roadies, but usually it never goes further than “hello” or “good morning” or a polite wave. More often, it’s just a courtesy shout of “on your left” when passing (or more likely just the hum of the wheels as they fly by you).
Friends who have run marathons speak of spectators offering words of encouragement at mile 18, when many runners begin to hit their endurance wall. Even when I run 5Ks, I get an extra boost near the end when the spectators clap and cheer and shout “Good job!” and “Almost there!” Short words have a massive impact.
3 easy ways to motivate other athletes
- Say “Good job!” when running or pedaling past an athlete, especially when going uphill.
- High-five runners when they pass you running in the opposite direction.
- Find a running, walking or cycling event in your community, stand a mile or two away from the finish line and cheer on the participants.