As dedicated cyclists, we are inherently driven by goals and the pursuit of better performance. We constantly strive to set new personal records, outpace fellow riders, and perhaps even clinch that coveted race victory. Our training routines often revolve around rigorous indoor workouts, replete with intervals and ramps designed to enhance our FTP and other vital metrics, all meticulously recorded and analyzed. However, this relentless focus on numbers and performance metrics can have adverse effects on our mental well-being, potentially leading to burnout and exhaustion. In the off-season, there’s a compelling case to adopt a more mindful approach to indoor training that maintains our fitness and fosters a deeper sense of enjoyment and connection with our cycling journey.
Mindfulness is about “paying attention to what is going on inside and outside ourselves, moment by moment,” and fully experiencing the sensations of the present moment. It entails being acutely aware of our bodies and the sensations they undergo. Unfortunately, this state of mindfulness often eludes us during typical indoor training sessions, which tend to be excessively goal-oriented, with intervals and competitive elements monopolizing our focus. In such sessions, the pursuit of targets often overshadows our ability to connect with the present moment, our bodies, and our surroundings.
Thankfully, the landscape of indoor cycling is evolving, offering opportunities for a more contemplative and relaxed approach. Modern training apps are a key ally in this endeavour, providing riders with alternatives to the relentless pursuit of targets. Instead of mechanically chasing intervals while drowning out the world with music, these apps offer a space for riders to reflect and immerse themselves in the experience.
Wahoo X, for instance, goes beyond training schedules and sessions. It includes motivational content, guidance on yoga, relaxation techniques, and maintaining a positive mindset, in addition to its well-known Sufferfest videos. Apps like Rouvy enable riders to virtually explore scenic locations like the Alps or Dolomites, enhancing the sense of connection to the ride and possibly inspiring future challenges. Moreover, most indoor cycling apps facilitate group rides, creating a shared experience and fostering community and connection.
Video-based riding experiences provided by apps like Fulgaz and Kinomap offer another alternative. These platforms allow riders to virtually journey through captivating landscapes, making each indoor session feel like a unique adventure.
It’s essential to recognize that any form of exercise, even a gentler turbo session on a gloomy evening, can significantly benefit our mental health. The positive effects of exercise include improved sleep, elevated moods, stress and anxiety management, enhanced self-esteem, reduced risk of depression, and social connection.
Indoor cycling apps further enhance this sense of connection. Features like Discord integration and built-in voice chat in apps like Wahoo RGT enable riders to engage with fellow cyclists, fostering a sense of camaraderie. Zwift’s extensive user base ensures that group rides are available at virtually any time, catering to riders of different paces and goals. Additionally, you can always organize joint sessions with friends, further strengthening your sense of connection.
The off-season offers a unique opportunity to shift our approach to indoor cycling. Instead of fixating solely on metrics and performance, consider embracing a mindful perspective. Incorporate more relaxed indoor cycling sessions into your training regimen, allowing yourself to fully immerse in the experience. In doing so, you can emerge from the winter months feeling rejuvenated, reconnected with your love for cycling, and primed to transition into the new riding and racing season with renewed enthusiasm and mental well-being. Remember, cycling is not just about the destination; it’s also about the journey and the moments experienced along the way.