By Jeffrey Stern
We’ve all experienced the feeling: it’s cold, rainy and dark outside. Getting out of bed becomes progressively harder even though the days are actually getting longer. Old man winter seems to be dragging his feet on forever and that burnt out mood you experienced at the end of 2017 won’t go away. What can one possibly do to avoid that horrible feeling towards the activity we all know and love so much?
Let’s be honest, 2017 was a long year for many reasons even beyond cycling. I myself leaned on the bike more than ever to avoid the common life stressors and the multitude of additional ones that seemed to keep piling on with each passing month. I rode more and more, accumulated miles of adventures around the country and had one of my biggest years to date in the saddle. From overnighters to races to commuting and everything in between, it’s hard to remember a day I didn’t get out and ride. But now the New Year has arrived and I’m starting to feel burnt out even before getting started on 2018 plans. What in the world can I do to avoid complete and utter destruction of my fitness and fun that kept me rolling throughout the entire year?
1. Take a break.
Although difficult, I find taking a whole week off from activity is the best refresher available. It doesn’t matter if it’s at the end of the year, start of a new year or the middle of summer. Sometimes I just need to hit the reset button. For me this means virtually no activity, except for walking my dog. I find after only a couple days I’m feeling refreshed, scheming up my next big adventure and viola! Cycling burnout avoided.
2. Pursue another athletic endeavor.
Let’s say you already took your week long break and avoided burning out, but only a few months later find it creeping back into your psyche. Look no further than trying something new. Instead of completely avoiding exercise, pick up a new activity (or old one who haven’t done in a while) that gets your heart pumping and endorphins flowing, albeit in a different way. Trying hitting your local rock gym if you’re craving a social atmosphere or if solo sweating is your thing, dust off those trusty running shoes (gasp!) and jog for 30 minutes a couple times a week. Before long, you’ll realize how much you miss strapping on your helmet and you’ll be back in the saddle in no time.
3. Pick up a book.
Preferably one about riding bikes or a specific topic that interests you. Sometimes we get stuck riding the same routes or planning the same adventures. Find a cycling related book that you’ve always wanted to read or heard amazing things about, fire up the tea kettle and start turning and devouring those pages. Undoubtedly, your creative juices will start flowing and that feeling of angst you began to develop towards your trusty steed will fly right out the window. Inspiration from other people’s stories is undeniably one of the greatest ways to dig yourself out of a slump.
It’s no fun feeling burnt out, no matter your life pursuit, but burnt out on your passion? Now that is a horrible thing. The most important aspect is recognizing the signs, which are different for each of us, and throwing yourself a curveball. Temporarily altering your perspective can deliver your body and mind exactly what’s needed to get back out on the roads and trails, exuberant and ready to pedal stress free for months on end.
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I consider myself a yoga rookie. I have taken classes here and there, but I’ve never committed myself to a dedicated practice, despite feeling physically and mentally regenerated after a session. Increased balance, flexibility, focus, mindfulness, posture, and strength. The benefits of yoga are many, so what holds me back from allowing myself to experience the positives of a regular practice? My three primary excuses are time commitment, cost, and feeling sheepish about practicing yoga in a group setting.
On February 1 I set out to incorporate yoga into my lifestyle via YogaGlo, a website dedicated to getting individuals everywhere to practice yoga. The sites hosts over 2,500 online videos from trained professionals that specialize in different types of yoga or meditation. The classes range from 5-120 minutes, which quickly eradicates excuse #1 for not practicing yoga; I have 5 minutes.
The website itself has a minimal layout and is easy to navigate. The number of classes seems overwhelming but there’s a convenient filter option allowing you to refine your search by body part, duration, focus, level, style, and teacher. Each of the 35 instructors has a bio so you can read about their specific credentials, if desired. The classes are very beginner friendly, without making you feel elementary, and the instructors suggest modifications throughout the asanas. I focused on those that were cycling specific and a few that were unique to my physical needs, such as neck and shoulder tension.
Only moments into my first class I was reminded of my need to stretch and the infrequency that I do so, especially post ride. Each course has a brief description explaining the goal of the specified practice. I began with a 30 minute class, Bike Love, which addresses “all the common tight spots associated with cycling.” I had more tight spots than I knew.
The longer classes allow you to really get into a groove. My favorite class thus far is the Whole Enchilada, an hour long level 1 class, which takes you through a series of postures for increased flexibility, recovery, and circulation. The 5-15 minute classes didn’t allow much time for my mind to settle, but they did provide the space to take a deep breath and sort of “reset” for the task at hand. I’ve found myself taking a few minutes to step away from the computer to perform postures that helped me stretch.
Quick Recovery has been a great pre-bedtime class. The last pose in the series is “legs up the wall,” or Viparita Karani. This simple inversion worked wonders on my tired legs and really did help me to relax and fall asleep.
YogaGlo strikes me as a wonderful practice for a newbie or hesitant yogi, like myself. However, I did wonder whether an in-home practice is appropriate for a beginner. I’ve been called out in yoga classes for doing a posture incorrectly. The online instructors do an excellent job at illustrating the postures and suggest alternatives for the less limber, but when I’m in my living room there’s no one around to keep me in check.
“In home practice is a great way to take time out of your day and refocus your energy and your self.” She recommended creating an open space at home that is free from distractions. “If you create an inviting space that you can slip away from your everyday worries, you will be more likely to stick with your home practice.”
Fortunately, YogaGlo has an app which allows you to sync your classes and access them via your phone or tablet. I did some of the classes in my living room but my ‘distraction free’ zone became my studio. A space with a lot of natural light, that is free of cats, a kitchen, and to-do’s.
Rebecca also had some great suggestions for the beginning yogi. “Online programs like YogaGLo are nice because they do have options for beginners to well-seasoned yoga practitioners. I do think that it is important for beginners and those with injury to seek professional yoga teachers. The group classes are a great way to connect with a greater community and having a teacher assist you to be sure that you are properly executing postures as to not injure yourself. Taking even just a few classes with an instructor will help jump start someone’s yoga practice and make an ‘in-home’ practice even more rewarding.”
Winter is the perfect time to discover ways to cross train and build habits for a new season. and yoga has proven itself as a habit to continue. Between the low cost of $18 per month, range of class duration, and the mobility, YogaGlo has solved all the reasons why I don’t practice regularly. Another plus, I don’t need to purchase any special equipment. I look forward to incorporating YogaGlo into an all-around cross training practice that will help strengthen my core, increase flexibility, and promote recovery.
The brick and mortar YogaGlo studio is in Santa Monica, California. Pop in to take a class for free while they’re filming.