My motivation is like the sea as it ebbs and flows throughout my days. I don’t feel like it’s an “all on” or “all off” thing, but rather some sort of gradual shifting. I also imagine motivation like one of those sand timer things, where you flip it back and forth to transfer sand from one bulbous end to the other. When I shove myself into doing something “good for me” it’s kind of like flipping the timer over again — there’s still sand (life energy?) stuck in the unmotivated side, but things are shifting in the right direction again.

Earlier this summer I had asked around for blog post ideas, and I got this very thoughtful question on motivation and goal setting from Mr. Guitar Ted himself, so I’ll try to tackle this today. I’m finally ready to talk about it.

I’d be interested to know how you set goals, or if your physician is doing that for you. What is a realistic goal for you in three months, six months, a year? Then I would also be interested in how you work mentally to achieve those goals, and how you deal with any potential setbacks. This all could be just lifestyle stuff, practical things, and maybe you can add some cycling goals in there too. All the best to you!

I’ll start with the easiest part of the question to answer: my physician and team aren’t setting goals for me. Rather, the surgeon quickly identified that he’d have to hold me back and has played that role well since we first talked. He is clear about my limitations, and I am always asking at each post-op appointment, “How can I break this?” I had the same foot surgery / tendon reattachment done TWICE in 2013 and no one is sure why it failed the first time, but now I’m hell bent to always ask, in clear language, what the hard stops are. This practice has served me well. Right now, the doc says that I can’t break the hardware but I can rip muscles — my soft tissues are the limiting factor and I try to pay attention to muscle tightness before it turns into full-on spasms.

As far as what goals are achievable by when – I have no idea! Here’s a story to illustrate the process. Today I rode the “Little Filthy” 12 mile gravel race with my kiddo and had a blast. Pre-op, the doc said he wouldn’t let me ride outdoors for 4-6 months after surgery so this would have kept me off of outdoor bikes until November at the earliest, and January at the worst. Instead of losing my mind at the thought of not riding for the rest of the season, I focused on what was within my control.

After a very successful surgery, in the midst of a fentanyl haze a few days post-op, the surgeon stopped by my hospital room and I asked him again when I could ride the indoor bike trainer, saying “3-4 weeks like you said?” and he responded with “Nah, you can ride it at one week. You won’t want to, but you can.”

If you know me, you can guess what happened; at exactly 1 week post-op, I got on the trainer and moved my legs around in little circles, with no resistance, for 5 minutes. It felt like hell but I was determined to do it, and have continued to get on the trainer every day that I could since. I was so mobile at my 6 week post-op appointment, the doc said I could ride OUTDOORS, even mountain bike, as long as it “didn’t hurt too badly”. That’s when we had the “muscles ripping” conversation mentioned above. 😉

I’m determined to keep pushing myself forward and not letting suggested limitations or timelines hold me back. I will listen to and respect my body but push when I am able, but now is not the time to give up. I’m just getting started.

I am motivated by progress, whether it’s in matters of personal care (I can put my own socks on!), mobility (I walked 2000 steps today, and yesterday it was less), or cycling (yesterday I rode the trainer for 5 minutes, so today I’ll try for 10). My motivation flags when setbacks occur, which was the topic of my last post. I’ve been having increased leg numbness and nerve pain the last week or so and my initial reaction was to pout and stop activities. After talking to the doc’s office, they said that my leg leg symptoms, in the current incarnation I was experiencing, shouldn’t stop me from doing activities. Apparently I will likely struggle with leg nerve issues for at least 12 months and some of the damage may be permanent. After getting the green light to move my body again I’ve been slightly more driven this week to get in workouts.


Often, recognizing where you’ve been and what you’ve already conquered is phenomenal motivation!

Saturday morning I laid around the house like a dead animal, not wanting to get on the trainer. My available time to get in a decent trainer ride was dwindling. What finally snapped me out of it was the thought that, by giving up on a good training day, I was stagnating my progress. By skipping that workout, I was willfully delaying my own recovery. (I had had plenty of rest days during the week — I’m all for rest when needed, and this wasn’t that.) I thought about my crazy cycling goals for 2018 and knew that I had to keep striving if there was any hope of reaching them.

So what are my 3, 6, and 12 month cycling goals? They’re pretty loose at this point with only 2 items in that entire time period. I have dreams, like riding any distance at the Filthy 50 (success!) and riding across Iowa on pavement in under 24 hours next year, this time doing it “the long way”. There’s a group that does it around the summer solstice so I have a target time to get trained. It’ll be ~300 miles in <24 hours if I complete it successfully.

The thought of this ride, something I’ve talked about on and off for a handful of years, gets me back on the bike when I don’t want to. I wanted to complete a ride like this last summer but the group didn’t go — they did it in 2016, and plan to tackle it again in 2018. My worst case scenario, if I’m not ready to go by June, is to create my own “cross state” ride and recruit other willing victims. Having some sort of concrete goal looming in the future is great for getting me to push my ass out the door when I don’t want to move.

I’ve had to give up on other 2018 dreams (completing the Alexander, riding Trans Iowa) as early season gravel seems to be out of reach. Gravel rides are harder than pavement on my spine with all the bumping and jostling around. That being said, I’m determined to keep pushing myself forward and not letting suggested limitations or timelines hold me back. I will listen to and respect my body but push when I am able, but now is not the time to give up. I’m just getting started.

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