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The Mental Health Benefits of Road Cycling: Find Your Zen on the Road

Road cycling: it's not just for lycra-clad athletes and Tour de France hopefuls. In fact, road cycling can be a fantastic way to boost your mental health and find some much-needed Zen in your busy life.

First and foremost, road cycling is a great form of exercise. It's low impact (unless you come off 😬), gets your heart rate up, pumps oxygenated blood to your brain, and releases feel-good endorphins into your noggin . And let's face it - we could all use a little extra dose of happiness these days!

But the benefits of road cycling go beyond just physical fitness. The repetitive motion of peddling can be incredibly meditative, allowing you to clear your mind and focus on the present moment. No phone notifications, no emails, no to-do lists - just you, your bike, and the open road.

And speaking of the open road, there's something undeniably freeing about cycling through beautiful, natural surroundings. Whether you're tackling a mountain pass or cruising along a quiet country road, the sights and sounds of the great outdoors can do wonders for your mental well-being.

But don't just take our word for it - research has shown that regular exercise, including cycling, can reduce stress, improve mood, and even help alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety. So grab your helmet, pump up those tyres, and hit the road for a mental health boost. And hey, if you're feeling really ambitious, you can even try to channel your inner Lance Armstrong (minus the doping, of course... [or not?!?! 🤔). Just make sure to bring some snacks and hydration, because there's nothing worse than "bonking" (a.k.a. running out of energy) on a long ride. Trust me, you'll be thanking us when you're climbing that final hill and you've got a little something extra in the tank.

In addition to the many mental health benefits of solo road cycling, riding with others can also be a great way to boost your mood and reduce stress. Not only does it provide the opportunity for social interaction and connection with others, but it can also be a fun and competitive way to challenge yourself and push your limits.

Plus, there's something undeniably satisfying about tackling a difficult ride or climb with a group of like-minded individuals. Whether you're part of a formal cycling club or just a group of friends, the sense of camaraderie and accomplishment that comes from cycling with others is superb. So why not invite a friend or two to join you on your next ride? You might just find that the added companionship makes your cycling experience that much more enjoyable and rewarding. Also, when anyone is feeling down or can't be arsed, the others can be on hand to drag your sorry butt out the door and get you on the road so you don't stay at home, spiralling even deeper into a negative mood.

This is all well and good but what about when the motivation tank is empty? We've all been there - it's a decent day outside, but for some reason, you just can't seem to be bothered to go for a bike ride. Maybe you're feeling a bit down, or maybe you're just not in the mood. Whatever the reason, it can be tough to get on your bike when you're not feeling your best.

But here's the thing: even if you're not feeling particularly motivated, cycling can actually be a great way to boost your happiness and get you out of a mood. So how can you get yourself on your bike when you're feeling a bit down and can't be bothered?

One strategy is to start small. Instead of trying to tackle a long, challenging ride, start with something short and easy. This can help to build your confidence and get you into the cycling mindset.

Another tip is to mix things up. If you're feeling stuck in a rut, try a new route or try cycling in a different location. This can help to make your ride feel more exciting and can also help to keep you motivated. Use an app like Strava or Garmin Connect to plot a cycling route in a new location and load it to your cycling computer if you have one. Or use their mobile apps and attach your phone to you bike with one of the many brackets on the market. Then pop your bike in the back of the car, drive to the start line and voila. A new route to engage you. There's something very motivational about exploring new locations. You'll find the time goes quicker too, as your brain is occupied with taking in the new surroundings. Not that I'm saying you should wish your time away, but when you're down, the sense that a ride will feel like it's going quicker can have a motivational effect... It does for me anyway, in those times when getting on the bike can feel like a struggle.

You might also try setting a goal for yourself. This could be something as simple as cycling to the end of your street and back, or it could be something more challenging, like training for a charity ride. Having a specific goal in mind can help to give you something to work towards, and can help to keep you motivated. Something where you have 'skin in the game' is more motivational, which is why charity rides or distance goals are so good at keeping you going. Communicating your goals to your nearest-and-dearest is a great technique too. Communication drives commitment and dedication to your goal. It builds a sense of not wanting to let others down and /or making yourself look like you've failed, so share your goals and let others drive your commitment to achieving them.

Finally, don't be afraid to ask for help. If you're really struggling to get on your bike, and as touched on above, try recruiting a friend or family member to join you for a ride. Having someone to support and encourage you can make all the difference.

So if you're feeling a bit down and can't be bothered to go for a bike ride, try these tips to help you get back on your bike. You might just find that a little bit of cycling can go a long way towards improving your mood, mental health, and helping you find your Zen again.

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This bite-sized beginner's guide doesn't take itself too seriously and, whilst written in an amusing way, includes excellent advice that provides everything you need to know, to get the most enjoyment out of your new road cycling hobby from day one.

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