Motivation in Isolation: By MTN LAB Athlete Alicia Leggett
I know I’m not alone in feeling a little odd right now. Athletes all over the world have watched their competition seasons be deferred or cancelled, and we’re left figuring out what to do now. My season was scheduled to start next week. Instead, I won’t race again until July if I’m lucky, or September, or maybe next year. Instead of training for something definite, we’re now learning to adapt to whatever emerges in the indefinite future.
It hadn’t occurred to me until about a month ago, when the cancellation announcements started circulating, that my race season could even be cancelled. For me, race season is non-negotiable. It’s what keeps me working hard through the cold winter and is part of why I’m so excited to ramp up my riding again in the spring. Competition on the horizon motivates me like nothing else can – I train so that when the time comes to prove to myself just how much I can do, I’m ready.
As it turns out, some things are more important than riding a bike against the clock. If we need to stay away from each other to keep ourselves and our communities safe, then we clearly shouldn’t be bike racing, risking the spread of illness and further overloading the healthcare system with our injuries.
But selfishly, I still feel restless and frustrated. I’m doing all these bodyweight workouts away from the gym… for what? Why do I keep doing intervals? I’ve had to find reasons to stay motivated outside of race prep, and they happen to look a lot like the reasons I started riding in the first place.
Since I started mountain biking, the sport has given me a sense of freedom and personal agency that I haven’t found anywhere else. It has given me goals and has showed me how to work relentlessly. It’s taught me resilience, flexibility, and the art of picking myself back up after I fall.
Now, without the chance to measure myself externally through racing, I’m forced to rely on intrinsic motivation. I’ve been riding for the joy of it, because I’ve never seen rocks as cool as the ones here in the Southwest. I ride for the excitement of finding a trail that no longer has snow on it, feeling like I’m the first person to discover it in the spring, when everything feels new and fresh. And I ride because of the way mountain biking has helped me to improve my mental health over the years, knowing that if I do nothing else, I need to keep pedaling.
This break in structured training has given me space to fill with afternoons at the bike park, working on my pump track and dirt jump skills and making new friends in the Flagstaff bike community, even if I can’t shake their hands just yet. I’ve started a daily yoga practice, filling mobility and mindfulness gaps in my routine that I’ve ignored for a long time.
Despite the drifting feeling of having no definite future plans, I am still here, and I’m still doing the best I can. I know I’m not invincible, so I’m counting my blessings that I’m healthy and taking precautions to stay safe. And even if it has to happen through bodyweight workouts and meditative solo rides, I’ll come out of this strong and ready for whatever the race season throws at me, whenever it eventually happens.