No Motivation, No Energy

Hey all,

I’ve been contemplating whether or not I wanted to post this, but decided to go ahead and do it. Lately I have had absolutely zero motivation to train. I am a pilot in the Navy, a dad of 17 month old twin boys, and married to a great woman who just started chemotherapy for breast cancer.

I used to try my best to fit in a TR ride as regularly as possible, but with the addition of the cancer treatment on my family’s plate I am just finding it so hard to make time for myself. When I get the kids down for bed, or when I get home from work I just want to sit on the couch.

So my question to the community is, how do you find the motivation/energy to pursue training on the bike? I usually work around 50-55 hour work weeks, and our boys go to a Montessori school on weekdays. Currently I am getting a two week work break to focus on the family, but I have no clue how I can make time/energy to take care of myself as well.

Any thoughts would greatly be appreciated.

Here are some existing threads you can review for comments on “Motivation”:

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Hey,

I am really sorry to hear about your wife, I am hoping for a speedy recovery!

Regarding the riding, honestly, just ride! I would also try to ride with others. Do some nice group rides and just enjoy riding. The social aspect might also help with motivation and boosting energy.

Sometimes its best to put the structure to the side, and just enjoy riding.

All the best!

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Maybe @CarlyZoe and @pedalpusher174 can offer something. TR did a Successful Athletes podcast with @CarlyZoe about her experience.

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Bud, I’m so sorry to hear about your wife. Prayers for healing and health for your entire family. Its hard and know first hand.

I’ve dealt with something similar. Two years ago my wife was mountain biking with her weekly women’s group and took a bad fall. Resulted in a moderate traumatic brain injury. +2 Weeks in ICU and she still only feels 75% of how she was before the accident. Vision is a mess and if she has the energy to make it to 7:00 at night now it’s a good day. It’s really shaken up our family but we push on.

Staying motivated to train is a constant struggle knowing the roles in our family have shifted. Before the accident I was up at 4:30 in the morning to train and off to work/drop the kids off by 7:00. Now that energy gets put into laundry and helping with other responsibilities. I suspect this might be the case for you too.

How does a person find the energy to pursue training in this kind of home environment??? Honestly it’s a struggle and I just had to prioritize and try and be as organized as possible. That was the only way to make it work and I can’t say that it did work. When I was on the bike I often felt guilty for taking “me” time even though I knew it was a good thing. I ultimately just had to tell myself that I’m not getting paid to ride the bike and training was not something that worked with our family at the time. It didn’t mean I couldn’t get out and ride to clear my head or get fresh air. That still happened. It was just more of a shift in priorities based on responsibility.

Hang in there buddy. Help each other out. These tough times will build one heck of a strong marriage too.

Thanks for your service in our Navy!

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Thanks, I will give this one a listen!

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You hit the nail on the head almost perfectly. Whenever I get that little break in the day where I can exercise I always feel so guilty. It has made outdoor rides almost non enjoyable for me because I feel so rushed to get home.

Sorry to hear about your wife’s accident, I hope she gets to feeling well. The medical field is amazing these days, which has made my wife’s care seem almost routine they way they talk about it.

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@cmorgan92 Putting myself in your situation, I can’t imagine where I would find energy for training.

Four years ago, when our daughter was born, my partner was hurt so much from giving birth that she had a hard time moving at all for weeks. For several months she could not carry anything, not even our baby. So I had to do almost everything that was household, plus carry our daughter around when she could not sleep. Being more the climber type of build, without much of an upper body, I started getting back pains. The days were simply too long for me. I started feeling it in the evenings, when I usually still had two to three hours of cooking, dishes, cleaning ahead of me. I didn’t feel good.

Back then I hardly did any riding, and if I did, then usually with a sense of guilt. But I also remember enjoying it so much. Since it was so rare, I didn’t take anything for granted.

At some point I came to the conclusion that I had pretty much neglected self-care to a point where I felt physically and mentally unable to support my partner and my daughter in the way I wanted to. Not being able to carry my child for more than a few minutes without back pains made that pretty clear.

Since then I have trained in several ways. Depending on the situation we’re in, it’s sometimes easier and sometimes harder to stay consistent. Since January this year I’m training on the smart trainer with TrainerRoad, usually in the evening once my daughter is in bed. The 3 to 3.5 hours of a low volume plan is what I can fit in. More doesn’t seem to work consistently.

One thing that motivates me: whenever I get the chance to ride outside, I want to be as fit as possible and climb the hills around me so that it feels either effortless or fast.

Another thing that motivates me: stay healthy for my daughter and my partner, to be strong and able to support them.

All the best to you, your wife and your sons!

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My motivation has always been to stay fit and healthy so getting hit by cancer at 43 really deflated me for a bit but it and the subsequent chemo quickly gave me a new motivation. Now that BC is beaten, touchwood, Ive seen enough improvement to motivate me for the future and I also have the motivation of not wanting it to come back.

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I get your position. I went through the same thing with my spouse 14 years ago. I will say I didnt do anything activity wise while we went through her treatments which was 18 months. If you ask my kids (they were13/14 at the time) about what went on they just say Mom was tired but life went on as normal. I do think more stress ends up on you and your wife. Very hard with young ones on both of you to manage.

I do find that I personally feel better from cycling. While I wouldnt focus on it I would say do try to get a break and do something you enjoy. It isnt easy at this time but see what can happen as you go forward. If there is family support to help see if you can get a break.

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CMorgan, the first thing is to just give yourself a break. You are going through a lot plus we are all living through covid times. All this would derail the motivation of most people.

When I was going through a hard time, I found my sanity by riding or going to yoga classes at lunch time. I was doing a class or riding 4-5 days per week. It was great. It was my hour to use as I needed.

Maybe your wife can let you get out for an hour or two once or twice on the weekend? Maybe you get an early start? Or you go ride the trainer after the kid goes to bed? Exercise will make you a better dad.

Toss the structured training out the door. Just ride for fun 1-2-3 times per week to keep yourself sane.

Best wishes to your wife!

I’m a super busy Air Force O-4 with a wife that has a debilitating chronic condition and two kids at home. I’m RIGHT there with you brother. It is HARD HARD HARD.

I’m a huge fan of time-crunched training. I’ve been training on very little time for a decade and have still had great success at races.

If you can scrape up the time, consider doing the 30 minute sessions on TrainerRoad. You’ll be surprised how much cycling fitness you can retain with them! (Just think of what “style” of workout you need for that day and filter by time and type).

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You’re not alone and don’t feel bad. You’re wife is going to come out of this just fine and what you’re going through on lacking motivation is perfectly normal. Those are huge life stresses and it’s not practical to balance them all simultaneously and cycling is the least important. My story is below but I’ve had a rocky 12 months as well and would tell you that getting on the bike has made me feel better every time I have done it, even though I went long periods between rides at times (even when I had time). Maybe it’s only 1-2xper week, but for me, it gives me a mental break, helps me maintain a routine and encourages healthy eating . You have to be healthy mentally and physically to care for your family and for me, training provides that.

If it helps you at all, my story is that while I only started training last October, my training has been has been inconsistent at times over this period due to both lack of time & motivation as I’ve dealt with losing both of my parents to cancer in the last 18 months (my mom 2 weeks ago) in addition to raising a 3 and 5 year old and maintaining a demanding at times job (which had me working out of town for 6 weeks this spring). I am the sole able child and my parents did not have have significant others, so I carried the load both times dealing with medical treatment, hospital stays, hospice, arrangements, the estate, etc. I’ve also become the full guardian of my developmentally delayed sister and travel from VA to PA 2x per month to spend the weekend with her. The emotional and physical stresses have been real and did not always allow for consistent training but I’ve raised my ftp from 175 to 313 and dropped 60# in these last 12 months and more importantly, training has surely helped me sidestep some unhealthy drinking & depression that i was experiencing after losing my dad and it would have been very easy to fall into said state again this year after my mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer in February.

Best of luck to you.

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I’m so sorry to hear about your wife! That is such a tough spot to be in. My husband had cancer, too, and had to undergo multiple surgeries and years of chemo - I wish I had an easy answer for the motivation problem, but unfortunately there’s no magic formula for that, so I’ll just give you the best advice I can.

I think the biggest thing first and foremost: give yourself grace when you just can’t summon that motivation. It’s not because you’re weak or lacking in any way - it may be your body telling you that you genuinely need a break, and that is ok! This can also translate to shorter workouts or stopping a workout part of the way through it if it’s just not feeling right.
Second: try to learn when you are genuinely fatigued versus when you are just lacking motivation; when it’s just a lack of motivation, don’t give yourself the choice to work out. Sometimes all it takes is getting into your bibs in order to jumpstart the right mindset… for me, I was often through the first interval before my brain caught up with me and realized it was a good thing. It took some trial and error, but the longer-term motivation of knowing I’d feel better emotionally the NEXT day was good reasoning behind not allowing myself to even have the choice to work out. Put it on the calendar and schedule that time with your wife’s knowledge ahead of time - sounds cheesy but it really helped me!
Third, and perhaps most important: when so many are depending on you, it is critical that you prioritize yourself in pursuit of long-term caregiving. It’s easier to make mistakes when you are mentally fatigued, and the more the fatigue builds up, the longer it takes to dissipate (I learned that lesson the hard way). It may seem counterintuitive, but putting yourself first (in moderation, of course) is a selfless act in your situation. I know Covid makes things tough, but maybe try to find someone to relieve you once or twice a week so you can sustain yourself.

Lots to cram into one post, I know - sorry! I wish you all the best - and feel free to reach out if you have any other questions or comments.

Cheers,
Carly

P.S. thank you and your wife both for your service! My husband was Air Force and I know military service is an additional complication to your situation.

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Others have said most of it. Is there any family or friends you can pull in for help? Don’t know how close knit your officers group is (ours was not) - that might be an option. Or simply hire someone to help? Even just doing the laundry and floors will make a HUGE difference. When my wife had her stroke, a friend arranged for house cleaning for us. BIG difference.

Feel free to vent here as well. That can help when you are about to pop a cork.

All best also from my side! I strongly believe that every investment into the bodies strength - as tired as one might be physically and mentally - getting to work out makes me feel so much better and stronger.
I had a tough diagnosis to swallow two years ago and since then my life has also changed dramatically. Sports and biking helped me so much to stay focused and fit.

What I did, as a hardworking father of two small kids and as loving husband:

in the little spare time I had for myself I focus exclusively on stuff I like… some day I felt like really pushing the pedals and workout really intense… some other time no hard workouts I dont want that day, dont feel like it, just went after whatever I felt to do that day… and even getting a bag of Chips and lay on the sofa! Yes, do that - no bad conscience at all.

But still: you should stay on the workout track and ride … it will make you stronger, by far not only phyically… mentally I feel much stronger today than two years ago!

All best!!

Sir,

My suggestion/advice is to not stress the training…get outside and ride a favorite route or a new one you’ve been thinking about…or do an adventure ride (“gee, I wonder where this road goes?!”). I’ve found that when I start feeling overwhelmed the best thing that I can do for myself is to go for a “no pressure” spin…taking the time to enjoy the scenery and just “zone out” reminds me of why I started riding in the first place…and that despite everything, life is good!

All the best,

Glenn

I went through a similar time a couple years ago when my wife was hospitalized for weeks on end, then required in-home nursing care for several months following, and I was the primary caregiver doing tube feeding, IV nutrition, medicines every 4 hours, etc. All the while, I was working, trying to hold down the fort with my three year old, trying to get some sleep, and trying to maintain my sanity.

As a caregiver, you will learn sooner or later that healthy self-care is critical to being your best self for your wife and children. Sometimes that means putting something “important” off for another hour of sleep. Sometimes that means outsourcing things that you “should” be able to handle (laundry, cleaning, yard work, etc). Sometimes that means being anywhere but home for a couple hours and giving yourself permission to be “off duty” mentally or physically.

When my motivation waned, I signed up for a fondo six months away so I had some external forces acting on my will to train. I also found incredible benefit in a Friday morning group ride (social pace) that always hit a donut shop. My love for donuts matches my love for bikes and so that one was a great weekly motivator for me. I was able to do that ride because my daughter was in daycare and my wife was ok for a couple hours at home, though I did have some backup help planned for piece of mind (mine and hers) while I was gone.

I also found my neighbors and close family to be helpful. Neighbors asked what they could do to help - I kept a short list I could hand them and say “nothing is expected but anything on this list would be great”. Things like mowing the lawn, cooking a meal, picking up a prescription from the pharmacy, and having my daughter over for a play date.

Sometimes a 5am trainer session is better for you than an extra hour of sleep. Sometimes the opposite is true. Do whatever works for you on the day, with the knowledge that it will likely benefit everyone the next day.

Good luck, and I hope you check back in with a progress report when you can.

Tyler

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