Whether you've been off the bike due to injury, work, family, and other life commitments or any other reason, the loss of fitness, having fallen out of your routines and even a drop in motivation can make it difficult mentally and physically to start riding again.
Here are five ways to safely ease back into riding.
1) Go easy on yourself. As the saying goes, "Comparison is the thief of joy." Try not to compare your current abilities with past performances, and remember that it takes time to build fitness and confidence after a break. Focus on having fun, knowing that with every ride, your efforts will pay off. And don't forget to celebrate small victories along the way!
2) Consider riding a trainer. As soon as you're able, riding a trainer can help you start building your fitness in a safe environment so that when it's time to hit the dirt, you have a base. Besides improving fitness, if you're injured, riding in a controlled environment can also help you safely gauge how pedaling feels on the injury site. (Remember to follow your doctor's advice so you can avoid overuse injuries caused by doing too much, too soon).
3) Set small goals to start. Rather than jumping right into a big ride, consider setting smaller, more attainable goals that won't overwhelm you. Start out with shorter, easier routes with bailout options. You can always add on if you're feeling good!
4) Take care of yourself. Getting plenty of rest, eating well and staying hydrated will help you feel better in the saddle. If you're recovering from an injury, take extra care to continue any rehab exercises as you introduce riding back into your routine.
5) Start with road or gravel. Build confidence and fitness for the trails by getting in some road or gravel miles. Low torque spinning can be easier on injuries, and a great low-impact way to get your cardio in.
*Bonus: Ride with others. The thought of feeling like you are holding up a group may be enough to dissuade you from riding with friends, but doing so can be more fun and motivating than riding alone. (And, the reality is, your friends won't mind waiting at the top of the climb).