I can definitely say I’ve had this problem. I can’t say I really have an answer.
I was a runner and was building up to bigger and tougher running challenges. 5k, 10k, half marathon, trying to improve my half marathon time, ran half marathons on back-to-back days. Then moved on to do a Tough Mudder. Each was easy to be motivated to train for because I was always always reaching for something I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to do which gave me all the motivation I needed to get my training done.
I hurt my back many eons ago and it always would flare up during training. At first I was really good at doing my back and core strength work which would keep my back in check - for the most part. But as I got into bigger challenges my strength work wouldn’t be enough and my back would still go out every 2-3 months. It eventually got so I missed out on at least one race and had to take 2 other races really easy. I had hit all my goals and now my back wasn’t cooperating. That blew all of my motivation out the window.
Getting to bed in time to wake up at 4:30am to run 5 or more miles and still be home in time to shower, eat, and make it to work on time is not easy. So, when the challenge of new races and motivation is gone, waking up early is almost impossible. I got really out of shape. Gained 20 pounds. Was starting to adjust to the new normal.
Then I got my bike from my dad when his disease progressed far enough that he couldn’t ride it. I started to ride and eventually decided to try my hand at triathlon. The combination of biking and running and swimming helped get me back in shape and also helped both strengthen my back, and also kept me from overdoing the running which was hardest on my back.
I did a season of triathlon and fell in love with it. My back and body were the strongest and healthiest they’ve ever been since high school. 2020 was going to be my second season of triathlon. My back was able to stay fully healthy enough for me to train for and run my first full marathon without my back going out. I was ready to increase my triathlon distances and was about to do my first Olympic distance and could now foresee a 70.3 in the next year and a full 140.6 in the next year or two.
Then covid hit. I switched to virtual duathlons and then transitioned into The Sufferfest and doing primarily cycling with sporadic running. I did a metric century, a full century, and my KOS quest.
My son is at-risk and my kids are too young to be vaccinated, and people in our area are not helpful with getting vaccinated or wearing masks to protect others. It’s also summer in Las Vegas. So we’re all still stuck in the house to protect him - and the rest of the summer because it’s ungodly hot outside. My triathlon goals are all shelved indefinitely. I can only complete indoor challenges. Maybe I can do a vEveresting. Or maybe I can do a second KOS. But, it feels like I’ve done those before. It’s all just seeing how long I can ride on my indoor trainer until I can’t take it anymore. I’ve done a KOS, so what do I have left to prove? A vEveresting would just be more of the same.
But I still enjoy riding.
So I really feel what you’re saying. I’m grasping for my own motivation, too. I still ride, but I don’t wake up as early. I let myself sleep in more often. Because I don’t have any events or goals that I’m reaching for. I’m not “scared” that I’m going to not be trained up enough.
Since I’ve only had a smart trainer for about 10 months, and never had a power meter other than the power on the smart trainer, my current goal is to see how much I can improve my FTP and other 4DP numbers. It helps some, but it’s not the end-all-to-be-all type of motivation. It’s just me hoping to improve myself so that some day when we’re out of this self-imposed isolation we’re doing to protect our son and our kids that I’ll be in good shape to nail those other goals that I’ve indefinitely shelved. Or if those never happen, at least I’m keeping myself healthy and I can fit into my KOS jersey to show off every time someone has a KOS quest and wants others to ride-along.
So, my health is all I’ve got at the moment. Because ultimately, like my dad used to tell me, the reason we ride a bike is so that we’ll look good while riding a bike.