Motivation to train is something I have struggled with in the past and something I see my athletes struggle with from time to time throughout the season. Let’s address some issues with motivation and see how we, as athletes, can overcome the occasional lack of motivation we feel throughout the course of a season.
Our big event is 3 months out. We know the work we do now is the important training that will get us though race day, but we cannot find time to train. There is always something else coming up. There is always some other excuse as to why we cannot get in our daily training regimen. We compete in a sport that relies solely on us as the individual. We do not have a team to fallback on when the motivation wanes. How can we combat this?
First of all we must cultivate our internal motivation. In order to have the drive to train we must internally want to train. If we ask ourselves, “why are we doing this sport?” and the answer comes back as anything not containing the word “I” we must reassess our true desire to compete in endurance sport. If you answer; my parents want me to, my friends are doing it, it seems like the cool thing to do; you are going to have a tough time finding the motivation to constantly get the training in. As we know, in endurance sport, consistency is key.
We need to internally find out why we are training. Whether it be to lose weight, to win your age-group, to beat your friend, or to stay in shape, you must have a personal reason to do this sport. This personal reason will keep you focused on why you are out there on the early mornings and late nights. Yes we will lack motivation for individual training sessions which we will address in a bit, but on an overall level we need to figure out what is driving us to be an endurance sport athlete. Once this is defined you will always be able to fall back on it to help get you out the door, constantly training to achieve your goal.
One way to constantly remind you of your overall internal motivation is to place a visual reminder of what you want to achieve out of the sport. For example, I keep a picture always open on my computer of Ironman World Champion Jan Frodeno crossing the finish line as Ironman Champion in 2016 in order to remind me of where I want to be. I know that every workout counts in my progression. Missed sessions put me further and further back from getting to the top level of the sport. You can do the same. Put a picture of the finish line of the course you are training to race, or the friend you are training to race against, or the numerical weight you are trying to get down to. What ever it may be, put the visual cue somewhere you can see it multiple times a day. This will stimulate thought and get you reinvigorated to get out the door and remain consistent.
Now let’s address individual training session motivation and ways in which you can combat the lack of motivation. You may have your overall goal constantly on your mind, but you find it difficult to get out after work to train or make the trip to the pool and put the time in. How can you overcome these obstacles of the process?
The answer is accountability. If you have someone/something to be accountable to, you will show up and get the work done. You rarely hear of football players skipping team practice. There are 50 guys on a football team. Chances are there are a few guys of the 50 who do not feel like practicing each day. They still come because they know there is a team of 49 other guy relying on them to be there. As individual sport athletes no one knows if we train or not. One skipped session wont hurt, right??? One wont hurt, but one turns to two which turns to three and, all of a sudden, this becomes a habit. What makes us successful athletes is day after day, week after week, month after month of training. If we are inconsistent, performance will suffer no matter how internally motivated we are.
What are some ways to keep us accountable even on the days we do not want to get out for that 5 hour ride or the 4th 4k swim of the week?
#1. Develop a routine and schedule your sessions. If you are sporadic in what you are doing day in and day out, you have the flexibility to put off the session until you “feel like it.” If you don’t “feel like it” its not going to happen. We need to schedule our training in an attainable manner in order to get the session completed. For example, if you have a 60 min swim workout and it takes you 20 minutes to get to and from the pool you must schedule a day of the week in which you have 1:40 to commit to your session. Anything less will be rushed and not productive. There is more of a chance of it not getting done. And if you don’t have the time, you must adjust the overall time of the session to fit your schedule, put it on your calendar and stick to it.
#2. Bring on a coach/consultant. Someone who can do the scheduling for you and who you can be accountable to. If you know someone is watching and evaluating your sessions, you will be much more likely to make the commitment to get each and every session in. The coach will also develop a schedule to fit your individual schedule and amend workouts to fit the given time you have. This way you do not have to think about the day and session duration. If you miss, you know you will have to answer the “why?” This keeps the athlete going on the days when training seems like the last thing on the to do list.
#3. Start training with friends/teammates. Having others to look forward to seeing you and for you to look forward to seeing is motivation enough to promote training with others. Our sport can be a lot of time spent alone with our thoughts. If we have others around us to bounce ideas off of and to commiserate with, we can fend off the feeling of lack of motivation. Yes you push each other, but just knowing that there are others out there going through what you are going through and waiting to see you, gets you to the session that much easier. Examples I have used in the past are masters swimming teams, group training rides/cycling team rides, and group running track workouts.
Ultimately the internal motivation is what is necessary to get us to the finish line, but throughout the year the daily motivation will ebb and flow. Hopefully this help you get through those rough patches and onto success again as fast as possible.
Jim Lubinski in a Professional Triathlete, Owner of Red Performance Multisport, Creator of Fit With It, USAT/Ironman Certified Coach, NASM-CES/PES Certified Personal Trainer, Host of Tower 26- Be Race Ready Podcast, Host of the podcast Jim and the Other Guy. To contact Jim email him at firstname.lastname@example.org