At some time or another almost all athletes (and yes, sometimes even coaches too!) can find it hard to maintain the motivation required for the volume/intensity of training needed for an athlete to reach their goals. We’ve all been there; that day when you were absolutely definitely going to go for a run, but in the end just didn’t have the resolve to do it… As I’ve written about before, consistency is one of the most important factors in progressing your training, so when motivation dips, this is when an athlete’s psychological toolbox will come into its own in order to help stay motivated and keep the training on track. Motivation is of course a vast topic of research already, so this post isn’t about adding to the complexities of what’s already out there, this is meant to be a much more simple take on what you can do when the motivation wobbles.
First up, a bit of good old fashioned truth may be required. Like all good athletes earlier in the season, we’ve set a goal for our training and have been diligently and happily working towards it, but here we are, midway through the season and recently there’s less motivation, so what’s changed? The first thing to do is assess the situation honestly. Sometimes life, work and other commitments will just get in the way, and that’s unavoidable, but has that just become the defacto excuse? Take another look at your average week and identify the times where, more often than not, you should be able to train. Its quite possible that your average week now doesn’t look anything like your average week did back in January, so rescheduling your training times might help you be more consistent in getting out and doing those sessions. With that in mind, revisit your goal for the season too. Has it been and gone already and now you’re a bit aimless, or with plenty training and most likely a few races under your belt, have your goals subconsciously changed but not been reflected in your training plan? Talk it through with your coach, partner or training buddies and see what comes from it. A shift in perspective can be very refreshing.
Having done that and found that your goals and training plan are all good, what else could it be? Depending on what you’re training for and how long you’ve been training for it, it’s possible a change in training patterns or locations is needed. Afterall, a change is as good as a holiday right?! No training plan should run from start to finish doing the same kind of sessions week-in and week-out for the whole season. A phased progression should be evident in the programme which stimulates different kinds of physical gains. Take a look at your programme and check if it’s adequately varied, if not, you may have plateaued and lost the motivation which gradual improvements bring. Assuming the training programme is ok, then sometimes just taking your training to a new place and some new scenery is all it takes. If you usually find yourself on the road, go off-road. If you’re always in the gym, remind yourself what sunlight and fresh air are like to train in. It can make all the difference.
With all that said and done, sometimes it’s just plain mental fatigue that is slowing you down. No-one ever said consistent, methodical, challenging training plans were easy! Make sure you’re getting enough recovery time and maybe even take a weekend off. Check you’re getting enough sleep, you’re eating and drinking well and that you’re spending some time with those people you once knew… you know the ones… they’re called family and friends!
The benefits of keeping a training log have been widely chronicled too, so I won’t spend too long evangelising, but giving both yourself and either your friends, coach or partner some honest and critical feedback on how you’re training is going can often be the best way to ensure things are kept on track. You can track your performance, your growth, what works and what doesn’t. This way you’re much more likely to keep things moving in the right direction. Seeing gradual and consistent improvements builds confidence and helps maintain the motivation throughout the season. If you’re the kind of athlete that needs to be accountable to someone, it’ll help even more! Whether it’s an actual written log, a training app or something more sophisticated, try making that part of your routine and see how it helps.
With more and more races and ways to participate in your sport springing up every year it’s easy for a season to become much longer than anticipated, but with a regular check and some sensible training there’s no reason that you can’t enjoy and be motivated for the full duration.
Happy training, quick racing and, as ever, stay Positive.