Do you recall the last time you were extremely motivated to pursue a goal? Just thinking about it probably revives the fire in your belly. That fire numbed the nerves that were stopping you from signing up for a big race, or from attempting to successfully complete a difficult workout for the umpteenth time. That fire can burn strong, and is sparked by the desire to experience or repeat the euphoria of successfully conquering a big goal. This fire — your motivation — makes you feel invincible in the moment, but fires burn out, even for the most motivated athletes. So to be successful in accomplishing your goals, you need to establish back-up mechanisms that come to the rescue when motivation fades or flops.
“I’m tired. I didn’t sleep well last night.” “I feel depressed.” “I have to do a work thing.” “I don’t have time.” “I don’t have the right gear.” “The weather sucks.” “I’m just not feeling it.” “My legs feel like lead — I need a rest day.” “I feel fat.” … Should I go on?
Do any of these statements sound familiar to you? Be honest. Do you tell yourself any of these “reasons” to get out of a workout? I do! Do. I. Ever. When you tell yourself these things, recognize that you are confusing excuses for not getting the work done as justified reasons. If you are able to admit that you make excuses, then you can make progress.
Change Your Attitude
Once you’ve established that you are human and you DO make excuses, you need to make a promise to yourself that you will not allow these excuses to keep you from reaching your goals. There will be plenty of external factors that will present roadblocks in your training journey. Why wrestle with the single factor that you have the most control over? I’m talking about your ATTITUDE. You are responsible for your attitude, and you are responsible for how you spend the 24 hours that are given to you. Remind yourself that you are given the same 24 hours that your competitors who are out-performing you are given. Remind yourself that if you continue to spend your 24 hours the same way you always have, without accomplishing your goals, then you will continue to fall short. Once you promise yourself that you will change — write it down! — then the work begins.
Know Your Demons
We all have time-management challenges and struggle with commitments and distractions outside of our training. Because these things are important to us, they feel like real reasons to miss a training session. If you don’t have a clear idea of the excuses you tell yourself, or the other commitments that get in the way of your training, try keeping a Motivation Journal (Mojournal?). This undertaking can be brief — a couple minutes on a daily basis — but I suggest doing it for a full month so that you can gain insight into the full range of emotions that comes with your cycle. Ladies, I’m talking about your menstrual cycle, but guys, and menopausal women, you have a have an emotional cycle too. Your motivation journal should document how you felt before your workout, during, and after. Also include anything that happened during the day that affected your mood. What was your state of mind going into your workout, and what excuses did you use with yourself to get out of doing your workout?
Create Your Combat Plan
Because your motivation demon combat plan is essentially a fight against your own brain, I highly recommend you ‘phone a friend’ (or a coach) who will give you combat ideas and hold you accountable. If you are already working with a coach, ask them to include notes in your workouts about your combat plan. For example, if you know you have some work travel coming up and this is an area where you typically struggle to stay consistent in your training, ask your coach to copy a few words from your motivation combat plan in the workouts that are prescribed for you during your travel. Or, if you need advice about how to modify a workout based on limited time or energy, ask for modification parameters. From a coach’s perspective, understanding and training an athlete’s brain is far more difficult than training their body, so it is essential for athletes to frequently communicate with their coach about motivation challenges.
Recognizing and fighting motivation demons during training takes A TON of discipline, so don’t expect it to come naturally. We’re talking about behavior change, which is not something that human beings (or Type A athletes) embrace with open arms. The more you practice your combat plan in your training, the easier it will become for you to ignore your motivation demons. When you master this control in your training, you will find that the skill transfers to racing, when you enter the pain cave and your brain starts telling you all of the supposed-reasons that you should stop pushing.
Having the motivational drive to sign up for a big race, or to train consistently for a period of time is an amazing feeling to have. The endorphins that come with this similar to the feeling of being in love. But this fire in your belly will fade. Every athlete must understand that the ability to succeed all year long doesn’t lie in the thousands of dollars you spend on fancy gear, the number of social media likes you get on your training posts, the people you train with, or the amount of money you pay your coach. Success depends on nothing in the world except the discipline that you’ve created in your schedule every single day. Stop searching for motivation and start planning your motivation demon combat strategy.