How do you remain inspired during your training regime? As people, we’re easy to inspire, but difficult to keep motivated. Inspiration can come in many forms: tragedy, triumph, or through our exposure to the people and world around us. You may be inspired by seeing Olympic athletes on television, or by listening to a speech from one of your heroes. It’s possible that some inspirations may be powerful enough for long term motivation, but others, like that spurt of motivation that comes after you listen to loud music, can quickly fade. Motivation to stick to a training regime day in and day out requires a level of longevity and robustness that a singular point of inspiration can’t always maintain. More often than not, inspiration is enough to start us on a journey, but not adequate to fuel the motivation required for the ups and downs of rigorous training.
So how do you use inspiration to stay motivated in your training for the months and years that you need it for? Here are some key things to keep in mind.
Everyone Struggles | It is important to note that athletes at every level struggle with motivation and inspiration from time to time. In fact, the struggle is part of the journey and a key to the process of seeking out inspiration to motivate you for the particular circumstance of your training challenge. If you are struggling for motivation, find solace in knowing that you are not alone. Every elite athlete and champion has been in the same spot, searching for the inspiration and motivation to do the training required to reach his or her goals. If you embrace this idea, you may find it easier to move beyond this difficult phase.
Making it Personal for You | Inspiration and motivation can be a very personal concept. This complex set of thoughts, emotions, visions and insecurities all tied to your persona is private, so don’t feel that you have to share with anyone else. If you can find something that keeps you going, like a fear, reward or goal, then stick with it. I have several thoughts I use as daily inspiration that I tend not to share. Others may find my thoughts corny, so I keep them to myself, and use them as a driving force when needed. Your motivators are for you alone.
Take a Step Back | When your motivation begins to wane, go back to your thoughts and notes from earlier in the year. Re-examine your original goals and make sure they’re still aligned with your current training goals and circumstances. You may find it helpful to reflect even further back. Sometimes I will think back to when I originally got into the sport, or when I decided to make it my profession. I try to remember why I made certain decisions along the way. This type of reflection helps give me perspective when I struggle with the problems of the present.
Awareness of the Physical | When it comes to training, our minds, bodies, and emotions are all intricately connected. When you are physically tired, your emotions can sag. Travel, work and family stress, lack of sleep, and training fatigue will, at one time or another, affect your perspectives on training and life. If your motivation is lacking, look first to your body. Focus on rest. Limit as many stress factors as possible. Chances are that when you’ve adequately addressed the physical, you will find your motivation more easily.
Embrace the Toughness | No training regime is easy. If it were, then everyone would be on the same path. Few people are willing to take on the risks and commitments– the toughness– your training requires. An effective way to stay motivated is keeping training’s “daily grind” as a challenge of your toughness.
The Power of Choice | You chose your goals; they didn’t choose you. In the difficult times, it’s easy to feel like you are a victim of your training — that your life is controlled by your training. While there may be some truth to this, you need to reframe these thoughts. You have power over your own decisions. You made the decision to train. You can always change your goals, but if you have decided to pursue a specific goal, then you have chosen to do what it takes to attain it.
Master your little tricks | Over the years of training, I’ve discovered little tricks to keep me motivated on a daily basis. I use certain songs or videos to get me motivated for a training session. If I’m struggling to get out the door for a workout, sometimes I’ll quickly pull up the list of professional starts for my next race. Seeing the names of my competitors and knowing they are all training hard will almost always get me out the door. Find little tricks that work for you. They’re great short-term motivators, but only use them as needed. If you use them too often, they can lose their effectiveness.
Getting Over the Hump | I’ve found that if I still believe in and am committed to my goals, then lapses in motivation are usually brief. Nevertheless, a lack of motivation takes a toll on your overall progress. It’s almost as if you just need to get yourself over the lack-of-motivation hump and then you’ll bounce back. Try telling yourself that you didn’t do all of this work to stop now. If you’ve kept yourself going during a difficult time, no matter how hard it was, you’ll come out stronger and won’t have missed a beat. Getting yourself over a hump is a skill you can develop so the next hump won’t be so daunting.