By Coach Matt Russ
Motivation is something athletes are always looking for but it can at times be elusive. Motivation can put a lesser skilled athlete on the podium standing over his more gifted and talented competition. It is the life blood of training. Simply put motivation is the measure of how much an individual wants to achieve a goal; but sources of motivation are as varied as athletes.
It is important to ask yourself why you are training. Is it to get physically fit, for fun, a challenge, social interaction, build confidence, to learn a skill, or to compete and win? You may train for a combination of these reasons or for a completely different reason. However, you do not want to find yourself wondering why you are working toward a particular goal. Reinforce why you train and visualize the outcome and rewards you will receive.
I often hear "I am waiting to get motivated." This implies that motivation will somehow come to a person like a divine wind. True motivation must come from within you. This is one of the reasons children who are pushed too hard by the imposed ambitions of overzealous parents often lose interest in a sport. The child has lost the internal motivation to participate (fun) and generally does not stay involved long term. People are motivated by accomplishment, self actualization, and the attainment of goals. Think of how motivated you were after you completed a race that you had been working hard towards.
Staying motivated is most difficult when you are far from your goal. This is when you have to maintain your long-term focus and regularly remind yourself of the end reward. Athletes have a particularly hard time staying motivated during base season. Races are the reward for training and it is hard to stay focused and motivated if you are not getting your cookie. You may want to switch to group training during this time for some of your work outs. Like minded athletes are great sources of motivation.
One external motivating influence, however, is inspiration. We have all been inspired by someone in our lives. Lance Armstrong has inspired many to take up the sport of cycling. You may have participated in an MS 150 event because of a friend's battle with Multiple Sclerosis. Inspiration is an emotion that causes us to aspire to even greater levels of acheivement. It reinforces our own personal reasons to work toward our goals.
Motivation can be fleeting. You may find the goal you are working toward is no longer conducive to effort you are putting forth. This is why it is important to set reasonable and attainable goals that match our individual purpose to train and compete; and our lifestyles. Fatigue, stress, emotional issues, overtraining, time constraints, and injuries can all reduce our motivational levels. Often taking a day or two off to rest and refocus will help restore your training ambitions. Training should add to the quality of your life, not hinder it. It is important to balance all aspects of your lifestyle and adjust your training level accordingly.
A positive mental outlook supports and enhances motivation. Avoid negative self talk; "I will never be a climber", and focus on the positive; "I am becoming a more powerful cyclist each month." Surround yourself and train with positive-minded people who encourage and support you. Accept responsibility for, and learn from your failures as well as your successes. Blaming others will get you no where.
Motivation can be complex, but if you remind yourself why you are training hard, look to your sources of inspiration, and keep a positive mental outlook the rest should fall into line. Realize that motivation comes from within, and from accomplishment. It is also a building process. Each goal you attain builds self esteem and confidence, giving you more motivation to work towards your next objective and ultimately your accomplishments.
Matt Russ has coached and trained elite athletes from around the country and internationally for over ten years. He currently holds expert licenses from