If you are the competitive type, getting motivated for a race is not that difficult: on most race days you will push yourself and leave everything you got on the track.
Motivation during competition is actually the easy part, there are intrinsic and extrinsic factors that come into play: there are spectators, teammates and your competitors. But you also want to do well because you trained so hard for this. The reward is immediate: finishing in a good position, podium, even win.
We respond directly to these types of inputs: our purpose, goal, reward is immediately evident and so we push ourselves as hard as we possibly can.
The outcome on race day depends on how well we do on that day, how our competition does, but primarily from how well we have trained for that specific event.
So what about training? How do you build motivation on a daily basis?
There are two areas that can really make a difference: staying on track without skipping workouts in your training plan and pushing yourself hard during said workouts.
You wake up early, it’s dark and cold outside, but it’s your only chance to squeeze in your workout today. Decision time: what do you do? Roll over and snooze for another 45 minutes or get out and get the job done?
You get out to do your intervals, you’re not feeling stellar, maybe your legs are a bit too tired. You get to the third one and then decide to call it a day.
We say we lack motivation when we fail to follow our plan: but where’s the motivation coming from, and why do we lack in it?
“Training days” is when we actually do the work, when we build up and climb every step of the ladder to take us to race day: this is also where the extrinsic motivation factors are removed and we need to find the real reason that we are pushing ourselves so hard. This is also my favorite question to ask any non-professional athlete: “Why do you race?”
The biggest difference with race days is that the reward, the return on our effort is not immediate, is not right there in front of us and within reach: it may be months away.
Some people may rely on some substitute of extrinsic motivation: post your early workout on Strava to get kudos, post pics of the dark frozen trails before the sun is up on Instagram and getting praise for your dedication. These can help but only get you so far.
The reality is that there is no substitute for intrinsic motivation: that’s who we really are and what we really want.
Finding the answer to these two questions is key, and often a lifelong journey.
But whatever answer we have today, that needs to be baked in our training goals and we need to get reminded about it regularly, because stressful busy life tends to distract us from those.
STEP 1: Create a Plan
Define your goals, make a plan to improve on your limiters and leverage your strengths in your favor. Whether is an annual/season plan or building up toward a single event, take the time to hash out your plan.
Success is 80% planning, 15% improvisation and 5% luck.
Get a specific training plan and even better, hire a coach.
Once you have a good plan a a set of defined goals, don’t put them in a drawer and forget about them. Go back, revisit, refine, adjust. It’s ok.
STEP 2: Hold yourself responsible
Take the time to remind yourself why you are doing it: review the plan for the week ahead of time, look at the key workouts and what you are planning to achieve with them. Think of a one-liner that tells you why it is important for you to complete the key workouts. That one-liner is your mantra when you come up with an excuse to skip.
STEP 3: Set yourself for success
If you have early workouts, get your stuff ready before going to bed. Look at the forecast, get your kit ready, tires pumped and bike ready to roll. There’s no decision to be made in the morning, punch the alarm in its face and get out of bed.
If you’re doing lunch workouts: it’s easy to come up with excuses. I hear often “I got too much work, I can’t get out and ride”. Or your co-workers going out for lunch together and you wanna go. A short workout is better than no workout. Decide ahead of time and then stick wot the plan.
Training with a buddy helps to stay on track and commit, as long as you are able to do the workout as prescribed, and not trying to chase/race your buddy.
STEP 4: Remind yourself why you’re doing it
Before starting your workout spend at least a minute thinking about what you are about to do, and why it will make you a better athlete.
Workouts must have a purpose: it’s important to have that clearly stated in the description of your workout: “you are doing 5×1 power intervals to improve your VO2Max and get better at passing your competition and accelerating out of corners”
Use visualization: imagine being in a race while you’re doing your workout. I always imagine being on the last stretch to the finish on the last interval of the set: you’ll squeeze all you got out of it.
In the end we know who we are and what we want: it just that sometimes we forget it, we get off track and end up derailing ourselves.
Finding the time to sit and listen can help hear our inner self and find the motivation to pursue our goals.