Finding your Mid-Season Motivation

Coach Mike Ricci standing beside a signs for xtreme fun spot
January 9, 2017

Mike Ricci


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In the middle of August, some triathletes may fall into a bit of a pit:

A. It's been a long season, and they are physically tired.
B. There are still races on the schedule, and they are trying to build up for competition.
C. They have been training hard for many months, and they may be getting more than somewhat bored with the same run course, the same bike route, the same swim routine.

How is a triathlete to regain or retain the motivation to train and race during the dog days of August? University of Colorado triathlon team member Sara Kiayni experienced this. "How do you keep your motivation?" she asked. "I'm having trouble getting up to do my swim workouts. It all seems so overwhelming." And understandably so. Sara is a college student, triathlete, and employee at a part-time job. She has a lot of demands on her time, all of which can sap motivation and make her view her upcoming workouts with dread rather than eagerness. She has races coming up on the schedule and wants to compete well, yet looking forward to her workouts causes her feelings that were the very opposite of motivation.

One of the things that Sara had been doing was to make videos in her mind's eye of the struggle to get up in the morning, the dread of heading to the pool, and the giant, tangled pile of workouts in her future. Making videos of future events in your head is a common thing that everyone does. How useful or unhelpful these videos are depends on their structure. When people make videos of some the bad things that might happen in the near future, they tend to dread those things and want to get away from them.

Imagine this: "I'm going to be really drowsy in the morning. It's going to be cold. I'm going to be tired. I will hate it when the alarm goes off. It's going to be awful." Now ask yourself, on a scale of 1-10 (10=high), how motivated does this little scenario leave me feeling? If you answered 67 below zero, you are not alone. Psychologist Fritz Perls called this activity catastrophizing, inventing in your mind a catastrophe that hasn't happened yet. Mark Twain described it, too: "My life has been filled with terrible misfortunes, most of which never happened."

You certainly can make a video in your mind's eye of all the reasons not to do your workout, and you know that there is no shortage of reasons. You could alternatively make a different kind of video in your mind's eye to amplify your motivation. Here's the technique Sara used to regain her enthusiasm for training: Before going to bed, identify which workouts you have on tomorrow's schedule. Make a video in your mind's eye of getting up, getting organized, getting out the door, and completing the workout exactly as you wish it would go. It's important to see this video through your own eyes, as though your eyes are the camera. Make it panoramic, full color, and sharp. If you like, you can set out your workout gear before retiring so that it's all ready to go in the morning. Now, go to bed. That's it! It really is that simple. Sara reported on the results of using this technique, "Got out of bed with no struggles. Amazing how that works. I was just doing the opposite before and thinking about the difficulty of waking up for my workouts instead of how easy it can be." Finding your motivation doesn't have to be a struggle to overcome. Simply lay out in your mind what will happen the next day before you go to sleep for the night, and when tomorrow comes, your mind knows what to do automatically. The struggle is over.

Will Murray is the D3 Multisport Mental Skills specialist, helping athletes navigate their training and race day challenges. Interested in gaining a new approach to race day, consider a consult with Coach Will. Learn more below!

Coach Mike Ricci is the Founder and Head Coach for D3 Multisport.  His coaching style is ‘process-focused’ vs. ‘results-focused.’ When working with an athlete, their understanding of how and why they are improving is always going to take precedence over any race result. Yes, there is an end goal, but in over 2 decades of coaching, experience has shown him that if you do the right work, and for the right reasons, the results will follow.

Coach Mike is a USAT Level III Elite Certified Coach, Ironman University Certified Coach, and Training Peaks Level II Certified Coach. He was honored as the USAT Coach of the Year.

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