Rather than becoming a healthy balance to their modern lifestyles, training becomes just another compulsive outlet.
I call my personal coaching program "Let's Make A Deal" because I ask people I work with to take responsibility for their behavior patterns and attitudes that affect their training -- a far more important issue than, say, how much rest to take between intervals next Tuesday.
You must constantly ask yourself that very important question and behave according to your honest answer:
What is your purpose for doing your athletics?
Most endurance athletes are tormented by conflicting goals and purposes. Usually your answer lies behind one of these doors:
I participate in athletics to pursue competitive excellence, enjoy and appreciate the daily process of leading a healthy, fit lifestyle, and learn and grow as a person through these athletic challenges. My focus is on appreciation of the challenge and experience of endurance training and racing. I am process-oriented, emphasizing the enjoyment of this process over the end result.
I participate in athletics as an outlet for compulsive behavior, an escape from other problems in my life, and to accumulate results to feed my insatiable ego. My focus is on weekly mileage, defeating others, races times and places, and physical appearance. I am results-oriented, emphasizing the measurable results of my training and racing over the daily process.
These comparisons illustrate how your various athletic goals often conflict. If you choose door #1, notice what you have to give up to get there: Your ego is no longer the driving force behind your training. You have to give up the short-term gratification of your constant obsession with results so you can enjoy the process and progress as an athlete and a person.
If you choose door #2, that is perfectly fine. It may not bring you as much long-term happiness and fulfillment, but many people simply need an outlet, albeit compulsive, to their stressful lives. All they truly want out of training is a distraction from the rest of their lives, so that's what they get.
The problem is that most of us constantly try to have both. You have to make yourself a deal -- choose one door and stick with it. Then you can remain true to that purpose every day in training.
Tape your answer to the mirror to remind yourself of your purpose as an athlete. Consider the ramifications of your behavior that is not in line with your purpose as an athlete. When you are able to behave in line with your purpose and remain true to your long-term goals and best interests, your athletic performances will improve dramatically!
Brad Kearns is a former national champion and #3 world-ranked professional triathlete and popular author, speaker and coach in the fitness world for the last 16 years. Brads Power Month book/CD offers a focused, 30-day program with daily Action Plans to improve dietary habits and food choices, goals and heart-rate based periodization training schedule, general health and stress management and personal growth issues. His www.Bradventures.com offers a healthy, holistic approach to performance nutrition and healthy, balanced lifestyle practices.