Staying motivated to train is a problem every athlete faces. While there are many ways to tackle the problem, every sport has its tricks of the trade—some seem pretty obvious, others not so much. In bike racing, one of the simplest solutions used to be to put on some new, sparkling white handlebar tape.
Another thing that seems pretty obvious is why one should stay motivated. However, when winter descends and the environment becomes a bit trying, it's the "why" which can be more important than the "how". To put it simply, if you don't think you need to stay motivated there is little chance that you will somehow get motivated.
Hey, that seems a lot like Suze Orman telling you that it is best to pay off the credit card with the highest APR using the credit card with the lowest APR. Well, duh. I don't need someone yelling at me through the TV to tell me something that is painfully obvious. But, when it comes to motivation, it is a bit more complicated than that.
Build Your Self-Confidence
One factor that is sometimes overlooked is confidence. Top athletes need to be concerned with all aspects of their craft. The physical factors such as equipment and fitness are always part of the equation, but the mental aspect is just as important, if not more.
These days we hear about professional athletes using sports psychologists to help them overcome mental or emotional hurdles. Keeping a competitor in the game means working on building their self-confidence. If an athlete believes they can accomplish a particular task, the chances of success are greatly increased.
However, believing you can win the Tour de France isn't necessarily going to put just anybody on the top step of the podium in Paris. But if you set reasonable goals, believing you can accomplish them is the first step. That is one of the big reasons it is important to stay motivated. When you lose motivation, one of the first things that begins to erode is your self-confidence.
Strive for Good Suffering
You just can't see yourself climbing that hill because you are out of shape. You are out of shape because you couldn't find the motivation to train. Don't get me wrong, suffering is an integral part of endurance sports.
But there is good suffering, like Lance Armstrong at the Tour de France, and there is bad suffering, like trying to drag 10 extra pounds uphill. We all strive for good suffering, but bad suffering can drive us back to the couch quicker than a mid-winter blizzard.
Legitimize Your Training
Another reason to stay motivated is that it makes training seem more important. When you are motivated, your workouts take on a greater meaning. They are part of a bigger picture.
What you do defines who you are, and doing what you want to do makes your life seem like it has more meaning. There is no need to go to your Facebook page to look for "existence verification". You are out there doing what you want to do and it doesn't matter what anybody else thinks.
Remember the Competition
Lastly, staying motivated, especially over the winter, may give you a leg up when the spring returns and the season begins in earnest. Remember that person who was putting you in the hurt locker last year? If you have stayed motivated and kept up some reasonable offseason training, you might just be able to turn the tables in the upcoming year, and as we all know payback is a, well...um...uh, you get what I am trying to say.
Bruce Hildenbrand is a freelance journalist covering cycling and a host of other outdoor-related sports. He splits his time between Mountain View, California, Boulder, Colorado, and Europe.