Day in and day out you train. Some days you feel fresh and can easily push yourself and your body to its limits. Other days, you feel sluggish and wonder why you continue to do this crazy sport.
It's normal for all athletes to question their participation in sport once in a while, but how can you minimize the bad days and maximize the good ones? How can you motivate yourself when "just another training day" feels like a never-ending uphill climb? Here are six tips to keep the motivational fire burning even on days when you feel burned out.
Motivational Tip No. One: Know Your Passion
What drives athletes to achieve things once thought impossible? Passion. Your passion is the big picture goal of why you train. Is your passion to finish the triathlon you've dreamt about? Or to qualify for that big event? What is the driving force behind your training?
Try This Exercise: Write a paragraph describing you reaching your ultimate goal. What will life be like for you once you achieve this goal? Write every detail of what you see, what you do, and how you feel. The more vivid you can see and feel your goal, the better.
Try This Exercise: Make a visual collage (using magazines, pictures or drawings) of this goal and hang it where you can see it daily. The more that your passion is "in your face," the less your mind will stray to the negative.
Motivational Tip No. Two: Set Small Realistic Goals Along the Way
Even though your passion is the driving force behind your training, small goals pointing out daily progress will keep the desire burning as well. Start now, set incremental goals that are realistic, specific and in your control.
Try This Exercise: Write your goal down on an index card. Make sure you look at the card every time you train. When you achieve it, cross it out (feeling that fine sense of accomplishment) and write a new goal. Even a small goal like improving a time or training a specific number of days per week can help you feel a sense of accomplishment. Feeling accomplishment along the way to your dream can help you stay motivated.
Motivational Tip No. Three: Keep a Training Log
There is no better tool to monitor your progress than a training log. A training log can help you track improvements, coaching assignments and motivation throughout your training. When you see progress, you feel motivated to make more progress. When you see improvements, you are fired up to improve even further.
Try This Exercise: Have your coach or a support person provide feedback in your log as well. This can give you the boost you need when you feel a lack of fire. Online training logs are also available on www.active.com.
Motivational Tip No. Four: Watch Your Thinking
Negative thinking leads to negative feelings. Negative thoughts and feelings are poison to motivation. Watch your thinking and change negative thoughts quickly. Remember: What you think about, you bring about. Even if you can't change your negative thoughts to positive thoughts on a given day, at least make them neutral. Saying to yourself, "Just make it through one today," is much better than, "I can't do this today."
Try This Exercise: Surround yourself with positive affirmations that remind you of your goal and passion. Put uplifting sayings on your logbook, bathroom mirror and screen saver. Toxic, negative people can suck the energy out of you almost as fast as you can yourself. Surround yourself with positive people that support you and your dream.
Motivational Tip No. Five: Stay Balanced
Lack of joy in sport is the number one cause of burnout. Be sure you are not over-training. Spend time on balance and recovery. Nature gives us a fine example of this, water your plant too much and it will die, water it too little and it will die. It needs balance to thrive. Commit to a regular schedule, take days off, cross train, and spend time with family and friends. These are all essential parts of your training regimen.
Motivational Tip No. Six: JDS (Just Do Something)
Waxes and wanes in motivation are normal for any high level athlete. During the times when your motivation is low, ride it out by having the JDS mentality. JDS stands for Just Do Something! Anything! It may be a short version of your normal workout. It may be just working on some drills. Maybe you spend some time re-igniting your fire by making a new goal collage or log book. Whatever it is, just do anything that will move you toward your goal. Don't judge how little or insignificant it is.
The only guarantee we have in life is that everything changes. You will have some breakdowns in your training and life. Don't fret, breakdowns lead to breakthroughs. Life is a crazy ocean and your challenge is how you will surf the waves. Trust that as you ride the waves of motivation, today's lack of desire can quickly become tomorrow's fire. Training is a process. Keep the faith, and most importantly, just keep surfing.
Alison Arnold Ph.D. is the mental toughness trainer for USA Gymnastics, USA Figure Skating, Australia's Ski Team and numerous athletes in over 20 sports. She is a master of training the monkey-mind, and her books, workbooks, seminars and Head Games Boot Camp Mental Training Sessions have inspired athletes all over the world. For more information about her work, visit: www.headgames.ws
Janae Whittaker Ali, as seen on NBC's hit TV show, Starting Over, is a certified professional Life Coach. As a former nationally ranked gymnast, she specializes in working with athletes and leads clinics and speeches for various clubs, NCAA and Olympic teams. For more information visit: www.gmcoaching.com.