Seven Ways to Stay Motivated

runner-at-finish-lineMotivation isn’t a magical state that just descends on you. You have the power to do certain things to make it happen. They’re different for everyone, but here’s what works for me:

1. Enter a race that scares you. I always sign up for something I really can’t do unless I train hard for it. For me, it’s motivating to think, “do I want to run today or do I want to have that course kick my booty?” It’s pretty much a no-brainer that you’re going to train that day. It doesn’t have to be a race–it can be an adventure vacation or just a plan with someone else. For instance, I’m planning to do a ride with someone later in the season who is far faster than I am. So skipping time on my bike trainer is totally not an option unless I want to be dusted.

2. Get a coach! There is nothing like having someone send you your workouts for the week, all planned out and designed to help you hit said crazy barely-within-reach goal. They’re not always pricey, and they don’t even need to live in your area–I had huge success with a coach I worked with halfway across the country. And I use TrainingPeaks, an online workout log, to track my workouts. There’s nothing like going into the stats and seeing just how many hours you rode your bike in the past three weeks (or three days!). My first beloved coach was linked to my workout log and could see everything (or the lack of it!). Accountability is a beautiful thing.

3. Don’t overthink it. Once the goal is in place, don’t keep asking yourself if you made the right decision. For instance, I signed up for a running class that met before dawn a few winters ago. One morning, I woke up and thought, “do I want to go today?” And I realized that I’d answered that question when I signed up for the thing; I didn’t need to answer that question every day. After that, I just got up and went. No mental drama.

4. Do the group thing. I train with a team that disses me a bit when I’m not there (and who I need to keep up with!). No group around? Then rope a friend into going with you. You just can’t bail on someone who’s waiting for you somewhere in cold, dark Manhattan (or any other town) at 6:15 a.m.

5. Make a deal with yourself. If a workout seems too long with the warmup, mainset, cooldown and stretching, I sometimes make a deal with myself that I can stop running five minutes early if I use those five minutes to stretch. Other times, I don’t run for 60 minutes; I just run for three, 20-minute periods. (Mind games are absolutely not cheating!)

6. Know that your mind fatigues before your body does. Your mind can convince your body is tired long before it actually is. I usually remind myself, when I don’t feel like working out, or don’t feel like pushing harder, that it’s a head fake. And sometimes, that voice that keeps telling you “I don’t want to do this”? You just have to tell it to hush up. I did that out loud in a race once, when I was going uphill into a headwind. “The Voice” was telling me it was going to be a long, hard race. I pulled away from the people around me and said to that voice, “shush!” and I didn’t hear from it again that race. A little freaky, but it worked for me (and others I know).

7. Write down your goals. When I do that, it becomes apparent that in order to do what I want (say, swim 100 yards in a certain time), I not only need to swim more, but I need to swim two more times per week than I’m doing and need to do core training. So when I have a swim workout, I can’t bail.

And yes, every time you beat your “don’t work out” demons, I think you deserve a medal. There’s probably an app for that, but I haven’t found it yet. But you actually get something better–fit and closer to your goals.

What’s your best stay-motivated strategy? Spill it! (After you work out, of course!)

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