Wednesday, February 6, 2008


More and more, I am finding as a coach, the biggest factor in an athlete's success is motivation. I find it in my own training, but now as a coach, I see it clearly now.

At first, I simply thought it was consistency, as the athletes who workout consistently and follow the training plan tend to be the most successful. But with a deeper look, I see the biggest difference between my most successful and least successful is their motivation level.

Webster's dictionary defines motivation as "the psychological feature that arouses an organism to action toward a desired goal; the reason for the action; that which gives purpose and direction to behavior."

The key aspect of this is the behavior, or training, working out. Many say they have the motivation and desire to do well, but if the actions of training do not materialize, then really they do not have the motivation.

Can motivation change? Can it be created? Can it suddenly begin to exist, or does it take a long time? Are we in control of it? I believe the answer is yes to each of these.

The problem is some people are intimidated by their goals, (motivation is related to confidence), thinking the task before them, either the main goal, or the goal of the workout which awaits them, is too great for them to really accomplish. They think about the difficulty of the workout, and the other possible choices around them, to substitute the workout with, which are easier.

The way you create motivation is to not be intimidated by the length or intensity of the workout. Too many people look at the length of the workout, and focus on the enormity of it. This is the same as standing on the start line of an Ironman, and thinking only about the fact that 140+ miles await you. Obviously, this is a daunting and enormous task! Not the best place for your focus.

Instead, if you are on the start line and thinking about your starting position, considering the currents, and thinking about your race strategy and stroke, you are now turning your attention to the details which will help you directly.

Now, let's apply this to the daily workout regimen. If you focus on the things you need to do to make the workout and your training a success, then you will probably be able to avoid any pitfalls. For most people, this is accomplished by simply focusing on getting out the door! The first, and most important step in a successful workout, is beginning it! If you are about to do a trainer workout when you get home, and you know if you turn on the tv or open the fridge to get that last beer, you will most likely lose motivation for the workout. Instead, focus on getting the bike set-up, filling your water bottles, etc. If you're going to do a run, get out the door ASAP!

This focus will help you to get the workouts started, and this is half the battle. Once the workout has been started, athletes tend to find it's not hard to finish them.

The other aspect of motivation comes from understanding yourself and what buttons need to be pushed, or not pushed, to help you stay motivated. For some, it's as simple as stepping on a scale every morning, or avoiding beer and junk food addictions. For others, it's a motivational poster or sign to remind them of their goals and how important it is to them.

Consider your motivation level, and what needs to happen to help your motivation. Maybe it's as simple as actively focusing on starting workouts, or passively reading a sign or poster, or avoiding distractions, (TV, fridge, friends).

Motivation shows inertial properties, meaning once it gets momentum it starts to roll on it's own, since athletes get excited with new fitness gains. Get your motivation started right by following some these ideas, and watch your training jump to new levels.

Best of luck!

Coach Vance


Ryan Denner said...

"The problem is some people are intimidated by their goals, (motivation is related to confidence)"

That's so key. What people don't realize most of the time is that its all in our heads. If we can allow ourselves to get out from behind that curtain, then the sky is the limit.

But as you noted, you can't look at the sky from the ground, be intimidated and say I'll never make it. You have to recognize the smaller steps to get there first.

Great post. What you said rings true with a lot of things in life.

D a v e P said...

Jim, I'm really likin' this post. Rock on!