We all know feeling of wanting to give up because we are tired, bored or else it is too cold! Freya Martin from the British Military Fitness Race Team shares her expert advice at how to stay motivated during those tougher moments.
To stay focused and consistent throughout an OCR ‘season’ is every athletes dream however both body and mind will conspire to push you off the straight and narrow with or without a reason. It is really hard to stay motivated for an extended period of time. When you are feeling despondent just turn off the brain and do your session every day until you can get through your malaise without losing too much fitness. However prevention is easier than cure and so here are a few suggestions for avoiding or reducing loss of motivation.
1: Train with someone: Ideally a training partner will be very slightly better than you, to make you push yourself harder. If this is not possible then do you own session within a group. It is much harder to duck out of training when there are other people waiting for you. You will also be much less inclined to if you know that your competitors are getting one over you by completing a session that you should be doing as well.
2: Learn a new skill/ technique: If training is getting repetitive focus on achieving an aspect of an obstacle that has eluded you. There is rarely anything more stimulating than achieving something new.
3: Set short and long term goals: Behaviour is encouraged through positive reinforcement (PR). Aside from allowing yourself chocolate or ice cream after a workout PR can be achieving small goals in fitness. Through seeing an improvement in our performance as measured by the achievement of these goals we should be motivated to continue the ‘behaviour’ of training.
It is easier to cope with fluctuations in motivation if you have a long term goal to focus on. You may fail to achieve a short term goal but no ‘season’ is lost in a few weeks, regroup and refocus on the overall aim.
4: Train at race pace: We all love crossing the finish line of a race because the intense exertion we have just put in causes our bodies to be flooded with a sense of well-being (the exact chemical response we won’t go into). That euphoria is the positive feedback we get from putting in the essential but extremely uncomfortable effort required to make the body change with exercise. Of course you can get the same result from a really hard interval session but at least in a race we can also tap into our competitive drive to help maintain our effort. There are now numerous free races that make this a financially viable option for anyone.
5: Periodisation, Peak and recover: Few of us can maintain optimum fitness indefinitely. If you can factor in recovery weeks that are easier on body and mind then you are less likely to incur injury or mental ‘burn out’. All athletes hate injury, not only are they watching their ambitions dissolve but they can’t satisfy their addiction to exercise either. Over training is a big cause of injury brought on by the belief that more volume will improve performance. Sometimes an athletes’ enthusiasm to train needs to be restrained by a structured programme to enforce the variety of everything from rest to high intensity intervals.
6: Cross train (to recover from injury or stay having fun): The Brownlee brothers notably built a water hole in their garden for an underwater treadmill. This allowed Alistair to train when he couldn’t run through injury. Most of us don’t need to take our performance this far but finding alternative options to exercise isn’t only good during injury. A change is as good as a break to maintain enjoyment of your sport. Fortunately OCR is a multidiscipline event so we can do almost anything and it will aid some aspect of our performance.
Motivation should come through our enjoyment of the sport. I always think that the pressure of having to earn a living from your sport must influence your source of motivation and therefore your enjoyment. But for those of us who are only doing it to feel good and have fun, what happens when our mind and body just aren’t on the same page. When we are ‘up for it’ but our body just doesn’t feel good, or when our body is fine but we just feel miserable. I have found that to get the most out of my body I need to be happy. Training has sometimes taken a back seat while I figure out what it is I need to do to get the emotional and mental parts of my life back on track. Body and mind must be in harmony for optimum training.