Julie is one of two athletes we will be featuring as they train for their Ironman events. Julie is just beginning her five months of training for Ironman Canada.
Schedule of Endurance Sports Athlete Journals:
Tuesdays – Julie Warren
Saturdays – Andrew Read
“My Dog Ate My Bike Trainer” and Other Terrible Excuses
I can say with absolute certainty I’ve never regretted a workout, but many times I have regretted skipping one. So why is it then, I still find myself struggling with motivation from time to time? I know once I get the blood flowing, I’ll hit my stride and the aforementioned lack of motivation will be a distant memory. Still, I will think of every excuse in the book to delay or ultimately avoid a workout. It’s a battle I believe we all face, and not just in endurance sports. Here’s a few tricks I pull on myself to try and avoid the lack of motivation pitfall.
Plan (and Pack) Ahead, But Not Too Far
I’ve found one of the best ways to combat the excuse-monster is to have a plan for my workouts already in place before I start my day. For example, I know that during lunch tomorrow, I’ll be doing a swim workout. After work, I will be doing a CrossFit workout with co-workers. My gym bag is packed accordingly and now, barring some kind of work crisis, I have no excuses for skipping my workouts. I mention the “work crisis” because as amateur athletes, we all have real-life issues that can occasionally impact our training schedules. When that happens, the tendency is to freak out, feel like you’ve “fallen behind” and gained ten pounds. To avoid this self-sabotaging psychological warfare, I keep my training schedule fairly flexible and only plan a few days of workouts at a time. This allows me to shift workouts as needed, feel less stressed, and enjoy my workouts more.
Self-Bribery, On Occasion
Okay, so even though you’ve planned your workout for the day and your gym bag is packed, you still don’t feel the motivation to get to your spin class. Don’t worry; this isn’t anything a little bribery can’t fix. Hey, if the promise of a few cookies, or ice cream, or an evening of watching reality television is what you need to get you into your workout clothes, then do it! You have to enjoy what you are doing or you’ll never stick with it. Just don’t use this approach before every workout, or it will cease to be effective at anything other than making your jeans fit tighter.
Get an Accountability Buddy
Ever heard of an accountability buddy? If not, I highly recommend getting one! Just as the name suggests, this is someone who you can trust to help keep you accountable. Last year when I was training for my first Ironman, our coaches made us practice open water swimming in the ocean. This was horrifying for me and soon I was conveniently skipping practices that involved open water swimming. Recognizing this was becoming a serious issue, a dear friend and teammate agreed to keep me accountable with the open water swimming. On those days, in exchange for fresh-cooked bacon, she would literally drive out of her way to come pick me up and drag me to practice, where I would reluctantly go swim in the ocean. Had this friend not stepped up and helped keep me accountable, I would have never made it to a single open water swimming practice.
Try Something Different
Some people thrive on routine. I like routine, but I also need changes in routine from time to time to keep things fresh. My workouts are no exception. Today, when my normal bike ride routine was thwarted, I initially just gave up the idea of riding at all and resigned to an afternoon on my couch. My motivation for the day was gone and my attitude was incredibly negative. Finally, after a huge internal struggle, I set up my nemesis, the indoor cycle trainer. I decided if I was going to do this, I needed all the motivation I could muster. In an unprecedented move, I promptly donned my noise-canceling headphones and iPod, and was soon pedaling away to my all-time favorite running songs. Twenty minutes into my spin, it was like an endorphin-fueled rock concert in my living room. I was scream-singing, the dogs were terrified and cowering under blankets, and I was knocking out a workout I had earlier decided wasn’t happening today. After the workout was complete, I was so happy I’d followed through and not given in to the lack of motivation. The dogs were just happy it was all over.
Perhaps the single most motivating factor for me is the knowledge that in some capacity, I am helping to motivate other people. It took me a long time to believe this, but it’s true. People are watching you. I don’t mean this in a creepy “the hills have eyes” kind of way. I mean, think about the number of people who know you are training for an endurance event. Family, friends, co-workers, FaceBook friends, and Twitter followers are all watching and inspired by your commitment. You’re not some professional athlete, you’re someone they can relate to, connect with, and ultimately admire. They may never say a word to you about it, but they are watching you. You don’t want to let them down, do you?
Sometimes, none of these tricks work and for whatever reason, I don’t complete my workout. It is not the end of the world, and certainly shouldn’t be treated as such. Remember why you’re doing the event you’ve committed to, and understand that missing one or two workouts isn’t going to destroy the months of training you’ve already built up. Just dust yourself off and get back into the routine the next day.
It is important to remember on those days, when you aren’t full of energy and excited about your workout, there are things you can do to adjust your workout or your attitude and ultimately get through the slump. You will never regret a workout, but you will always regret skipping one.