When motivation deserts you

It’s the end of the season, all the hype is over. Everything we have been training for all year has come and gone and it’s common for athletes to fall into a bit of a ‘funk’ at this time of year. Suddenly our goals are all complete (for better or worse) and we don’t know what to look forward to anymore.

I thought it wouldn’t happen to me.

But it did.

I spent almost a year working up to Ironman, every spare minute seemed to be devoted to training and my life operated on a schedule. This ended with me crossing the finish line at Ironman Canada, and whilst I was ecstatic at the achievement, there was an air of anti-climax to the whole thing.

How do you top Ironman?

Another Ironman? A harder one? Something longer? Or faster?

As I cast around for my next challenge, my training foundered.

Here are the tips that work for me when motivation deserts me.

Forgive yourself

It’s a vicious cycle. You miss a workout, you get stressed about missing a workout, so you miss more, this weeks a bust already right? You’ll do better next week.

Now, whilst I don’t think we should just turn into couch potatoes, it is OK to take a short break, especially if you have just completed a major race. In fact, it’s something you probably should do!

Make it Fun

Try some fun workouts, do something different. Many cross training activities will benefit regular training and it can offer a great opportunity to spend time with friends and family (who can sometimes get a little neglected during peak training sessions).

Maybe a mountain bike ride or hike, cross country skiing, paddleboarding or a class at the Y. Doing something is better than nothing.

Remember why you like to train for your sport and what makes it fun.

Phone a Friend

Everything is better with friends. Having a friend waiting, makes me far more likely to show up, and usually makes the workout more enjoyable as well. Can’t find a friend? Go make some new ones. Join a club or sign up for a series of classes.


Set a Goal

Scheduling the next season can be a big motivator, and always lights a spark of excitement in me. It doesn’t have to be another monster like Ironman. Maybe you want to get stronger or faster and that’s a perfectly good goal.

Write down you goals and remember to keep them SMART:

So for 2015 my goal was

Specific Complete Ironman Canada
Measurable Easily measured by my crossing the line
Achievable Past experience indicates that this is achievable
Realistic Finishing in 10 hours would not be realistic, 16 is
Time based Race date was about a year away, and fixed

Maybe you aren’t there yet. Maybe your current goal is just to exercise every day. Whatever it is, write it down and start working towards it.

Just Do It!

Sometimes just getting out of the door is the biggest barrier. In this case, getting ready and forcing yourself out of the door can be the best strategy. Promise yourself that if after five minutes you still aren’t feeling it, you can stop. Often once you start, you realise it’s not so bad after all.

The five year old in me still loves the visual and tactile sticker chart. It allows me to see progress at a glance – a chart full of stars always makes me smile. There are of course numerous online tools for this as well.


Staying Accountable

When considering a workout, I find it useful to ask myself:

Will I be happier?

Will I be stronger/faster?

At least one has to be a yes!

Most importantly, equating a missed workout to a major failure in life is a mistake. Motivation ebbs and flows and accepting that will go a long way to fixing it.

What are your tricks for staying motivated and accountable?


Crossing Over

How do you become a faster runner without running?

I didn’t really think it was possible until this summer, when I proved myself wrong – rather comprehensively.

Running had never co9me easily for me and whilst there had been some limited improvement over the years, being “fast” appeared to be an unrealistic goal at best, and persistent injury conspired to keep it that way.

When I started training for triathlon, part of my rationale had been the notion of cross training. Varied training makes a more rounded athlete; helps strengthen the body and prevent injury – it’s pretty much common knowledge, so of course I knew it, I just needed to see it.

I have already written about how general strength training began to improve my overall performance and endurance, and I was enjoying the results. They just didn’t seem to translate to faster times….


Last summer, in the absence of any other permissible lower body workout, cycling took a bigger role in my training. I joined a local ‘no-drop’ ride (so at least I wouldn’t be abandoned in the middle of nowhere) and started riding with them once a week.

I was last.

This is, even now, a pretty common place for me to be. In part because I’m still just not that fast, but also due to the fact that I have a sometimes demoralizing habit of spending time with people who are much faster than me – not really a bad thing, it makes me better in the end, but now and again I just wish I could be up front…

I would get faster, I was assured by the fast guys – clearly on some kind of rota system to babysit the slowpoke at the back, just keep doing it.

And it did!

The hills got easier, and sometimes, just sometimes, there was someone behind me (probably wishing, like me, that there was someone slower than them!).

When I started running again in September, I found myself posting times I have never seen before, and with more ease! My friends commented on how much my running had improved.

“I should take the summer off every year!?”

Presumably cycling offered a low impact way to increase my fitness and cardio and also perhaps strengthen some pertinent muscles in the process.

This is a very encouraging development. It seems that my body is not nearly so enamored with running as is my mind, so knowing that there is the possibility to train running fitness without subjecting my body to the impact associated with running (and without the excruciating boredom of pool running) is exciting.

I don’t doubt that there are many combined causes behind this recent improvement, the body is a complex machine, and certainly I have been working hard to strengthen many areas. Of course nothing trains better for running than running, specificity is important in any sport, but for the time being we are having to think a little outside the box in this area and make the most of it.

Ironman Training, Musings

Going From Strength to Strength

A couple of years ago a visit to a new chiropractor resulted in the recommendation that I “Really should think about some kind of strengthening program” After manipulating joints (push against my hand…I am …as hard as you can…I am), poking muscles and taking some official looking measurements he proclaimed that I was utterly weak and inflexible. (OK he didn’t put it quite like that, but that was definitely the message). He posited that increasing my all round strength offer improvement in all aspects of my day to day life, not to mention my athletic performance.

The good news was, the only way was up.

I decided to join a ‘bootcamp’, a twice weekly fitness class. I had tried this type of class before – more than once – and had never had much success. Large groups of people with varying abilities doing the same workout. Often exercises were impossibly hard, inadequately explained, or both. The instructors didn’t have time to help each person. I always ended up discouraged, and perhaps never kept going long enough to see real change. I had always wanted to do a pull up, a completely arbitrary goal and it seemed ridiculous even to me…

So, I was nervous as I headed to my first Designer Fitness session. The group was smaller and the instructor immediately welcoming. Everything was explained clearly and the instructor was approachable and always made time to answer questions. Those early sessions were fast paced and hard, but never impossible; there was always a modification to allow everyone to achieve. The classes took place outdoors which was pleasant and the other participants turned out to be a great bunch too!

This time I did begin to see changes. Those push ups which I had never been able to do, were starting to get easier and soon I was able to keep up with the workouts. It wasn’t until a few months later though, that I realised how much change was occurring.

My running was improving.

That year (2013) I ran my first non-stop 5km, no walking! Followed swiftly by a non-stop 10km. I hadn’t been running much that year due to injuries, the only difference was the bootcamp.

The progress continued through the winter until disaster struck in the spring.

Stress Fracture – No running, in fact, no extraneous weight bearing activity.

I delivered the bad news to Katie – I was clearly going to have to take some time off – but no…

Rather than let me spend the summer feeling sorry for myself, or falling off the fitness wagon altogether, she proceeded to modify my workouts.

All.          Summer.          Long!

My arms and core were just not expecting this sudden change of focus!

“Engage your core”

“You can do anything for 20 seconds”

And by the end of the summer, muscles I had never seen before seemed to be growing out of nowhere and I was redefining possibilities with respect to my fitness.

I continue to attend the bootcamps, my favourite being the Cardio Core Climb at Beyond the Crux climbing gym (How could that not be fun?!!) and having made so many gains I am motivated to continue.

Cardio Core Climb

Now that I have located it, engaging my core is proving useful in many different areas of life and sport.

The pull up might still be a way off, but I know for sure I will be able to do it one day.

And, you know, you really can do almost anything for 20 seconds…which was really a far more valuable lesson in the end.