Last week I went for a run with Fiona and Nikki down to Greenlake and met up with Alison and her Tuesday night crew just as they were finishing their hill sprint workout. Amidst the post-workout chit-chat, one of the ladies asked when my next race was. I told her I didn't really have anything planned; this isn't intentional, I just have enough going on with coaching and directing my youth ski program and ramping up for winter that I haven't considered looking at my last few free weekends for available events. But following my answer Alison said, "he's not from an ultra running background and doesn't need regular racing to motivate."
Well, that's true and not true. I love racing and would be happy competing in some kind of event every weekend. But, I also love to train. Love, love, love. Really, it's like the kind of love some people have for Pumpkin Spice Lattes. I think they're absolutely rank, but some folks just go bananas for those little hot sugar-pops at the 'Bucks.
Right; training and motivation. The truth is, everyone gets their fire lit in different ways, and the important thing for each athlete is to discover where that spark originates. For me, focusing on training for several months at a time is natural from a skiing background (the winter racings season is small in comparison to the offseason) and I thrive on seeing improvements over time in workouts and by defining progressions in my overall plan. Learning yourself and how you strike the match of your own motivation is a crucial step to finding success as an athlete; coaches can help with this search, but as the adage goes, "You Can't Coach Desire".
Perhaps some good advice to keep in mind is that motivation doesn't have to fit in the narrow confines of racing. Yes, it's good to have upcoming race goals to drive you out the door on a rainy afternoon, but what other reasons and motivators could there be? Your coach can develop workout goals and markers for each session, be it a straightforward distance run or a protocoled track workout. Watch your improvements in your training and let the opportunity to hit a new standard or make it up that long climb at Cougar Mtn. be the impetus to keep you going.
And then there are a lot of short-term motivators that can work in a pinch, such as:
- An IPod playlist you only get to listen to during workoukts
- A tasty treat that you get as a reward after completing your weekly long run (such as a Top Pot donut; that's mine and Alison's after a trail run in the Issy Alps)
- Choosing different routes for the week to keep things varied
- Work with your coach to select a tangential goal, such as a 5km PR when your main goal is a 50km in several months; using these variations (especially in the winter training months) can bring new, interesting workouts to you and will help develop strengths previously left untouched
Ultimately, motivation day after day is what gets you to your successes. Don't assume that because a particular incentive doesn't work for you that you're lost; get creative to find ways to complete your workouts each day and pretty soon the motivation happens without effort. Charge on, friends.