I have recently suffered from something that fortunately doesn’t knock me off my training game too often. When it creeps in it freaks me out and then forces me to take a good look.
Lack of motivation.
I am not claiming to be super human. Nor do I have unlimited motivation for all things at all times. But, for years I have prioritized exercise as a daily habit. I have felt and believe in the benefits to my physical, mental, and emotional health. So, even if my motivation is low I often find myself lacing up my shoes or hopping on my bike with hope to improve my mood and outlook on my day. Or, often my overall outlook on life.
But, in the recent past I had been faking it. Skipping workouts, grabbing my phone to check emails, lacking focus sometimes just a few minutes in, making excuses, etc, etc, etc.
As a coach, I have learned to embrace these unmotivated moments. I spend some time in them and allow myself to feel and react. I make lack of motivation a tool that will help me to reevaluate my goals and move forward. I work to realize the benefits of learning. Rather than nailing down a worthy excuse and sticking to it, I spend a lot of time considering WHY I am unmotivated. Then I put the most obvious answers under my internal microscope.
Burnout? Probably not. Vacation hangover? Maybe. COVID related? Probably on some level.
Change in priorities leading to a shift in goals? Boom. YES.
I have been working hard at personal performance in triathlon for the past couple years. This process has been amazing and I am very fortunate to have an fantastic coach that has helped me actualize my goals. And then (obviously), racing was derailed this year. Rather than wallow daily in the void that this left in my life, I shifted my training focus to enjoying the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of exercise and feeling fit. I sought out community in virtual team events and Zoom cycling. I took a break from my coach and formal, structured training. I moved my passion for coaching and my lifelong desire to write to the top of my goal list.
I felt very excited in my life and motivated for most of this year. Until it was time to bring back my coach and prepare to perform at my next 70.3 race in May. Suddenly, I was not.
I put myself through some self coaching and learned that I do want to train hard and do the best I can in May, but I don’t want racing at my top level to currently be the priority in my professional life. I do want to keep coaching and writing at the top. I know I can do both well while having a concrete grasp on why and an understanding of where each goal stands compared to the other and priorities in my personal life. But, (again) I had to let go of how things were in order to enjoy how they are now.
After coming to this realization, I told myself I can miss workouts if needed, but when choosing to them I will give my all to the moment. Whether that is working hard or focusing on going very easy, I will be the best I can be. Focus. No excuses or distractions.
It is amazing what a quick difference accepting the truth and changing your mindset can make. My Friday workout was a lackluster slog, after weeks of feeling caught in the downward motivation spiral. I spent Friday afternoon through Saturday midday working on my mind and heart. I shared my realizations with a wonderful, introspective friend on Saturday afternoon. On Sunday morning I woke up with motivation(!!) to ride my bike. I hopped on the trainer with my new mindset— I don’t need to worry about the outcome. But if I am going to do it, I am in it. The workout was great and I felt the affects all day.
As an added bonus, by embracing this process I can now coach and write with more understanding and empathy. I can provide some tools, resources, and/or strategies to find motivation again.
Here are a few:
- Build a strong foundation of trust and care for yourself: Know yourself and your purpose. Relook at your overall why and your why for choosing this goal.
- LIVE IN THE MOMENT. Practice self awareness so you know if and when to pivot.
- You can have more than one goal at once, but you greatly benefit from only one big goal at a time. Prioritize and reflect on your ability to accept the outcomes for the goals that you will not give the most energy. Ex: If you decide your race goal is not on the top, you have to accept that now is most likely not the time for a PR.
- Focus your energy on learning from the process rather than fighting it. Meditate, read, journal, listen to podcasts.
- Have a clear understanding on how habits work and know that it takes a committed process to benefit from new habits. Be patient and consistent.
- Hire a coach. Share with a friend. Be open and vulnerable to some accountability. But, stay mindful of your inner voice and don’t rely on outward validation. You have it in YOU.
- Take a break! Have grace for yourself. Formulate a plan for re-entry.
- Do not get discouraged if it takes longer than a couple days to figure out. I have been doing this for awhile.
Do what honors you and your goals. And if you don’t like your goals, consider why and don’t be too afraid to change them.
Your motivation, family, friends, and the world benefit most from you being you.