Workout Motivation Tips That Actually Work

By Will Murray | March 13, 2017, 1:40 p.m. (ET)
run workout 
Are you sure you’re getting the full benefit from your training sessions? With a training plan aimed at a particular race or set of races, you likely have a number of workouts of different kinds and different durations carefully ordered over the months to get you in peak condition for your top races.
 
Completing this sequence of training sessions — as prescribed and in order — is key to arriving at your most important races in optimum form: fit, healthy and rested. Fit, meaning in top physical condition for the type of race, whether sprint distance triathlon or ultramarathon; healthy, meaning freedom from injury or illness; and rested meaning fresh and ready to go. Achieving this three-way goal to let you race to your potential is not always easy to do. 
 
Having a good annual training plan is vitally important. Just as important is executing that plan by completing the workouts — as prescribed and in the right sequence. Some athletes succumb to the temptation of taking an easy run when they are supposed to be doing 600-meter hard intervals at the track or chasing a fast pack of cyclists when they are scheduled for an easy recovery ride. Some athletes skip the workout altogether, because they “just aren’t feeling it.” 
 
An athlete who too often replaces a recovery swim with a hard masters set is possibly digging a hole toward overtraining. An athlete who skips the high-intensity bike sessions is raffling off key fitness. And one who skips workouts altogether too frequently is not only giving away fitness but also generating unhelpful emotions that undermine the training and also come back to haunt on race day — if the start line appears at all.
 
Fortunately, there are easy, quick and effective techniques to help athletes do their scheduled workouts. Here are two that athletes find useful.

Fast Forward to Race Day

1. Consider the workout you need to do next.
2. Think of a race you have on your schedule that you really want to perform well in (your A Race). Put yourself into the future, as if you were at the day before the race.
3. Now, what do you want to be able to say to yourself the day before your A Race about this upcoming workout from Step 1. Do you want to say something like, “I had a choice to do that big hill climb on the bike or skip it, and I did it.”? Or to say, “Hmmm, I really wish I had done that hard swim workout way back when.”? Choose what you want to be able to say about this workout on the day before your race.
4. Now go do your training.
 
You should find that the “not feeling it” feeling should diminish or disappear and that your motivation to jump on your training session will blossom.

Who Would You Never Disappoint?

1. Consider the workout you need to do next.
2. Think of someone who you’d never want to disappoint; someone who you know has your best interest at heart. Get a good look at that person’s image. 
3. Now listen to what that person would say to encourage you to complete your workout as prescribed.
4. If you feel sufficiently moved, go do your workout. 
5. If you still aren’t feeling it, think of one to three more people as in Step 2, and repeat Step 3.
 
Many athletes find that they get extra motivation from enlisting others, as in setting an appointment to meet another athlete to train together. Also, you can do the quick mental recruitment above to gain instant excitement for your workout.
 
There are dozens more quick, useful techniques for executing your annual, monthly and weekly training plans for maximum benefit. The two above are just a taste. When you “just aren’t feeling it” you are not at the mercy of your emotions. You can change them instantly so that you are indeed able to feel it.

Will Murray is a USA Triathlon Level I Certified Coach and co-author, with Craig Howie of “The Four Pillars of Triathlon: Vital Mental Conditioning for Endurance Athletes” and a three-part mental training plan in the TrainingPeaks library.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the practices of USA Triathlon. Before starting any new diet or exercise program, you should check with your physician and/or coach.