Motivation (the “M” word) comes in many different forms and is, oftentimes, disguised as a deep-seeded fear, insecurity or desire that we may or may not be aware of. Conversely, it may be nothing more than an innate drive to be the best you can be at a given sport, skill or discipline.
Over the years, I’ve learned that when people are not clear about their motivations to carry out a specific task the risk of mediocracy runs high. Especially if the task is daunting or seems somewhat out of reach, as can be the case with many endurance or ultra-endurance related goals. Further, when the dog days of training/work come around, some will be more likely to bow out of tough or long sessions because the motivation just isn’t there.
This is also where the idea of success comes into play. Too often in racing, success is correlated with a top spot on the podium or winning. While I would be remiss to say “winning” a race, event, or prize, is not success, I fear most athletes don’t take other successes into account when engaged in self-assessment. Therefore, I train each athlete as an individual. Learning what techniques and strategies best suit an individual will solicit much better results that are sustainable over time.
While many want to “just train,” the mechanism by which they do so will be different for most athletes. Training an individual athlete to meet their own goals within their own mentality, skill, and ability supersedes training an individual to a group. Sure, my squad does a lot of group work, but within that are the individual objectives that are the motivators for each, not a group norm. Working with athletes to stay inside themselves, stay married to the process and recognizing what their successes are and what they entail is not always easy for them or me. But, it gets the best results.
When an athlete becomes driven by a group mentality they begin to work outside themselves and will undoubtedly end up reaching too far toward an unattainable goal, or underachieving. Either way, they won’t get the best result and maximize their time and effort.
Triathlon/endurance sport is hard. Sprint distance, Ironman distance, 5k or 26.2 miles. Whatever the distance, it doesn’t matter. If you do it correctly, it hurts and takes work. However, if it were easy, the payoff would not be as impactful as it is. Triathlon is not three different sports. It is one sport consisting of many disciplines and should be treated and trained for as such.
As a coach, it’s my job to understand that each athlete has a different set of variables with which to work; whether physical gifts or limitations, life circumstances, job and family obligations, etc. The point is, there is no level playing field. Some are at a disadvantage; therefore, training must take these things into consideration to be effective and successful.
As you measure yourself, think objectively in terms of what qualifies as successful (or not). Consider some of the following: Does training/racing help alleviate stress in other areas of your life? Is the goal to become physically fit? Has the sport helped do this? Are you helping to set a positive example for your kids? Are you better today than you were yesterday?
I would argue that if you can answer yes to any of these, you are becoming quite successful. Perhaps, it is also worth noting just how successful you can become may depend upon the source of your motivation.