20 January 2007



If you’re reading this then its likely that we share a common trait amongst triathletes – we’re motivated to do better at our sport. The reasons why we are so afflicted probably vary a great deal though. I think it helps us in reaching our goals to identify the basic reasons for our motivation.

I look at motivation as a 2-step process:
1) identify my goals
2) identify the mechanisms that help keep me motivated to achieve them

In identifying goals I think a good beginning is to accept that our goals are personal to us and might be completely arbitrary. They could be to run every day, to bench press 300lbs, or to lose 300lbs. If there’s something positive that gets you up and moving then I think its probably a good goal to have. I’ll give you an example of one arbitrary goal of mine that ties in well with my bigger picture goals.

Sheila’s back.
Do you remember that picture of Sheila Toarmina on the cover of Outside Magazine? The one with her running away from the camera and her rhomboids are jumping off the front cover like some sort of 3-D action figure?
I had that magazine in the magazine rack in the gym that I managed. That photo used to stare at me nearly daily for a few months and all the time I kept thinking “why is her back so much more f…n studly than mine????! I used to swim! I lifted weights all my life and pretty seriously when I retired as a pro triathlete and started personal training…etc.”.
I used that photo to get myself worked up, and I resolved that one day I was going to really work on my back so I could give her a good battle in a rear-view, double back bicep pose.
It took me about 5 years to actually get around to starting the process of building my back, but over the course of this last year I did. A large part of the reasons I did so much work on my back this year was because I had so many running injuries that I couldn’t run much, so I decided to lift and swim more to fill the void. The combination of more beef and better swimming fits in well with my more general goals of being fit and looking good.
So 2x/week nearly all year I tortured my back in the gym for an hour followed by a 3.5-5km swim session. I would hit my abs, back and chest together 2x/week and hit abs, lower body, shoulders and arms 2x/week. Real gym junkie stuff. My back work included seated rows, bent-over rows, lat pull downs, straight-arm pull-downs, chin-ups, one-arm dumbbells rows, dumbbell pull-overs, iron cross machine, rotator work with cords, swim simulation with cords (fast!), Vasa Trainer, and dumbbells, back extensions and dead lifts.

Even though I know that extra upper body muscle conflicts with my goals to run fast and ride uphill well to be able to keep up with (or smash to smithereens….) my good training partners I felt it was still worth pursuing. It was something that got me into the pool more as the gym and pool are at the same complex, and it kept my mood in positive territory over the winter months as I let my running injuries heal.

Most of us want to feel content with ourselves and a large part of reaching a satisfactory level of contentment is to feel some self esteem or pride in our accomplishments. Even the drive to make some money is mostly related to this.
I haven’t read any books on this topic so I’m speaking about my experience in dealing with people.

What actions do you take to keep you moving towards your goals?

Here’s my list:

1) Surround myself with motivated, positive people – at home, in my work, in my sport. This is my support network. They help me to feel good about doing what I do. They re-enforce my choices.
2) Read the sports page every day. Great athletes in action get me psyched.
3) Look at positive images of success of myself and others. I have them on my refrigerator.
4) Keep a list of my goals prominent. I have them as my bookmarker on my bedside.
5) Chose several very challenging events every year. I look forward to preparing for these events. I love doing the work required to take them on.
6) Reward myself for challenges/goals met. I usually make a trip to a nice place as one of my main rewards for the year.
7) Read books about extraordinary people. Watch great sport on TV.
8) Get out of bed when the alarm goes and get a cup of coffee in me asap.
9) Listen to uplifting music.

The thing I often have to remind myself of is that I can never take my own level of motivation for granted.
Its a fleeting, slippery emotive state and I need to be vigilant in looking for signs of it waning. We all get into slumps and when we do then we need to go right back to doing the things that help us get psyched up again.

Here are my main athletic/fitness/health goals for 2007 and 2008 that get me out of bed every morning with some enthusiasm.

1) Run well again. I’ve had a number of injuries over the last 6 years that have been a hindrance, but I’ve not been good at doing the preventative maintenance I need to do to stay healthy. I need very strong motivation to stretch, massage and especially ice. I hate icing.
By run well I mean be able to: a) run x-country races, b) run10km’s races regularly in under 34:30 minutes, c) run long in the hills as often as I like, d) not be in pain from injury

2) Look good.
I’m a vain person. I want to be thin/lean, tanned and look young, healthy and athletic until at least 70.

3) Get to age 50 in good shape so I can still train with the fast guys that I enjoy
training with. These Epic Camps are a good example of what I like to do with my free time.

Those might look like pretty general goals and to me they are.
I don’t fuss with the daily details or specifics too much.
I don’t set specific tri goals until very close to race day. Same for bike and run races or training sessions in general. I used to, but not any more. I try to focus on the long term goals now.

How about you??? What gets you going and keeps you in a positive mental state?
If you’re prone to slumps then perhaps going through this process yourself is worth a try.