If your mojo for training and competition has dipped then triathlon great Chrissie Wellington has tips to help get you back on track
It is rare to find someone whose enthusiasm doesn’t wane occasionally. If you find yourself in a bit of a motivational hole there are many things you can do. For example, a reliable training partner can provide encouragement – while wet-blankets and naysayers are best ignored, or avoided altogether.
Clubs are great places to meet like-minded people and can offer a cocoon of advice, support and encouragement and are open to people of all abilities, from the novice to the elite. Or perhaps you could head down to your local parkrun event so you can be part of a wider, supportive local community, instead of exercising on your own.
Remember, too, that your own mind is incredibly powerful. I realised this during my time in Nepal, and specifically when I cycled 1200km across the Himalayas – encountering the biggest highs (literally – Everest Base Camp at 15,000ft!) and lows in the form of snow storms, sand storms, horrendous wind and sickness. I developed a huge amount of physical strength while cycling there. But while this physical strength can be transient and sometimes lost, I believe that the mental strength from encountering and overcoming challenges and hurdles always stays with you.
By that I mean that you carry with you, deep inside, the knowledge that you have faced your fears and conquered challenges, and with that brings confidence, peace of mind and self-belief that you can meet whatever challenges may face you in the future, during training, racing and otherwise.
Here are my tips for regaining your mojo for training and competition.
Set a goal
Having a goal gives you focus and something to aim at, it enables you to develop a tailored training plan which provides structure and consistency; it provides motivation and your goal can also be shared with friends and family to create a fantastic shared experience. But there might also be times when we need to reassess and change our goal, for example if we get injured or if work/family commitments change.
Training requires consistency and focus, combined with the ability to be flexible and adaptable too. I’d also set stepping-stone goals along the way. Entering an event or a race is a great way to give yourself a time and distance bound target. Making that goal tangible always helps, too – write it on a post-it note and stick it on your fridge, make it your screen saver, post it on Facebook – make the process come alive and real.
Be prepared to adapt your targets
Back in 2011 training for 4-6 hours a day and racing for 8-9 hours was second nature, but life is different now. I do try to exercise for an hour a day, which is mainly running, but have to be more flexible and also accept that I can’t always control everything like I used to – sleep, nutrition, strength work etc.
That’s not to say I can’t have goals, and focus on them, but I also have to accept that, if I want to have balance, it also means modifying the goals to fit in with the other priorities in life.
Going forward I have a few running races planned, and I want to continue to drive change at parkrun – developing strategies to enable us to engage people who are more inactive and unhealthy. But at the same time I want to try and slow down and truly smell the flowers (I live my life at 100 miles an hour so forcing myself to slow down is a big challenge) as well as being the best mother, daughter, wife and friend that I can be.
Sing to yourself
I recall songs in my head and count repetitively in time with my pedal stroke or footsteps. I replace energy-sapping thoughts of “I’m knackered. I want to sit down and eat a doughnut. It’s raining and my new shoes will get muddy”, with positive affirmations, my personal mantra and images of my family. Before a competition, I write ‘Never Ever Give Up and Smile’ on my race wrist-band and my water bottles and look at these when I need a boost.
Do the maths
I also mentally divide training sessions and races into portions, rather than a more daunting whole, and recall all the times I’ve overcome discomfort and adversity in the past. That’s not to say that I don’t suffer self-doubt. In fact, in every Ironman I’ve done I’ve wanted to quit at some point.
There’s that little voice in one ear that says ‘pull to the side, it’s not going to be your day’. But I’ve pushed through, using the strategies I’ve honed to help me overcome these mental and physical hurdles.
Factor in a change
If your lack of motivation lasts for a few weeks and you can’t seem to drag yourself out of the hole, then it could be a sign that you need a change. Perhaps more rest, a different activity, or some time out altogether.
It’s hard to acknowledge that something might not be quite right, but always try to listen to your internal voice and let that compass guide you. Prolonged rest or change can be hard, but sometimes we need it to rejuvenate ourselves and get that mojo back.
» Chrissie Wellington won the Ironman triathlon world title in Hawaii four times from 2007-2011 and holds the women’s world record for the distance. In 2009 she was voted Sunday Times sportswoman of the year and in 2010 was awarded an MBE. She won 13 Ironman titles from 13 races and is the author of To the Finish Line: A World Champion Triathlete’s Guide to Your Perfect Race (published by Constable, £18.99)