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5 Tips To Stay Motivated Over a Long Season

Stay Motivated During A Long Season Dr JoAnne Bullock Run Tri Bike Magazine

Race seasons can last anywhere from a few months to over a year, depending on training goals and demands. The focus in the beginning stages of training usually focuses on periodizing the basic training program. Doing this allows the athlete to be aware of the anticipated progression over time. For example, in the initial stages of starting a race season, most endurance athletes experience positive emotions. Those positive emotions can be enhanced motivation and an improved outlook for the future. However, as training demands progress, so do the psychological demands. No matter the age or experience level, many would agree that they will experience a rollercoaster of emotions throughout a season. This can be challenging for some endurance athletes as they might struggle with physically adapting to these changes and staying mentally engaged. So, how do you stay motivated over a long season?

Three Different Types Of Motivation

One key aspect regarding psychological engagement for endurance athletes is motivation. An athlete’s motivation assists them in becoming self-determined at achieving their goal. There are three different types of motivation: amotivation, external motivation, and intrinsic motivation. Amotivation occurs when an athlete feels disengaged or has no desire to accomplish their goal. This can result in lowered levels of perceived competence. Extrinsic motivation occurs when an athlete feels driven to achieve their goals due to specific external rewards. Intrinsic motivation refers to the internal satisfaction an athlete experiences when working towards achieving their goals. Overall, the more intrinsically motivated an athlete is, the higher their levels of self-determination.

It is natural for motivation to fluctuate during a training season. At the start of a race season, the training and goal are new and exciting. Still, as training progresses, athletes may feel unmotivated regarding training sessions, staying on track with their goals, etc. Feeling unmotivated can cause an athlete to start questioning their self-worth, ability to complete their training, and self-confidence successfully. It is important to note that this is very common. Most athletes have experienced this at some point during their careers.

5 Tips To Stay Motivated Over a Long Season

  1. Recognize your growth. Take some time to self-reflect. Think back to your first day of training and evaluate how much you’ve grown and changed as an athlete. It can be easy to forget about how much progress you’ve made along the way! Sometimes these reflective strategies might be needed to help enhance motivation as the season continues.
  2. Stay present where your feet are planted. The concept of staying grounded and mindful is essential as an endurance athlete. It is easy to fall into thinking about the future “what-if” concerns and the past “should of” moments. When you notice this occurring, stop and think about the present moment. Shift your focus to the RIGHT NOW moment and break down your focus into one step at a time.
  3. Spice it up!  If you feel stagnant in your training or unmotivated, think about how you could spice up your regular routine and make it fun! Some ideas include changing the environment, grabbing a friend, switching up your playlist, or signing up for a “fun-run” style event as a training run! Be creative, and don’t forget to smile within the new element you include!
  4. Reward yourself.  It is easy to forget the importance of providing rewards throughout your season, but it is crucial! These extrinsic motivators, usually tangible, assist you in staying engaged with your training. Perhaps that treat is brunch with a workout friend, or a new piece of workout gear. Wherever it might be is unique to you as an athlete. If you find it to be a reward, then it is perfect!
  5. If you need a break, physically or mentally, take it! This might be one of the most important aspects to consider regarding motivation. Dig deep into why you might be struggling with motivation. If you recognize that you are struggling physically with your training, including feelings of burnout, such as issues with sleeping, elevated resting heart rate, or your muscles feeling heavy, then it is essential to take some rest! This also holds true with your mental well-being. Stop and listen to those voices if you notice heightened feelings of nervousness, worry, or anxiety over a week or so. Taking a rest day, or a few rest days, will not take you off track of your training. It actually might serve as a protective mechanism to help you re-engage with the sport. Rest days can also enhance motivation, and decrease potential injuries.

Remember that this is a process, not a quick fix, in your quest to stay motivated throughout your season. Instead, take your time to evaluate yourself and understand why motivation might be slacking. A key element here is to accept yourself during this process. Remember that you are human, and it is nearly impossible to stay highly motivated every single day. It is also nearly impossible to stay highly motivated during every single training session! The ebbs and flows experienced as an endurance athlete are excellent learning lessons. They can help you stay motivated during a long season and unlock your true potential!

Dr JoAnne Bullard Run Tri Bike Magazine Doctor of Sport and Performance Psychology

JoAnne Bullard is a Doctor of Sport and Performance Psychology and a Certified Mental Performance Consultant through the Association for Applied Sport Psychology. She is also a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

She serves as a tenured Associate Professor at Rowan University and is the owner of Absolute Fitness, LLC.  Her goal is to provide a holistically applied approach for clients through performance psychology consulting. She has experience working with athletes of all ages, including endurance athletes, in individual and group sessions.  Her research areas include mindfulness, performance anxiety, goal setting, coping strategies, and mental well-being of athletes.

She has completed five marathons, numerous half-marathons, and is always looking for her next race.