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Inside Athletes’ Minds: Deciphering the Factors Influencing Workout Preferences

Inside Athletes' Minds: Deciphering the Factors Influencing Workout Preferences by JoAnne Bullard Run Tri Bike Magazine

Every athlete has a reason why they incorporate workouts into their routine. Some athletes’ workouts and training programs might provide maintenance and self-care for their lifestyle and training. Specific training based on an athlete’s upcoming race or competition might be needed for other athletes. Regardless of why an athlete incorporates workouts into their daily structure and routine, it is essential to understand each workout. The understanding of each training sessions is vital to success, especially when periodized appropriately. Deciphering the various factors that influence workout preferences can helps us understand what happens inside an athletes minds.

The Power of Purpose: Unveiling the Athlete’s “Why”

The difference among workout types and intensities is apparent. Structuring workouts appropriately so that the athlete peaks at the right time for performance is essential. This leads to the question, what makes some athletes embrace hard workouts while others avoid them? The truth is, this is primarily due to the athlete’s perception of the workouts! Elements that athletes can categorize as a “hard workout” can include intensity, duration, movement patterns, rate of perceived exertion, etc. Every athlete truly has a unique perception!

Inside Athletes’ Minds: Challenges and Comfort Zones

Many athletes might view fitness with a “bigger, faster, stronger” mentality. This means some athletes might feel that if the workout is not challenging the workout is not worth it. That challenge can come in the form of data from their heart rate monitor or increasing their perceived exertion, Other athletes might become intimidated by workouts that challenge their heart rate, rate of perceived exertion, etc., which could take them away from trying to see if the workout benefits them. This could be due to the athlete struggling with feeling comfortable during their training, confident in execution, and staying motivated to commit to the training program


Factors Inside An Athletes’ Mind That Impact Workout Preferences

  1. The athlete’s “why” and purpose: An athlete needs to have a clear understanding as to what their purpose is regarding their athletic goals. Without having a clear “why,” athletes could also compare themselves to the fitness levels of other athletes, even those they see on social media. This comparison could serve as a motivating factor for some athletes. Still, it could also decrease self-confidence for others as they focus too much on what other athletes are doing and what they feel they are incapable of performing. Regardless, an athlete’s goals will dictate their training and additional factors such as motivation, confidence, and commitment toward training.
  2. Deciding on appropriate training schedules: An athlete’s training schedule is developed based on the demands associated with the actual training goal. Training programs are dictated due to the training load in preparation for the event. Athletes training for a specific race or competition might embrace the challenge of more intense workouts since they know these workouts are preparing them for the event. Athletes not training for a particular event might not see the value of incorporating these intense workout sessions since they are unrelated to their training goals.
  3. Recognizing unique demands: Most athletes balance training alongside other life responsibilities. These elements can include available time to train due to work commitments and family and home obligations. These elements could be a deciding factor for an athlete regarding the specifics of training, such as duration, location, etc. For instance, some athletes might not be available to meet up for a team run that is an hour from home over the weekend. This might impact their perception of being able to train efficiently for their upcoming race or competition.

Navigating the Workout Maze

Overall, every athlete responds to their workouts in their own way. The most important thing to remember is that every athlete is on their journey! The workouts that are chosen must be those that the athlete feels will help them achieve their goals. These workouts must help to keep the athlete engaged, motivated and fulfill their “why.”


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.