I can't get no...Motivation...

Occasionally someone will ask me a question along these lines:

In thinking about ideas for a new article, I thought I would answer these questions and hopefully give you folks at home some ideas about how you can manage your triathlon training and personal lives in such a manner as to get the best out of both.

Do you enjoy your sport?

First, letís start with the last question. Do you enjoy your sport? Your answer should be an emphatic yes. If your answer to this question is no, or not really, and youíre not making a living out of it, then you might want to consider a new hobby. There will certainly be training stretches that are somewhat less enjoyable than others (because theyíre so darn tough!), but you should have fun with triathlon in general. Remember, itís a hobby Ė a recreational activity. You can be as competitive as you want, and I would encourage you to be so. But if your pleasure is solely derived from beating the next guy or gal, then you should stop and take a breath. Thatís part of it, but thatís not what itís all about. That interval workout should be fun as well as challenging. That swim workout is both relaxing and a good base session. That long ride is a great way to catch up with people you havenít seen in a while.

Racing is why we train, but training is where we spend most of our time. As such, learn to enjoy your training sessions. It will make those sessions much easier. Additionally, learning to relax and enjoy your training will also help you remain relaxed and mentally positive on race day, and thatís money in the bank.

Getting in shape for a triathlon is not just about winning the race or running a PR, though those are important reasons. Itís about a healthy way of life, building confidence, and believing in yourself and your abilities. Running a PR becomes, not so much the end goal, but rather, a by-product of the lifestyle of being fit. You get my point? Keep telling yourself itís about a way of life rather than winning the race, so when you win the race you can say, ďSee, Iím glad I really enjoy this (incredibly tough training regimen which is similar to some barbarous torture scheme) wonderful sport!Ē

95% of the time, I would say yes - I enjoy training. I enjoy training by myself. I enjoy training with other people. I enjoy training short and hard as well as long and easy. I like getting outside and breathing fresh air, breaking a good sweat, and pushing my personal limits.

That other 5% is what I call a necessary evil. Those are the ten-hour work days with a double session wrapped around it. Itís that moment when youíre torn between going home and having dinner or getting in a short speed session because itís the only day of the week you can do it. Hey, you want my advice? Flip a coin. Sometimes dinner and a good nightís sleep go a long way. On the flipside, that extra session might come in handy, too. Only you can decide which one to choose Ė Iíve done well choosing both at different times. It all depends on Ö well, lots of things. Work, family, commitments, school, social life, goals, and on and onÖ

How do you maintain a focus?

Well, since weíve decided that we enjoy our sport, it should be easy to stay focused, right? All we do is pick a few races and make sure weíre ready to go. Sounds like a plan to me!

In general, thatís pretty close to the mark. Some people donít particularly care what their times are or how they place in the age-group. Theyíre just there to have fun. And more power to them! But if youíre like me, as much fun as you have with it, you do want to do well. But how?

Set goals well in advance

After your first summer or two of racing every weekend, youíve learned that:

So you decide to pick a couple races as your main focus. Good for you. For example, this past summer I decided to focus on two races: Wildflower Long Distance and the Duke Blue Devil Iron-distance. I decided not to race in many of the Florida sprints so that I could train for these races. It was tough at times, because I enjoy the sprints and long-distance training can be pretty grueling, when it comes down to it. For those of you who donít know me, I do have a full-time job and take MBA night classes. I am a pretty busy guy (just like many of you, I know). Fitting in the training was tough, but I managed.

And my focus paid off. I turned in a respectable time at Wildflower and then took 2nd overall at the Duke Blue Devil and scored a PR on a tough course. That race made my summer.

On the flipside, I didnít do as well as I would have liked in a couple of the sprint races. But I knew that was a possibility in advance and so it didnít come as a surprise.

My point is that setting goals can and should result in a big payoff, but also has opportunity costs along the way. If you train specifically for long races you canít race every weekend and when you do, thereís a chance youíll be slower. If you train for short races youíll probably regret entering a long race on a whim. Take a good mental inventory of yourself and decide what is important to you Ė then work towards it.

Stay on top of yourself

Itís all well and good to write down a goal and stick it on the wall, but that in itself isnít going to get you there. You need to keep track of your progress. You need to keep yourself motivated. You need to be honest with how things are going. Youíre the one who paid $400 bucks to enter some race that doesnít take place until next year, buddy!

How? Daily, weekly, and monthly goals. In the business world theyíre called milestones. At the low end, a daily mileage chart is a good way to track your progress. At the high end, a highly detailed weekly training schedule and a coach you paid to yell at you when you cut mileage! Itís also a great idea to do a few races and/or threshold workouts along the way to measure your progress.

In the end, despite all the encouragement you receive from family, friends, coaches, and the competition, youíre the one who wants to accomplish something. Your achievements need to come from within. Get out there and do it!

How do you find time for everything?

The answer is, I donít. I usually donít have enough time to accomplish everything I want to do. So I prioritize. I look at: