Disclaimer:  The guy was on an E bike, but yeah stoke level was not high at this point ;-)
I think a lot of us feel like we’re supposed to feel super motivated all the time. Lack of motivation isn’t admirable or strong.  Feeling unmotivated makes you want to judge yourself (“I’m not committed enough, good enough … what’s wrong with me?” versus “ugh I just do not feel motivated right now”), but whether you are a paid professional athlete or someone that demands and expects a lot of themselves you are still human. Sometimes life fills you with stoke and everything feels easier and sometimes it’s just tough and uninspiring.  What matters for most of us and reaching our goals is how quickly we can get unstuck and back to that bring-it-on headspace.

Lapses in motivation may last a workout, a couple days, weeks or come and go. It may be just around training or seep into your everyday.  You may feel fired up one day and the next be wondering what the heck happened and find yourself having to work hard to bring motivation back.  That’s right.  Motivation is work.  This is coming from someone that has been to three Olympics and Olympians are pretty much what we equate with perpetually motivated.  Motivation is not something you have or don’t have.  Sometimes it feels like that, but staying motivated requires constant investment.  I think it is why some people can come across as overwhelmingly, even annoyingly positive.  We have to become masters of flipping the mental switch on motivation. Sometimes I’m really good at it, but sometimes I get a bit stuck.

Every fall as daylight fades and the sun seems perpetually hidden behind clouds, as the buzz of race season and peak fitness is fading but it’s too soon to get really excited about the next year, I go through a phase where I feel disengaged and getting it done just feels harder.  Long, damp rides are a push and dreams of that first good snowfall and ski season or escapes to warmer, …easier training environments start to take hold. But being the best athlete I can be is my job and although I give myself purposeful mental breaks from training and high performance in the fall, I can’t afford to disengage too long or fake it till I make it.

The closer and more exciting a goal, the easier it is to be motivated, but when a goal still seem far away motivation to really engage just may not be there yet.  So, what do I do?  Acknowledge that a dip in motivation, especially around this time of year, is temporary and its ok to not always feel super stoked.  In fact, sometimes you just have to get it done. Training is hard, life can be busy and conditions very challenging, going through periods of lower motivation should be expected.

Switching things up with some trail building and finding some stoke
Everyone needs to be able to take a break from the constant push, but if after a break you are still feeling uninspired there are lots of things you can do to make hitting training targets easier.  When it is grey and cold you need to give yourself a little happiness hit.  This could come through more time on the mtn bike or running or making an effort to connect more with fun training partners, packing your favourite snacks or having pastry stops planned, downloading some new music or uploading an adventurous ride route to help keep your energy higher. Sometimes I even embrace hopping on the trainer a little early in the season because I find focused, structured workouts easier than back to back days of fighting suboptimal outdoor conditions. I love books and podcasts and can get inspired hearing what other athletes and experts are doing to stay motivated and find their best, but most importantly I spend some time thinking and writing about why I’m doing what I’m doing, what I want out of it and what I need to do to get there. 

One of the most powerful motivators is putting yourself in control and giving yourself a clear path to follow. By doing so you know what you need to do and remove the decision making and motivation wavering from the process.  Rather than thinking about how much you don’t want to hop on the trainer or ride in the rain you start thinking about wanting to do the work needed to take you where you want to go.  Ultimately, whatever you’re doing is your choice and if it’s not you might need to change that. No one is making you get out there and train.  Sure, your coach may be creating a plan for you that might say 4hr aerobic ride, but you are the one that gets to choose to do the work or not, to sign onto that goal plan or not and to make that 4hr ride a 4hr process of just going through the motions or 4hrs of working on all those small pieces that will add up to big gains.  Reminding myself why I choose to follow this path and where I want it to go always helps put a little more drive in my pedal stroke. 

Early in my career, when everything was new and exciting and progressing so nicely, motivation seemed to always run high and come easily, because I was just so engaged with what I was doing.  After many years of high-level training and World Cup racing, although I still enjoy what I am doing, because it is not as new and exciting, maintaining that really high level of motivation takes a bit more conscious work. For me now, finding my motivation, is all about putting in the work required to engage with my goals and purpose.  This usually involves a pen and paper and a lot of honesty about what I really want to achieve and why. 
This year I would really like to be selected for my 4th Olympics because I want to go out there and represent my country on the world’s biggest stage and do it well. I want to be a role model and an athlete that inspires others, young and older, to work hard for what they want to achieve. This is where I will draw my motivation.  I will have to revisit what I have written several times to stay on track and each time I do it will hopefully help guide me back to my path.

So, if fall grey is getting you down, pull out that pen and paper and sit down with a warm cup of tea and see what is out there to get you inspired.


CindyJ said…
Thank you!
The time change and colder weather of November is a hard time of year for me.
This was the perfect read.
Please keep writing (and sharing it)!
Big Fan,

Stephane Duperron said…
Catharine, I really hope that many young athletes read your post. Today, younger athletes seem to have some difficulty to get and stay motivated at all times. This is probably why they have more problems fullfilling their dreams!

Your Facebook friend and great fan,