I gave a talk today at the Endurance Sports Expo on “Motivation and Perspective”. I attempted to piece together the highlights of the talk into some kind of legible or at least readable format. Hopefully it translates ok. So, here ya go … the key points anyway.
Motivation & Perspective are independent but not mutually exclusive. They both need to share space and play nicely in the same sandbox. Ask 10 people why they are involved with multisport events and you just may get 10 different answers. Some good ones and some not so good.
I have learned is that if you want longevity in this sport, and if you want longevity without ticking off everyone around you, there are a handful of universals worth sharing. I don’t think there is anyone in this room who will not be able to feed themselves or their family if they fail to win prize money at a race.
Although I am talking today about endurance sports racing and training, you can really apply these ideas and ideals to anything in life…
Did you ever stop and ask yourself WHY you do this stuff. Knowing that answer will help with your motivation & perspective.
Why do you race? Why should you race? Why shouldn’t you race?
Don’t race purely for the medal.
Don’t race for bragging rights.
Don’t race for praise.
Don’t race for results.
Race because you want to challenge yourself.
Race because you aren’t sure if you are capable, and want to prove you are.
Race because you want to meet new people and share experiences.
Race to enjoy the journey of getting somewhere … not merely for the glory of the finish line
Race for better health.
Race to expand your comfort zone and gain self confidence. BUT (BIG BUT) wear that confidence graciously under your coat. You don’t need to advertize it. If you carry yourself properly, you can be a role model just by “being”.
If you race for the right reason, the medals, the praise, etc. just happen as a byproduct. The people who say the least about their accomplishments seem to just inherently gain the most respect and admiration and the exact opposite holds true as well.
I want to share a few tips that have helped me keep things in perspective and have also helped with my own personal motivation.
1 – It’s OK to lack a little motivation from time to time!! Just like it’s OK to have a bad run. You can’t set the bar too high and expect to maintain that 12 months a year, 7 days a week. You need to understand that physical, emotional, and mental downtime is not only OK, it is necessary. And if you can remember that, you will put less pressure on yourself, which will allow you to lighten up a little while you work through the process and come full circle.
2 – Enjoy some junk miles. Sometimes just making a little forward progress will rekindle you. Enjoy a barefoot beach walk or run, or a boardwalk bike ride. Take a relaxing ride to your favorite park with a book (not a training manual). Back off of “training mode” and just enjoy the passing of time on your bike. Many people are in overdrive every time out and that leads to burnout. Combine some errands with fitness. A convenience store run with a backpack, take the dog for a run, or the baby stroller.
3 – Always have a plan B. Most people set out with a goal. You would like to do “X” but what happens when something goes wrong? You need a backup plan. You need a plan B. It’s not a sign of failure. It’s a sign of resilience. Consider the “what ifs” and think about how you might react and respond to them.
4 – Know who you are. We are not all Olympians but that shouldn’t minimize or diminish your goals. Someone will always be faster, slower, richer, poorer, etc. Set realistic goals that are meaningful and challenging for YOU and don’t worry about the next guy.
5 – 10 minutes is better than zero minutes but zero minutes is ok too. I know how tight schedules can be. And sometimes it seems impossible to get that workout in., maybe you don’t have enough time and just don’t think it would be worth it. Do SOMETHING whenever possible, even if it is a brief 10 minute jog. And in those times when you simply cannot squeeze in that workout – it’s OK. Life goes on. Make the adjustment the next time out and move on.
6 – Channel your passion. Volunteer at an event, start your own event, volunteer with kids, etc. Offer to do a talk at your local YMCA or youth group. This can do wonders to kick start your motivation.
7 – ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS have a work out bag packed. You never know when you may have an opportunity to sneak something in.
8 – Involve the family. Mix training in with quality family time. Talk to your significant other about your goals and why they are important. In 1993 I told my wife over New Year’s Eve dinner that I wanted to run a marathon. I had been racing for years but that was my first jump into the marathon distance. I told her that I “just needed to get it out of my system”. That was 20 marathons ago – it still isn’t out of my system but my point is I’ve been married for almost 24 years. My kids have crossed many finish lines with me. My new granddaughter soon will as well. So, something that I have been doing must work. I have involved and engaged them every step of the way whenever possible.
9 – DO NOT live and die by your results or your last effort. If you have a bad day, pick yourself up, assess the situation, make the adjustment, learn the lesson, and look ahead. By the same token, don’t ask a person “what was your time”. Rather, ask them “how was your day”. Measure the quality of the race or workout by the EXPERIENCE, not merely by the result. At the 2009 ChesapeakeMan Ultra Distance Triathlon, I experienced my very first DNF in a racing career spanning more than a couple of decades. But I found inspiration in that failure because I had a plan B. In that situation, my plan B was to return to the finish line (after an ER trip) to help out and cheer on the rest of the finishers. I still felt involved and engaged even though my race blew up. I had a disappointing race result; but a great race experience.
10 – Get involved on a deeper level. Connect with organizations that are making a difference such as the MS Society, Back on my Feet, American Cancer Society, and Susan G Komen. These are just a few examples of organizations tying fitness to finding cures. They offer group participation, honored patient heroes, etc with a fundraising component that helps save lives. I have done countless events with some of them over decades. It gives all of this more meaning and great perspective – that word again. And this is something else that I have been able to share with my family.
There is one organization that is very near and dear to me on many levels; The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. On February 24th 2006 I was diagnosed with leukemia. A week later I was on board as a triathlon coach with TEAM IN TRAINING. In May of 2006 I hit remission. In July I was back to racing. In September I finished another ironman. Because I needed to prove a few things to myself, my cancer, and to anyone else who feels limited in what they can do. Today, I continue to be as active and involved as I can with this organization. I have the chance to work with athletes of all walks of life – and I love people, and they are raising funds and awareness for my blood cancer. It doesn’t get any better.
If you think about even half of the things that we talked about today, it will help you keep things in perspective. Also, sometimes the nature of some of these activities, or by balancing that perspective – the motivation miraculously falls right back into place.
Setting examples, growing the sport – not just in numbers of people and events but in the quality of individuals should be everyone’s objectives.
I am certainly not the fastest guy out there on the course, and I don’t claim to be an expert. But I promise you that very few people have as much fun out there or enjoy this stuff as much as I do.