Congrats – you’ve signed up for a competition! Your training plan is all sorted out and you’ve made sure there’s enough time blocked out each week to get it done. But what happens when you get into the thick of it and you don’t feel like training that evening? What happens when you’re exhausted from the day and you find you just can’t push as hard? Understanding how to overcome these mental barriers and get yourself in the right mindset for training is key to being successful in any endeavor you plan to undertake.
So how do we make sure our mind is in the right place for training and how do we do so day after day? I think it comes down to two simple things; motivation and goals.
We’ve all probably heard these two things spoken to at great length over our lives, but I want to put them in some more definitive terms for you all. To do this we are going to look at training mindset through the lens of Self-determination Theory (SDT) and how that can influence our training on both the large and small scales.
Self-determination theory is the idea that we are, by and large, motivated by intrinsic means. We see the best outcomes and the best performances when we can find motivation that is free of any external influences. One of the ways to think about this theory is that you are autonomously making the choice to do the thing you want to do. When we can truly put our stamp of approval on it then we are more likely to give it our all. Once we have done that and we’ve determined our reason for why we want to compete we need to set up some goals.
When we are determining goals I have found it is best to look at them on both a macro-level and the micro-level. On the macro-level, we are setting goals that relate to the overall scope of what we are looking to accomplish. The micro-level is more about our daily or weekly goals and should change quite frequently.
Now, goals can be broken down into two general categories often referred to as subjective and objective. Subjective goals are much looser in what they communicate and tend to be more akin to statements of intent. A good example of a subjective goal might be, “I want to do well on my run today”. An objective goal is much more specific and clearly defined and could look something like this, “I want to maintain a 8:30/mile pace today during my long run”.
Both subjective and objective goals can be useful, but we are more likely to be successful and motivated if we clearly define what we are setting out to achieve. To further help us define our goals and what it is we are exactly trying to do, we can break our goals down into three more categories; outcome-driven, performance-driven, and process-driven goals.
When it comes to these three categories, I have found process-driven goals to be the most effective approach. When setting a process-driven goal we are trying to pick elements of our training to focus on. Some examples might be focusing on each pedal stroke while cycling or feeling the weight in the legs during the pull of a snatch. By narrowing our focus onto just one thing we tend to block out all other distractions.
Another way to use process-driven goals would be to identify patterns in your overall training. By taking note of how we feel every day after training we are becoming more in tune with our body and the effects the program is delivering. We can see patterns in how we respond to training and better determine what kind of goals we should be setting for our desired performance outcomes.
To be successful in anything we need to find out what motivates us and what goals we need to set to make it there. Motivation is best derived from something we place personal value on and truly want to do.
While wanting to win and beat the other “team” can help in the moment, it is not something that is sustainable for the long term. We need to ensure we are clearly defining our means for staying on course when we aren’t feeling up to it that day. We also need to be ready to adapt our goals on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis taking into account how things have been going.
If we find our “why” and we set realistic goals that are directly tied to the process, then we can expect to be successful!