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Why You Lost Your Training Mojo—And How to Get It Back

Do you feel like you wake up with no real direction for your training? Instead of deciding on what to do, do you find yourself doing nothing more often than doing something? You're not alone.

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It’s that time of year again. Race season has come to an end, we are in the middle of the holiday season, and we are closing in on the end of the year. On top of all of that, we are still navigating a global pandemic. Your motivation might not be at an all-time high right now, and you’re not alone in feeling this way. If you’re not ready to jump back into training, that’s OK. Give yourself a break—you are managing a lot! But if you are ready to get back in the game, then let’s break down seven reasons why you might not be feeling motivated, and what to do about them.

You don’t have a goal or race to push you (or your goal isn’t big enough)

Do you feel like you wake up with no real direction for your training? Instead of deciding on what to do, do you find yourself doing nothing more often than doing something? It’s time to check-in with your goals. The simple act of setting a goal is like attaching a rudder to a sailboat, steering you towards where you want to go.

What to do about it:

Goals are a powerful motivator. Research shows that setting goals are linked with higher motivation. Furthermore, research has established a strong connection between goal-setting and success. Set the goal first and then let the motivation follow.

Maybe you have a goal, but it’s just not challenging enough. If that is the case, consider increasing the difficulty of your goal. Increased difficulty combined with the personal value in a goal, can increase your effort to achieve it. No matter the size of the goal, write it down. You are 42% more likely to achieve your goals if you write them down.

RELATED: How to Build Healthy Habits

You took a long break, and you’re struggling to get going again

With more time passing, you may be finding it harder and harder to kickstart that motivation. You may have the best of intentions every morning, but ultimately the snooze button wins and you tell yourself that tomorrow is better. All of a sudden weeks have passed and nothing has changed.

What is happening here is not about the struggle to train, but about the tug-of-war with the discomfort it’s going to take to start again. Training might be harder for the first few weeks after a long break.  The sooner you can accept that, the sooner you will get back to it.

What to do about it:

Motivation follows momentum. Start small. Maybe you commit to running 20 minutes a day three times a week.  Repeat the small commitment until it does not feel like a big effort anymore. Build from there. Acknowledge your progress. Repeat. By starting small you are establishing your momentum.

RELATED: Training Plan: Returning to Swimming After a Break

You find it hard to train when it’s dark and cold at 4 p.m.

Seasonal changes can be rough on your motivation. If you find it hard to get training your in when the days are shorter and colder, it may be related to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is the term used for the recurrent seasonal pattern characterized by significant changes in mood and behavior. Research shows that serotonin (the key hormone that stabilizes our mood and feelings of well being) is less active in those experiencing SAD. It’s no wonder you don’t want to train!

What to do about it:

If you know this is something you experience seasonally, plan for it as much as possible. If your schedule allows, play with getting in your training session during your lunch break. Talk with a friend, training partner, or coach about what you are going through. Sharing your experience with someone you trust can help. Additionally, light therapy is a proven technique to mimic natural sunshine in the darker months.

You are feeling the post-race blues

Whether your last race of the season went well or not, you may be experiencing those post-race blues. The post-race blues are described as the post achievement let down when the event is over and with that, comes a loss of purpose. If your brain is registering a lack of purpose, it will be more challenging to feel motivated.

What to do about it:

Give yourself time. You likely just came off a period of high motivation and it’s important to give your mind and body a break from the demands of peak training. In the same way that your endocrine system needs to repair itself after a race, your mind and emotional states need to recharge too.

You beat yourself up before you even start

When motivation is low, one of the most common emotions to follow is judgement.  Your brain might offer a whole host of “shoulds”—“you should be training more,” “you should be handling this better,” or “you should be able to get out of bed earlier.” It likely feels like a constant battle with your brain. The battle is based on judgement and not useful if the goal is to increase your motivation.

What to do about it:

Meet yourself where you are at. Instead of fighting it, accept your starting point without judgement. Let go of the need to make it look a certain way. Be on your own side and your own best advocate, always.

RELATED: How to Combat Negative Self-Talk

You feel exhausted from work and life stress

The effects of the pandemic continue to impact the world in many ways. Look no further than the Pandemic Impact Report to see how emotional distress related to COVID-19 has affected general work and life stress. It’s no surprise that you may finish your work day feeling more exhausted than normal. The pandemic has put other stressors in play. But stress is stress in the body: your body responds to emotional stress the same way it does to physical stress.

What to do about it:

Prioritize and protect time for yourself.  At first, that time may not be used for training and that is OK. Setting aside the time allows you to use it in any way that feels beneficial for your well being. Over time, your energy will return and you can start to dedicate that time for training again.

You feel behind compared to others you see on social media

Comparing yourself to others, whether on social media or in your own training group, can have extreme negative implications on your emotional state.  You may want to look to them for motivation and inspiration, but if all you feel is frustration and shame then it is time to look elsewhere. Studies show social comparison has a major impact on motivation and performance in athletes.

What to do about it:

Manage your inputs. It’s a choice to engage with other athlete’s training, data and results. Hit unfollow, mute or unsubscribe to manage what you are exposed to. Additionally, stay focused on what you can control: your process, your presence, and your effort.

Vanessa Foerster is a mental endurance coach who works with athletes, especially triathletes, to build mental endurance to match their physical endurance.