Having set grand visions of fitness-mastery in the new year, the reality sets in when the alarm squawks at you at some ungodly hour. It’s cold, dark and all rather disgusting. The contrast between bed and beyond can be a huge motivational obstacle, and that’s just the beginning! Now the country is in lockdown, many of us will be training alone, thanks to groups and clubs being temporarily disbanded, but luckily as an ultra runner and long distance triathlete, solo training is something I’ve learned to not only embrace, but actively enjoy.
These tips will help you conquer the motivational slumps that every one of us has to battle.
- Do the warm up, then decide. The step out the door is often the hardest bit about an entire training session. Once that initial bout of oxygen hits, you normally feel a whole tonne better. Break the session down completely - tell yourself it’s just 5 minutes and keep that as your first and only goal to start with.
- Declare your intention. Not really feeling it? Then take to social media! Once you’ve publicly stated that you’re going to do something, psychology dictates that you’ll more feel inclined to do it. Simple, but very effective. To save your friends from excessive fitness updates, you can join one of the many online fitness communities and connect with like-minded people who will help you stay on track.
- Prepare your playlist. With no one to talk to, my run, bike and gym sessions would get pretty dull without music, so I usually have something high tempo beating away. I find this boosts enjoyment tenfold. If you're outside and the path or roads are busy, be aware your hearing and awareness of others will be dampened, so simply use when appropriate.
- Strike a deal. Especially effective in hard sessions. When you’re struggling to really push as you should, make the deal. Either you work really hard and get the session done in good time, or you add some time/reps. The motivation for getting a session done quicker can provide an immediate performance boost.
- Use imagery. Even the most motivated of athletes have days when they can't be bothered, but they'll have tricks to combat that. It’s a great idea to have a few images of your end goal stuck to a wall or in a book, that you can pull out to help refocus when your mind goes off-kilter. If you have some sort of home gym set-up and a few medals/memorabilia, it can be motivating to display those in clear view of your workout space. Positive visual reminders of why you're putting yourself through this can be really useful!
- Power words. Yep, talk to yourself! Make short, positive statements continually. Negative thinking is common; everyone has those inner demons when things become uncomfortable during a workout. Don't fight with them; simply acknowledge their presence and then substitute positive power words. When you're thinking: "I can’t do it", actually say out loud to yourself “I can" and you’ll find there’s a small switch-around in your mind. I say a lot of "come on"s during my hardest treadmill interval set (albeit very quietly, if there are people around!) It’s so simple, to the point of sounding absurd, but it really can work.
It's a powerful feeling to be independent in your training. Working out alone is no barrier to stop you becoming your fittest yet.