Autumn is underway and winter is on the horizon. And with this change of season brings cooler and colder temperatures, inclement weather, and darkness. If you’re like most people, you probably work out in the early morning or late afternoon. This is tough enough now, and then when you throw old, dark, and damp weather on top of it, these conditions can challenge even the most highly motivated athlete.

Motivation—you understand what that implies, correct? Athletes frequently use phrases such as “drive,” “desire,” or even “going after something with intensity” to explain or even define motivation, as well as motivated behavior. Basically, we frequently believe that motivation happens completely from within the person (intrinsic). It is essential to understand that motivation is really a function of both the person (an individual) and the circumstance(s) (extrinsic). Which means that to improve your motivation, you'll want to address both the "you" part of the process (i.e., what motivates you?; why do you exercise/compete/train?; and what else could you perform differently?) and examine the situational elements as well (i.e. your coach, training partner or even the facility where you train). 

Let's examine a few methods to “keep that desire alive” during the winter months as well as during the off-season. 

Goals, Maps, and Vision

Frequently, athletes will consistently work out, but unfortunately, they only see minimal results. That is, they train day-in and day-out, yet often simply go through the motions. In these kinds of conditions, it's difficult to remain inspired since the athlete doesn't have a "destination" in mind.

To utilize a driving example, the athlete is getting in their car and driving aimlessly and simply meandering about without goals or objectives. Compare that with the driver who has a specific purpose (e.g. getting to 6115th Avenue in New York City) along with a map to get her there. She's focused and purposeful as she gets behind the wheel. She knows exactly where she wants to go - Saks Fifth Avenue :-), when she wants to arrive, and exactly how she's going to make it happen, which makes for a motivated driver and shopper right?

Similarly, the athlete who has a specific objective in mind is definitely going to be more purposeful and motivated to get the job done, especially when he has that crystal clear reason for exactly what he is doing during each and every workout session.

Coincidently, this also applies to other areas of a person’s life. And so, to keep your desire burning, identify daily training goals that tell you where you are going and how you are going to get there.

The Power of Reinforcement

I know a martial arts dojo that maintains an attendance chart for the younger students. For each practice session attended, an athlete is given a sticker. After two weeks of practice, if they received eight stickers, they are given a reward.

Equivalent techniques are utilized by parents as well as teachers to encourage suitable behavior in children. The reward for “good behavior” can serve as motivation to the youngster. So…why don't you consider employing this incentive technique for yourself? Rewards aren’t just for children. If you battle with getting out of bed when it is dark, don’t like hitting the gym in the snow, or believe it’s OK to miss a practice day because the next competition isn’t for another 2 months, determine a reward that will supply you with the essential inspiration to kick it in gear (e.g. going to see your favorite movie after five quality training sessions or going out to dinner). 

Always be extremely specific with what has to be accomplished. Commit to paper what you must do, how frequently you must do it, and don't sell yourself short. Once you accomplish your goal, treat yourself with an important reward. In the event that you don't achieve your goal, don’t say “I was close. I’ll reward myself anyway.” Hold back the reward and try harder the following week.

Look Around You

Think about your environment? Are there elements in your environment that could be altered to improve your enthusiasm? Often it’s the straightforward modifications that produce major and favorable impact on your motivation.

A few examples to get you contemplating: For those with a home gym (dedicated room), perhaps putting posters on the wall, playing some very powerful music, and even adding mirrors can influence your commitment.

Do you train alone? Getting a training partner can bring a positive change to your motivation. After all, will you really stay in bed knowing your partner is waiting for you at the gym? If you have a training partner, let them know things they can do and say to enhance your motivation. Ask the same of them.

What about something as simple as putting together a CD with songs that will motivate and get you energized as you drive to the gym? Or even setting “partner” goals. Write your long-term goals on a piece of paper and tape it where you will see it prior to a workout or training session—in your bathroom, on the refrigerator, in your car—to serve as a reminder of why you do what you do. And then visualize yourself having a great workout.

It’s important to do the “little things” in order to succeed in achieving your goals. If you know you have an early morning workout, go to sleep early. Lay out your workout clothes the night before. Put the coffee pot on auto-brew so the aroma of a freshly brewed pot will entice you from the bed. Share your goals with your coach, family or friends. Ask them to hold you accountable and don’t get mad when they challenge you when you don't work out on a particular day or you are slacking. This is part of being accountable and responsible.

We’ve all experienced those days where the last thing we want to do is get out there and put in the effort to have a good training session. But we have also all experienced the positive feelings that come with completing the workout once it’s done. And most of us have also shared moments where we have been able to do something spectacular in a training session we were prepared to just blow off.

When you have those days when you feel completely jazzed after your workout…anchor it! This way, when the day comes when you’re not so excited about training just fire off the anchor and bam! You’ll be back in safe.

If you need assistance in understanding about setting and firing anchors, contact me. I’d be glad to help. There are many things you can do to enhance your motivation.

Take control of yourself and your environment. This will give you the best chance for success.