If you've ever experienced a slump in training motivation, you're not alone! But what can you do when you're losing focus during training or struggling to get started? TriDot coaches John Mayfield and Elizabeth James discuss strategies for staying motivated and offer practical ways to keep your goals and training purpose in sight.
TriDot Podcast 37:
Maintaining Motivation and a Positive Mindset for Training
Intro: This is the TriDot podcast, TriDot uses your training data and genetic profile combined with predictive analytics and artificial intelligence to optimize your training, giving you better results in less time with fewer injuries. Our podcast is here to educate, inspire and entertain. We'll talk all things triathlon with expert coaches and special guests. Join the conversation and let's improve together.
Andrew: Hey, everyone, thanks so much for joining us today. We've got a real great TriDot podcast lined up for you talking about motivation. Some days motivation to train and race comes pretty easily. And other days it takes a little bit of effort to get out and really give it our best. Our coaches today will be offering insight and experiences in triathloning strong in our day in and day out training. Joining us for this conversation is pro triathlete and coach Elizabeth James. Elizabeth came to this board from a soccer background and quickly rose through the triathlon ranks using TriDot from a beginner to top age grouper to a professional triathlete. She's a Kona and Boston Marathon qualifier who has coached triathletes with TriDot since 2014. Elizabeth, how's it going today?
Elizabeth: It's going very well. Thanks for asking Andrew.
Andrew: Next up is coach John Mayfield, a successful Ironman athlete himself John leads TriDot’s athlete services, ambassador and coaching programs. He's coached hundreds of athletes ranging from first timers to Kona qualifiers, and professional triathletes. John has been using TriDot since 2010. And coaching with TriDot since 2012. Howdy, John.
John: Hey buddy.
Andrew: And who am I, I am Andrew, the average triathlete voice of the people and captain of the middle of the pack. We're going to get warmed up today with our warm up question and then dive into our main set conversation talking about training motivation. Then to cool down I have a really quick and pretty fun announcement to make. We have a brand new feature on our website tridot.com/podcasts. So stay tuned to the end and find out what that is. It's going to be a great show. Let's get to it.
Spokes Person: Time to warm up. Let's get moving.
Andrew: Alright, John, Elizabeth, hypothetically, let's say a Hollywood executive discovered the TriDot podcast, and they thought that your personality and your story was so compelling that he or she wanted to fast track the production of a Hollywood movie, based on your journey as a triathlete. What actor or actress should they cast to play the part of you?
Elizabeth, let's start with you. What actress is the perfect fit to be Elizabeth James professional triathlete on the movie screen?
Elizabeth: Oh my gosh, as you started talking through this question I groaned. I don't know if I was loud enough for everyone to hear and—
Andrew: I'm sure so many fabulous actresses filled your mind is quality options to play right.
Elizabeth: This is an especially challenging question for me because I know very, very few actors and actresses. I am just terrible with that stuff. So we are going to go with Jennifer Aniston. Because I know who that is. I loved friends and my husband thinks that she's pretty so he'll be more likely to watch the movie.
Andrew: Charles be more likely to watch a story of your life starring Jennifer Aniston and then somebody who maybe isn't as familiar with so--
John: I'll watch it.
Andrew: I guess, I'll watch this movie about you my—
Elizabeth: He already knows the story. So you know he needs another reason to watch.
Andrew: Well, and she's great. I mean, she's done a lot of great really fun movies and she's got um, this is going to be me just nerding out as a movie person but I mean she's probably other underrated in terms of her range, like she can really display emotion really well. She can be funny really well, she does a lot of good things well. So she yeah, not a bad fit she might have to kind of lean up a little bit for that triathlete athletic look but if she you know kind of method actress committed to the role I think she could probably be Elizabeth James. So, John, how about you what actor would just capture your essence better than everybody else, on the movie screen?
John: Mine is far less flattering. I've been told more than—
Andrew: You arguably could also answer Jennifer Aniston I think.
John: But I was going to make a comment there about you know, someone with nice flowing long blonde hair.
John: Well, that's kind of where we're going. So I've been told on more than one occasion. I look like Jeff Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
John: So played by Sean Penn back in the day.
Andrew: Yes, I love Sean Penn. He’s great.
John: I'm not a fan but we'll go with that. Anyway.
Andrew: He’s a good actor really, really great.
John: Yes. We're playing mean so we need somebody good.
Andrew: I might pick a lot light like a Leonardo DiCaprio. Somebody for you like somebody who, who also as long hair but maybe not as on the nose with the look, but could really you know, dive in and you're a complicated man John, you've got a lot of a lot of emotions and a lot of stuff pent up in the backstory and I feel like it takes a really competent actor to pull that out on the screen. So the only actor I've ever had anybody-I feel like it's easier to answer this for other people, right. It's very easy to like see an actor and be like, “Oh, that looks like my friend so and so or, oh, my sister cousin brother let you kind of look like this person, that person.” But it's like no one likes identifying this like for themselves right. So the only time I've ever had anybody tell me that an actor looked a little bit like me was back in high school. And so this is going to be a little bit dated reference. And some people may or may not know who this is. Because he's not exactly a prolific actor now. But Frankie Muniz, who played Malcolm and Malcolm in the Middle, back in the day. Back in high school, I would have people say I didn't watch that show, but I knew who he was. And people would kind of tell me that I looked a little bit like Frankie Muniz I think now I have a little bit of a receding hairline and so it's probably not as good of a fit now and back in high school it wasn't too far off. I think his hairline is probably a little stronger than mine these days, but we're similar in age. You know, we're probably similar in skin tone and personality and size. I mean, he's a scrawny little dude out there. But yes, so that's when I would get I did look them up to see just out of curiosity what he's been in lately. And there's not a ton of name brand stuff. He was in a couple of the Sharknado movies so that stuff from Franke Muniz, I didn't see this.
Spokes Person: On to the main set sets going in 3, 2, 1.
Andrew: Today, our main set is brought to you by Tri Bike Transport. If you are traveling for an upcoming race, let tri bike transport ensure that your bike gets their race ready and stress free. Tri bike transport is the original fully assembled bike transport service for cyclists and triathletes. I love traveling for a race and after registering the first thing I do is book try bike transport for my bike. You start by using the easy online reservation form to guarantee space for your bike. Then about one week out from the race, you will drop off your bike fully assembled at one of their conveniently located partner shops. Your bike will enjoy a smooth ride all the way to the race site where you will pick it up near, team one ready to race with your bike fit position untouched. Thousands of athletes have trusted their gear to Tri Bike Transport and you can too, learn how by heading to tribiketransport.com and as a friend of the podcast use coupon code TriDot Pod for $25 off your next booking. There are 365 days in a year and each and every one brings an opportunity to train for the sport we love. But just because the opportunity is there doesn't mean the motivation to train is strong. Every time we head into a workout, how can we stay passionate throughout the year? How can we bring our best to as many training sessions as possible to stay on point with our fitness?
All that and more with Coach John Mayfield and Elizabeth James here in today's main set. Now guys, I often start the main set with a question that kind of personalizes what we're talking about, because I really want people to know that whatever the topic is, you guys aren't just sharing your knowledge, it goes deeper than that. Often you're sharing what you've experienced yourselves. And in talking about motivation for training, it's what you both have learned through your experiences kind of season to season. That to me, make this conversation really meaningful and really helpful. So let's start here, kind of in your own triathlete on journey. What has your relationship with motivation been like, have you found it easy to stay motivated, or have you had times and seasons where you struggling to kind of stay passionate about your day to day training?
Elizabeth: This is a great question. But I think it's a little more difficult than maybe it's intended to be and I think what makes this so tricky is how motivation is defined by each athlete. So, you know, what is motivation and you know, people talk about the general desire for wanting to do something or you know, the reason for acting and behaving in a particular way and to me, these definitions seem very different from one another. I see motivation kind of more as that desire to do something and I see that as wavering and frequently needing a little push, but kind of your reason for action, I consider that more of a purpose. And on you know, the other end of that it's more intentional, it's more static. So for me, I would say that my purpose is very clearly defined, and that doesn't change day to day, but there are days that yes, maybe motivation is low when I would absolutely rather you know, snuggle back under the covers, then get up and get on the bike. But thankfully, my purpose is what's getting me out of bed.
Andrew: John, more like a minute into the main set of this podcast and Elizabeth is bringing the heat on like just the mentality and philosophy intentionality of training and already like dropping some good stuff. So she set the bar high. So no pressure or anything. But for you what is maybe your relationship with motivation been throughout your time as a triathlete?
John: So we've talked about this on the podcast before how Elizabeth and I are kind of in different places in our triathlon career, whereas perhaps I'm in my Twilight, and I've done a lot of cool stuff. And my focus now is really coaching. It's growing our business, it's serving our community. So for me, it's not all about the racing, I still love to train. I still love to race on occasion. But those aren't always my primary goals like for now I don't really have an “A” race out there that's getting me out of bed in the morning. So I love being healthy. I love being fit. I enjoy the training. But I will say now, sometimes without that immediate race out there that that is getting me out of bed every morning, sometimes the motivation can be a little bit more difficult to come by. But as a rule, you know, back in the day when I was racing and I was competitive it was even then, you know, it definitely comes and goes. So it I think it kind of depends on where you're at, what your goals are, how close those goals are, but I think it's something that everybody deals with in one way or another.
Andrew: Yes. That's a great point. I know for me, you know, most recently I was building towards Ironman Texas, and we talked about on the podcast a lot. And obviously, you know, races are getting postponed, they're getting delayed, they're getting pushed back. People are deferring. I've deferred to Ironman Texas 2021. And, you know, leading up into that race, man, my training was on point. There was so much motivation to nail those sessions and do the best I could because that “A” race was coming. And then as soon as it was finally announced, you got the email, okay, this race is not happening on the day it was originally scheduled to happen. Suddenly so much and Elizabeth I love the way you said this I hadn't considered it this way in writing this entire script of questions and everything we're going to talk about and I hadn't thought through motivation versus purpose. I mean, that was such a great thing to establish in the beginning because, you know, for me in that season leading up Ironman, Texas, the motivation was Ironman, Texas. And so in that motivation was no longer there. Since motivation is kind of like emotion. It's temporal. It's easy to fluctuate, right? Up and down. You know, there wasn't as much concrete reason for me to stay on top of my training, right once that that race date was moved. But if my purpose is bigger than one race, bigger than one event, bigger than something that is easily changed or moved, maybe it's going to be easier to stick with it. But anyway, personal reflections what you've already shared. But to that point, do you guys feel like for everybody, is it natural for our motivation to ebb and flow throughout the season, kind of like I experienced with that particular race cancellation, or is that a negative in our training, and should we try to correct ourselves being so prone to fluctuations in motivation?
Elizabeth: I think the reality is that it is going to ebb and flow and you aren't going to be motivated every day. I think that's a very important thing to acknowledge. And I think that it can be a rather reassuring thing as well, to know that you aren't the only one that experiences those thoughts. And you—
Andrew: Don’t feel guilty when you feel that way.
Elizabeth: Exactly. Yes. But then, you know, I come back to, even if the motivation for that day or that week is low, you know, how committed are you to that process? And are you committed to your purpose? I know that on our goal setting episode, we talked about setting some process goals. So things beyond the race course beyond the numbers, and you know, if you think about your purpose, and the process as you're working through that, that can kind of help with those day to day ebb and flows.
John: So I think it's important to acknowledge that everyone experiences these ebbs and flows. So it's not—
Andrew: Even John Mayfield in the twilight of his triathlon career.
John: Absolutely. So there's no correlation between performance or even experience. So the high performers and those that have been in the sport for a long time, you know, they have those same experiences as those that are middle of the pack or those that are perhaps even new to the sport. So it's just something that is pertinent, it's kind of human nature, it's something that's difficult to do the training is, it's a little different than a lot of other hobbies. You know, it's different than a day out on the golf course when you're out there on the track pushing threshold intervals. So sometimes it takes a little bit more and it takes, I think, oftentimes a special kind of person to dig in day in and day out, subject ourselves to these things and even find joy and satisfaction and doing these. So I think when we're doing something hard and we're doing something that is oftentimes uncomfortable, it's natural to have ebbs and flows in the motivation to do those things. Because you don't always feel like doing it. And oftentimes at the end, we're glad we did. But I can't tell you how many times and I know this is the case for everyone, we always have to remind ourselves as we're getting up, perhaps getting out a bit early, go into the track, getting on the trainer, your kind of dreading it, but we always seem to love it at the end of the day.
Andrew: Yes, that's so true. I think kind of a recap we've already established is maybe picturing it this way, you know, motivation, it's an emotion, right. And emotions are going to ebb and flow. They're always going to be in flux so expect that, but something that's a purpose like that, that's a commitment you've made, you're committed to that purpose. You there's resolution in that purpose. And so, expect your motivation to ebb and flow even day to day and month to month and week to week. But if your purpose is concrete, you're going to be okay, you know, the motivation’s going to probably rise more than it falls, if you keep that purpose in the forefront of your mind. So in that, in both of your experiences, you know, what would you say are some of the best ways for athletes to keep that motivated or that motivation high more often than not throughout their triathlon journey,
Elizabeth: I would say that accountability is a really big thing. And that can take many different forms and you know, finding what works for each athlete is important. It could be a training journal, you know, a spouse that's keeping you accountable training partner, friend, coach, so lots of different options there. But I think accountability is a big piece. And then another thing I know from my personal experience that has been incredibly helpful is just establishing habits. So you know, I have my weekly routine and whether I feel like it or not, I know exactly where I'm going to be every Tuesday morning at 6:05am, and you know, John knows it too. Right now it's on Zwift at 6:05am Tuesday morning, and If he doesn't get the EJay started Zwifting he's going to text me. So you know, back to the accountability like, Hey, where are you at? Like, why are you running light supposed to be on the bike? So, I'd say habits and accountability are two really good ways for athletes to stay motivated.
Andrew: Yes, I think something that I've noticed just in my own, like when I started working for TriDot you know, from the television station, I was working out beforehand, I mean, having peers that I'm rubbing shoulders with day in and day out, you know, in the workplace, in the TriDot group, on the Facebook page. My life has really motivated my own training because you see, oh, there's people like me that are, you know, on the days, I'm not feeling it, the days that I'm not wanting to get up and get out the door. I know John is out there. I know Jeff Raines is out there. I know Elizabeth is on Zwift at 6:05 in the morning. I know that all the other TriDot athletes that are on Zwift, or on Strava, that I've become friends with. You know, folks are out there doing the training and you almost feel that, that camaraderie can really get you to the starting line of that workout a lot more often than that than you think. So I’d encourage anybody listening right now if you're not a part of a local triathlon group in your area, if you're not a part of the TriDot Facebook group, you know, plug in somewhere, you know, get some triathletes that you can rub shoulders with, because that that accountability piece you're talking about is definitely been key for me. You know, if you miss a workout, and you have somebody texting you like, “hey, I didn't see you,” or “I didn't see you on Strava, I didn’t see that bike ride you were supposed to do last night” you know, get a coach if it's something you really struggle with so that coach can motivate you in that way. I think that's a great point, Elizabeth.
John: So for me, TrainX is a great way to stay motivated in my sessions and in my consistency. So as you guys mentioned, accountability is huge. And TrainX provides—
Andrew: Kind of different form of it.
John: Yeah, it provides immediate feedback. It's kind of different than what you would get from an individual or something like that. But it's a little bit of a reward for a session that was executed properly and if I get that lower score, it's a reminder and nudge to do it right. We just concluded our first annual TrainX challenge, where we offered an additional reward. So we had the intrinsic reward of doing the right training right and getting all these gains that you experience from getting high TrainX scores on a consistent basis. But we also then kind of upped the ante and provided these additional perks and rewards for achieving those good TrainX scores. And what we saw was the community just responded and they had great improvement in their execution, which in turn, had great improvement in their performance gains. They viewed training in a different way, they viewed TrainX as that motivating factor, and it really became that, that reason to get that session in and that it became that reason to do the session as closely as prescribed as possible. So for me, and I know for a lot of others, that TrainX is a great motivator as well.
Andrew: A lot of triathletes, you know, they'll talk about, they call it, “why I tri” and they'll kind of share you know, either on social media on Ironman pages or at the TriDot pages I've seen athletes kind of share “Hey, this is my reason for doing triathlon.” And this is why I got into the sport and kind of goes back to the purpose you were talking about earlier, Elizabeth, but it just kind of in a different form, right? The “why I tri” campaign and kind of that mindset. Do you find that the reason why you tri you know, that kind of the purpose that you have, and doing the sport? Is that reason that you stay committed to training and tri-ing? Do you find that your why changes with time, or has it been consistent throughout your triathlon journeys?
Elizabeth: Man I hate to you know, answer another question where I'm like, “Well, some of it’s the same and some of it's different” and this and that, but I'm going to kind of do that again here because my main “why” has always been to be the best version of myself. Because when, you know, I am at my best because that allows me to encourage others to then also pursue the best version of themselves. But what changes a little bit is how that comes across. So while in the classroom, I was my, you know, best self as I was also pursuing triathlon and therefore I was the best teacher for my students. So I was leading by example of pursuing some big goals and dedicating time for practice and learning when things didn't go as planned and persisting in the process and just kind of furthering my knowledge and education. Now, you know, as a coach, I want what's best for my athletes, and I want them to, you know, overcome obstacles and pursue their goals and become the best version of themselves. So I'd say that my underlying “why” has remained the same, but it kind of evolves a little bit with my current priorities, current responsibilities.
Andrew: So in this stage of both of your triathlon journeys, what would you say your current “why” is, what is your primary motivation for getting up, you know, getting in that training session and really being consistent with it.
Elizabeth: What is really exciting for me right now is that, I have this amazing, unique opportunity to race as a professional triathlete, and so everything on a daily basis is working toward having the best possible professional career that I can
Andrew: John, well, what would you say right now in this season, right? And you've mentioned that you've kind of come a long way in your triathlon journey, in this season, what is the, “why” for you?
John: There are a couple. One, I still love it. There's just—
Andrew: You keep trying to retire and we keep trying to keep you from retiring.
John: Yes. And it's there's still a joy in going out and toeing the line and crossing the finish. But as I mentioned before, I also find a tremendous amount of joy in being on the sidelines and supporting the other athletes out there. But you know, I'm smarter every year a little bit more experienced, I continue to learn, and I love applying that knowledge and, you know, I feel like it's also important to kind of have and maintain that experience and remember what it's like to be out there racing. And to, you know, always stay up on trends and information and I think at some point, if you kind of step back too much, you get just too disconnected. So, you know, I don't want to forget what it feels like to have those hard sessions or have those bad days or to experience the thrill of the good days. So, for me, I think it's very much a part of staying involved, of continuing to evolve as a coach and an athlete so yeah, there's still, for me, a very important part of it is still a very passionate thing. It's still something that I absolutely love to do. I just don't always do it as often.
Andrew: Yeah, I know for me It started as you know, just kind of running in college, running after college, as a way to stay in shape. I didn't have high school, college tennis anymore. I didn't have you know, intramural sports with friends anymore and I’d say “Ah man, what am I gonna do to stay in shape,” so I would just run. And I had friends doing 5Ks and marathons and those never appealed to me because at the time as a twenty-something just trying to stay in shape, it was like, “why am I going to pay, you know, 45 bucks to go do a 5k on a Saturday morning when I can do it on my own.” And once I started doing triathlon that appealed to me, because it was like, “oh, here's a fun challenge. Here's a fun thing. I can't just go out and do this on my own” in the same context. And so it kind of became a really fun way to stay in shape and kind of have variety in that other than just getting, waking up and running every morning. And over time, as I learned, as I improved as I started, kind of pushing what I can do, and kind of getting closer and closer to age group podiums and local races it I think my “Why” kind of shifted to, “Oh, like, let's see what I can do out there, let's see how strong I can get at this.” And I'm never going to be, you know, professional triathlete level. That's what we all have Elizabeth for. But—
Elizabeth: You never know. I said that too.
Andrew: You know a lot of athletes on Facebook and the TriDot family have shared kind of their motivations and reasons for this sport. My stepdad, man, I love watching my stepdad race, because he was somebody that way back when ironman was kind of this exotic thing that was on the you know ESPN wide world - ABC Wide World of Sports, he saw it on TV and thought it was the coolest thing. But never thought he'd have the fitness to do it. Never thought he could do a triathlon because in his mind, a triathlon was an Ironman. And then when I started doing sprint triathlons, and he kind of, he went to one of them, and he me and he saw people in transition that looked like him. They were maybe even less-fit than him. He was like, “Oh, can I do a triathlon?” And now he loves his local sprint, his local Olympics and he's training up, you know, hoping to do his first half Ironman sometime in the future. And man just knowing that for him the “why” was, I always loved Ironman, I always loved the allure of this sport and his “why” is you know, at this age of his life, I just want to do it. I just want to be out there. I just want to finish the race and kind of have that Ironman title on my head. So it's exciting to watch people compete in the sport when you know what their purpose is, and their why.
So for you two, as coaches, when you learn the why, and the primary motivation for one of your athletes, kind of like it affects me watching my father race, does it affect the way you coach your athletes when you know their motivation?
Elizabeth: So learning the “why” from the very beginning of that coach athlete relationship is something that I find very important. And I include that as either part of the initial athlete call that I'm doing, or part of the athlete questionnaire form because yes, I would say it's super important and it does influence the coaching as well.
John: So as director of coaching, I work with all of our coaches and one of the things that I really strongly believe and preach to the coaches is that it's our job to identify what the athletes are looking for, what is going to maximize their triathlon experience, and then the rest of our time working with that athlete is delivering that to them. So a very important component of that is identifying, why are they here, what do they want from it so that we can work with the athletes so that they can achieve that. So I think it's a critical component to delivering that service and helping them realize what it is they're looking for. What are those things that they want to achieve within the sport so without knowing what their motivations are, you're never going to be able to provide that service to them.
Andrew: One of my favorite things I think I've ever seen on social media from anyone in the multi-sport universe is when Lionel Sanders, professional triathlete, got second in Kona to Patrick Lange of Germany and Patrick famously, you know, ran him down on the run course and passed him with I think it was a 5k, 4k, 6k something like that to go. Shortly after that, I saw on Instagram Lionel Sanders posted a video of himself running in his pain cave on the treadmill and in front of him he had blown up, poster size, on the wall the picture of Patrick Lange passing him on course at Kona. And he kept that in front of him all year long in the pain cave, all those indoor, treadmill Zwifts, you know, sessions in his pain cave - that was in front of him. I thought that was so hilarious and it's such a good motivator for him clearly. So, what are some ways that you've seen beyond making a poster size, you know, printout of the time you got second, what are some tangible things that athletes can do to kind of keep their motivation and keep their purpose for doing a sport in front of themselves?
Elizabeth: Gosh, there's a lot of things here. You know, training journals where you have your “why” written down, notes on the mirror, notes on the fridge, you know, stickers on their bike, quotes on the treadmill, quotes on their desk at work, maybe all those places. Maybe that's just me, but I think that's really important to have it somewhere as a visual and frequent reminder. I mean, look what that did for Rocky against Apollo Creed or like what you are saying, you know.
Andrew: Very true.
Elizabeth: Or what you were saying, Lionel Sanders.
Andrew: Very true. That the documentary of Rocky Balboa’s story on his victory over Apollo Creed. Yes the famous Hollywood documentary that really happened, John. I mean, that's my story and I'm going to stick to it.
Elizabeth: Yes, I mean, if it works there, you know, find what that is for you if that's you know, the note on the fridge or whatever.
Andrew: Yes, and I think I found for me, I mean, it's, you don't hang your medals, you know, on the wall, thinking that it's going to motivate you for your next race but even kind of keeping some of those items in front of you, you know, that Ironman 70.3 race finisher t shirt in the closet, the medals hanging on the wall in front of where I Zwift. I don't intentionally hang those to motivate myself but sometimes when you're in a dark place in a training session and you see those medals on the wall, and you're thinking about the next one that you're trying to earn, man those visual cues, those visual keys. I know a lot of people… I love it when athletes, Elizabeth, on Facebook or Instagram post pictures of their pain cave. I know on our own Instagram and social media accounts for TriDot training will repost when we see a really good one but a lot of people have some fun ways of decorating those with you know the Ironman banners from the races they've done or a race that they want to do and haven't qualified for yet. You know, people looking to qualify for Kona will hang some Kona memorabilia around the room, just as a reminder, this is where I want to get. Those are some powerful visual cues. So do you get do you guys feel like there's a difference between kind of your core you know, purpose ‘this is why do triathlon’ overall season motivation, and then day to day training motivation or do they kind of, are they one and the same?
John: So triathlon is a lifestyle. We as a rule, all triathletes want to be healthy, enjoy healthy competition and enjoy the social aspects that come along with triathlon. So something I've said a million times is “consistency is critical, but perfection is not required.” So, you know, so I think that comes and goes with that motivation. But sometimes a lack of motivation can be a sign that you need a break. So, you know, sometimes it's listening to those cues that your body is telling you that a lack of motivation may be along with a sign of fatigue. And the reason that you don't want to get up out of bed to get the session done is that you need to get another hour asleep, or you need a day of rest to recover from previous training. So sometimes it can even work together. And there are other times where sometimes that just bad decisions are setting you up for failure. Sometimes it's not getting enough sleep, or engaging activities that don't promote getting those sessions in. And then there are other times we just need to suck it up and get it done. Sometimes the motivation isn't there, but you just got to find a way and kind of dig deep to get out there and do it. As I mentioned earlier, you're going to be glad that you did. It's going to suck to start, it's going to suck as you get out there, but inevitably at the end of the session you'll be glad you did. But something I think the key is good habits trump motivation. So when you're in a routine, when you have those good habits that are setting you up for success, you're going to rely much less on that motivation and you can just default back to that thing that happens automatic, that habit that's already established. When you have those good habits, motivation, I think is really less of a factor.
Andrew: When I first came on TriDot, I've talked about this before in the podcast, so I won't talk about it long here but when I first came on, I honestly didn't think I was going to like the structured training. Because I thought I was going to feel kind of bound by it, married to it. Because before you know if I woke up and I wanted to swim one morning, I'd swim that day and I just kind of would do what I felt like doing that particular day. And when I started on TrIDot, I was like, oh man, I'm really interested in having the guidance. I'm interested in having somebody help me out. But man, being told what to do on every single day? That's going to get real old, real fast. It didn't, I found it freeing. Because exactly what you're talking about right now. Like, I didn't have to think about it. I didn't have to search my soul for what I felt like doing that day. You know, I knew that in my training plan, this is the best thing for me to do today. I want to improve in the sport, this is what I'm going to do and it helped me out a ton, so that's a great point. But the other thing you said John, that I want to follow up on, talking about how a lack of motivation can be a sign you need a break. I know a lot of athletes will kind of talk about you know, what is it when you get done with an ironman or a big A race? You get on the other side and you kind of have that like, post-race depression, like slump syndrome, like I know people are—[overlap]
Elizabeth: Post race blues.
Andrew: Yes, exactly. Like when you get on the other side of a race, I think that getting on the on the back end of a big A race, and then kind of getting to the end of the main part of the season, right? And the winter's coming. I think those are the two times when people really report and then start talking about “man, I'm really not feeling motivated anymore.” Is that what you’re talking about it? Maybe it's natural to feel it, then, and don't feel bad if you feel a lack of motivation then. Maybe you just need that little bit of a step back before you can kind of renew your energy again?
John: Yeah, and I've experienced those post-race blues on several occasions. And I think for me, what it is, is, especially racing Ironman, you're signing up for these events, typically, a year out, and oftentimes your planning is even longer than that. So it's something that's kind of always on the forefront of your mind. It's very difficult to go through a daily training session where you're not thinking about that race. And then all of a sudden, it's come and gone and what I've found myself even just a couple months ago, when I raced Ironman, I raced two back to back and it had been kind of a big focus for the year and I got to mid-November and it was gone. It was kind of like “now what?”
Andrew: You wake up, TriDot says, “hey, John, run you know, 40 minutes in zone 2 today.” Why?
John: Well, for me, it was more so just, there was a little bit of that but just that I'd had this thing out there that I was working towards and now it was just kind of like…almost. So I think in that case, it's important to establish that next objective and kind of reestablish the why and find that motivation and what maybe kind of spin it around is what am I feeling motivated to do now. So instead of finding motivation in something, find something in your motivation where those things can intrinsically work together.
Andrew: Moving from kind of a seasonal motivation standpoint, to more day to day, Elizabeth, what advice do you have for the athlete that maybe finds themselves losing focus, maybe in the middle of a training session towards the end of a training session, or are just overall finding themselves lacking the passion to get that quality day to day session in?
Elizabeth: So one of the things that I remind myself of and I encourage others to do as well is to really approach training from a point of gratitude. So you have an amazing opportunity to train with a body that is capable of doing this. So I think approaching those sessions from a point of gratitude can really do a lot to re-instill some of that day to day motivation. And then as we've pointed to a number of times here today, you know, remembering your why, and really establishing you know, that overarching purpose that goes beyond the day to day even beyond, you know, the season or a particular race. And then, you know, not to just point to all the other questions that we've answered so far, but you know, that accountability as well and reaching out to a training partner or a group. You also mentioned within a workout session itself losing focus or, or maybe, you know, not having the focus even want to get started. Setting small goals within each workout session itself, I find to be extremely beneficial. One of the things that I talk to my athletes frequently about if they're just like, “I don't know, I just don't feel like doing this session,” is to give your body the opportunity to show up. Get 15 minutes into a session and then let's reevaluate. You might feel different once you get warmed up and once you get going. This is something that David Goggins talks about, and he said he didn't feel like doing a 20 miler, but if he got himself started, if he got through the first two miles, then he was going to finish the 20.
Andrew: So David Goggins, for people who don't know, is a famous military veteran of the United States, who is just a fantastic endurance athlete. Has a couple books out just talking about mental tenacity and all these different principles. And yeah Elizabeth, something that I really love that you just said, because it reminds me back to my tennis days, when I was playing, high school and college tennis, coaches teach you in tennis to have a short memory. Because in tennis, I mean, one point ends, you can lose the point but if you win the game, it doesn't matter. You know, if you win more games, you're going to lose points along the way, right? You just got to forget that mistake you just made and move on to the next point and try to win that one. And so that’s something I found in the times where I am alike motivation, you know, you kind of one week goes by two weeks goes by three weeks goes by and, and maybe you weren't staying on top of your training like you were supposed to and then you have really an off week where you weren't feeling as motivated and you let a couple sessions go by the wayside. I find myself at the end of those weeks looking back and saying, “man, what did I do? I just wasted a week. I wasn't on top of my training, I only did a couple sessions… I missed that session, I missed that session.” And I have to remind myself, “hey, have a short memory.” Okay, that week is behind you, that week is over. All she can do is say Monday's coming, let's commit! My goal for this week is to do the right training right this week. And when this week's done, okay, the week after that, I'm going to do the right training right that week. And before you know it, you're back in your routine again. And that's- TriDot’s helped me do that. The couple times in my TriDot kind of journey where I've gotten off track. I'm just real quick to say okay, put that little season of unmotivation behind you and recommit to this Monday.
Elizabeth: Well, that's something John and I talk about quite a bit in my training- is what can I do today.
Elizabeth: Set that small goal today. What can we do?
Andrew: So another thing I want to comment on and again, in writing this show and thinking through the questions that I wanted to bring up and talk about, I was trying to think of myself- like, I want to face different instances of waning motivation. And one thing that I find, I find it's so easy to jump into a training set that I really like. You know, for me, it's anything on a track, you know, the one-hour bike workouts, I really enjoy. The Friday pool workouts, where there's less 200 and 300 and more 50s and 100s. I like the short stuff in the pool. I never miss these workouts. It's the sessions I'm not good at and the sessions I'm not so much a fan of, you know, the couple times a week strength training sessions, the 3030s you know, the sessions I don't enjoy as much, I put them off until later in the day. Later in the day comes and those are the ones I found myself finding a reason to just miss them. And I'm sure there are other athletes out there that are like me that have this problem. What would you say in terms of trying to motivate ourselves to go out and give it our best even in the sessions we don't enjoy?
Elizabeth: So one of the things that first comes to mind is that, you might not like those sessions because those are the ones that you're not as good at yet. And I'm, “oh gosh,” big believer in the power of “yet” so I’m gonna throw some of that in here today, too. But sometimes those sessions are more challenging because they are the ones with the most opportunity. So kind of reframing your attitude going into those workouts, knowing that this is where your next triathlon PR is going to be made, gives those less enjoyable or more challenging sessions kind of a bigger purpose.
John: So as she alluded to, oftentimes the sessions we don't enjoy are the ones that we were not good at. The ones we're not good at or the ones that we need to improve on. So I think that can be the motivating factor in that is acknowledging this is where I need to improve. This is my weakness. And in doing so, with that in mind, because the ones that come easy, those aren't going to produce great gains. Those are really going to kind of more maintain those strengths that you already have. So really find purpose and motivation in knowing that these difficult sessions really are going to be what propels you into improvement.
Andrew: At TriDot, we focus heavily on doing the right training right and optimizing our potential as athletes by doing the right workout, on the right day, in the right way. But if an athlete finds that deviating from the plan from time to time, keeps training fun and keeps their morale high, can an unscripted workout be an addition to our training?
Elizabeth: Absolutely, but also within reason here so be smart about it. Unscripted workouts might offer some great social benefits with friends. You know, it could be a new, a new challenge, a new group fitness class. Lots of different options there. But you know, think of it this way if your long run right now is 90 minutes and somebody invites you to go on a four hour long run with them in preparation for their next upcoming race, there's a lot of risk there that probably outweighs the reward. So be smart about it too, with what you're adding in for those unscripted workouts.
Andrew: If an athlete just felt like they needed a break. You know, maybe they finish that big A race goal and they want to step away for a minute, you know, maybe they're on the tail end of a heavy race season, or maybe their priorities in life right now or in their personal life are just taking precedence. Maybe there's some family things, maybe there's some work things they just don't have the time they did. Whatever the reason, how does time away from the sport affects the progress we have made as triathletes?
Elizabeth: So I guess one of the things here that I think of right off the bat is just that time off or time away isn't a weakness. I think that often has some negative connotations there. And you know, you've mentioned some great reasons for taking some time off. And it might be for a varying length of time off. So you know, time off after a race is necessary. We need to allow for that recovery. Some time off, or maybe just a reduction in training hours or varying the structure a little bit at the end of the season is beneficial from both a physical and a mental perspective. Now, you know, I'm not saying necessarily take a month off but Mark Allen, six-time Ironman World Championship winner, would take a month off at the end of each season. I mean, no swimming, no biking, no running. For a month, he pursued other hobbies. And then when it was time to refocus, he was ready. And you know, nobody's calling him lazy or weak because he's taken time off.
Andrew: It didn't adversely affect him the following season, that's for sure.
Elizabeth: Right, yes.
Andrew: AndI think more pros probably do that and people realize, you know, because a lot of the pros on social media you know, they have got their sponsors they've got that part of their brand is just putting out there what they're doing and they're training. And very seldom do you see it be sexy or marketable to post about that three week span you're taking of not doing doing anything, reconnecting with your family- There's no brand obligations to fill there. So I think people probably don't realize how often even the best of the best are taking some time to recharge and reset their minds and kind of, you know, let the flames come back stoked, ready to rock and roll a couple weeks later.
So just to kind of land the plane today- You guys have both shared some really great stuff just in terms of motivation and recognizing the difference between motivation and purpose. And things we can do throughout the season to stay on top of our training and keep our purpose and our ‘why,’ and our reasons for doing this sport in front of us. But, Elizabeth, just to bring us home today, you've really been bringing the fire on this episode, as the kids might say or may not say anymore. I don't really know. What are some resources, whether it's a book or a movie or a mentor or friend, that you personally find to be helpful for you on those days where you just need a boost of motivation?
Elizabeth: Alright, well I'll go ahead and name you know, book, movie, mentors and friends because—[overlap]. Let's put them all in there. Because I do truly think that they all are important. And I know for me, I feel just surrounded by great resources and I know it impacts my day to day motivation and my overall purpose as well. So, I mean, first and biggest shout out goes to my husband, Charles. Gosh, he is--
Andrew: Charles rules.
Elizabeth: Yeah, he is fantastic.
Andrew: Wait what?Let's go.
Elizabeth: But truly, he is just phenomenal and the day to day things that he does to support my training are amazing.
Andrew: That one day I've been on a race course when you were racing, and Charles was there was 70.3 Waco in 2019. And watching Charles, just I mean, he probably ran as much as you did that day just covering the course just being there as strategic places where he could cheer you on and you could see him. He could see you. I mean, he was a monster all over that course, you know, rooting for his bride and it was really, really fun to watch just how enthusiastic he was about seeing you on course and cheering you on.
Elizabeth: And he had like that all the time. I mean, daily training sessions, every race. In fact, one of my absolute favorite pictures is from the Ironman Chattanooga, kind of red carpet finish line. And it was my brother in law, Clay, who was there and he took this picture. And in kind of the first part or the foreground of the picture- I don’t know all the- you'll probably have the artsy words for this.
Andrew: Well, we'll count it, whatever he was, it was one of those.
Elizabeth: So you have Charles there and he's raising his hand up and just, I mean, absolutely excited. And then in between his hands, you see me on the red carpet finish line with my hands up and so you see both of us cheering and he looks just as, if not, even more excited than I do.
Andrew: We’re going to put this picture on social media the day this podcast episodes comes out.
Elizabeth: We might have to just so you know, people can understand a little bit more than my explanation probably gives it credit for.
Andrew: Race picture goals.
Elizabeth: There we go. So I mean biggest shout out needs to go to him and then you know next in line absolutely my parents. So they have the cutest sweatshirts that they wear to races and on the front it says “I taught her to swim. I taught her to bike. I saw her first step” and on the back it has James and it has the M as Ironman logo. They kind of as many races as I can. You know my dad was my first coach growing up on the soccer team. So they continue to just be super motivating, super inspiring, super encouraging for me. And then you know, on a day to day basis here I am surrounded by the TriDot team and you know in specific mentioned and big thanks to Coach John here. I'm surrounded by people that just have been there for me throughout this entire triathlon journey.
Andrew: I want to swim like coach Jeff Raines. I want to bike like coach John Mayfield. I want to run like coach Elizabeth James and I want to be as smart on course, as TriDot founder Jeff Booher.
Elizabeth: That's good. I like that!
Andrew: You want to run as well as Elizabeth James?
Elizabeth: I’d pick somebody else there, too, but--
And then you know, we're talking about all these other resources. The James household is just a sucker for motivational movies. So pre Rocky, Miracle, gosh, we've seen them all multiple, multiple times. And then our bookshelves are filled with great athlete’s stories. So Iron Warrior, Life Without Limits, talking about Chrissy Wellington's journey, You're an Ironman - Actually, that one was given to me by John as I was training for my first Ironman- How bad do you want it? You know you got 12 athlete stories there. Then I love quotes. We've got quotes on the bathroom mirror, on the fridge, in the workout room. So, again when you're talking about you know, is it a book? Is it a movie, a mentor, a friend? I have my list for all of those categories because they're all important to me and I have kind of surrounded myself with some great resources in my journey.
Andrew: The Harley householder is a sucker for Pixar movies, so maybe not quite as motivational as Rocky or Miracle, but I totally get you I mean. Back in like high school soccer days, like always before the first game of the season, we'd all get together at coach's house and watch Miracle or Remember the Titans or one of those good ones.
Hey, everybody, Elizabeth James just gave you guys like a million resources single handedly on just different ideas and ways to kind of spark your motivation when you're heading into that next, that next tough session and maybe you're not feeling it. You know, think of some of these things, you know, use some of these things and maybe her list will give you some ideas of some things that you know you can go to that are just going to kind of pump you up. I know for me and my wife in our household when we both have a workout coming up and we don't really, aren't really feeling it, music is really big in our household and we'll fire up the Spotify and fire up that training playlist and let a song just get us to the starting line of that workout.
So keep the motivation up, keep the spirits high! You are in this sport with the rest of us you're not alone and happy training everyone.
Spokes Person: Great said everyone. Let's cool down.
Andrew: For our cool down today I wanted to take a quick moment and tell you, the TriDot podcast family, about a new feature we have on our website at tridot.com/podcast. At TriDot, we believe that everyday athletes of triathlon are the heart and soul of the sport. And so from day one of us creating this podcast we've always wanted your voice, your stories, your questions, and your experiences on the show. From time to time, we have already had a few athletes share on the podcast. But we wanted to find the easiest way possible to get your voice on our show. So I am super pleased to announce that we have embedded a way for you to leave the podcast a voicemail, right on our website. You can go to tridot.com/podcast, click on “leave us a voicemail,” and you'll be taken right through the steps to record your voice for the show. You can tell us about your local tri club, you can tell us why you do this crazy sport of triathlon. You can share a humble brag and tell us about something really great you've accomplished recently. You can tell us about your first race, your favorite race, or really just any race that resulted in a heck of a story. You can tell us things you've overcome or share about that big bucket list race goal that you've been building to. You can also record yourself asking a question for one of our experts to answer right on the show. A great example of that came from our last show, Episode 36, where Shannon, one of our athletes asked Dr. Austin a nutrition question right on the cool down of the show. So if you've ever wondered anything specific, and one of to hear one of our coaches or experts give you an answer, recording your voice asking your question is the way to go.
As always, if you have a question and a thought, and aren't keen on hearing your own voice on the show, you can still click on submit feedback and shoot me a message. I'm always looking to bring up the things you want to hear about.
Well, that's it for today, folks. A big thanks to coaches John Mayfield and Elizabeth James for talking with us about training motivation. Shout out to Tri Bike Transport for partnering with us on today's episode. Next time you travel for a race head to tribiketransport.com to get your bike to the starting line, race ready and stress free. Don't forget to hit tridot.com/podcast and be one of the first athletes to leave us a voicemail to get your question your thought your story on the show. We'll do it again soon. Until then, happy training.
Outro: Thanks for joining us. Make sure to subscribe and share the TriDot podcast with your triathlon crew. For more great TriDot content and community connect with us on Facebook, YouTube and Instagram ready to optimize your training head to tridot.com and start your free trial today. TriDot the obvious and automatic choice for triathlon training