Finding Motivation to Train in a Time of Covid
One of the most common frustrations I have heard during this crisis from athletes of all ages, both from SRA and beyond is: “I don’t have the motivation to train without races and without my team. What do I do?” I want to highlight three words in this statement – motivation, races and team and discuss them further.
The first thing I want to address- there are races in your future! I know you don’t know exactly when, but you will race again. When that race day arrives, will be you be ready for it? And what does ready look like? Probably a little different for everyone, and maybe different than it used to for you. Yes, your overall focus should be around getting back to racing and being prepared for it, and for some people that may be maintaining the same rigorous training plan that you always do. But that may not be true for everyone. And, if you are guilting yourself for not doing enough, it’s not going to help your motivation.
Since we don’t have an exact target date for your next race, it’s ok that racing is not the focal point of your training plan right now. It’s ok to take some time away from structured, metric based workouts and instead find ways to be active that bring you joy. That will help you be more motivated to train seriously when the time comes and to serve your general mental and physical health in a better way. Make sure you give value to whatever workout you do, versus telling yourself you haven’t done enough. Release yourself of the pressure to prove something to anyone other than yourself each day.
Second, you still have a Team! Unfortunately, you just don’t get to see them every day. For me, I didn’t need to see my teammates every day to be motivated by them. The main reason for that was the trust that we all had in each other. Success on a rowing team is reliant upon deep trust between all members of the crew. We all must trust that everyone is going as hard as they can always. This trust is forged through countless hours of practice on land and in the water. It comes from suffering side by side. While we can’t do that right now, we DO have all the past experiences that built that trust between our teammates and ourselves. Now is the time to lean on that. When you can’t be with your teammates every day, you must trust they are continuing the work as they are trusting you to do the same. When I had workouts to do on my own, and I wasn’t really motivated, I just would remember that I had a responsibility to my teammates to do the work, whether we were side by side or not!
Motivation is a thread woven through having races in the future and having teammates to train with. Both races and teams have something in common – they are external drivers. They are things beyond you that help to motivate you. We all also have internal drivers as motivators. Psychologists used to think that people were one or the other, but the reality is we all rely on both external and internal drivers for motivation. Right now, two major external drivers have been removed as motivators. Now is the time to explore and depend on your internal driver to keep you motivated. This is the time to pause to remember the other reasons that you love to row, especially the very personal reasons that keep you coming back. Rowing is too hard to ONLY pursue because of external reasons. My sculling coach used to say that in order to row everybody has to have a spark inside them. His job was to throw some gasoline on that spark to motivate us further, but we all had to have that internal spark. Now is the time to find out what that spark inside you is, and let that internal driver be your source of motivation to continue to train in whatever capacity that works for you.
Connected to why you row is your definition of yourself as an athlete/rower. Whether you think about it or not, we are all doing many things everyday that contribute to our definition of ourselves as a rower. While you aren’t racing or with your team, two things that may be central to your definition of yourself as an athlete, focus on doing things everyday to reinforce your definition of yourself as an athlete. While I would hope this includes some training of some kind, this isn’t JUST training: it’s getting the sleep an athlete needs; focusing on the nutrition you need as an athlete; drinking enough water. You get the idea. Find a way to call yourself an athlete every day so you stay in touch with that version of yourself even as we don’t practice as a team.
There is an opportunity here. I know that not everyone can find opportunity in times like these and I certainly can understand that. It’s a hard time. But, with a pause on racing, this is a time we can re-set. We can choose to re-define our goals and objectives, to be a different athlete, to commit to something new. In addition, we can also just choose to be a stronger version of the athlete and teammate we already are, re-affirming the goals and objectives we have set, with just a slightly different timeline. Either way, take advantage of this pause to check in with your goals, and revise or reaffirm.
I hope I have given you some ideas to connect with why you row beyond your team and racing, and hopefully some motivation as well. I’m always happy to chat with any rower about goals, why they row and motivation.