How to stay motivated when training gets tough

By Ham Williams-Tracy

MS Staff Writer

Endurance sports are grueling. It takes daily commitment to improve. But when the training gets tough, you can easily lose sight of what you’re working toward.

Understanding how to stay motivated is key to seeing the results you want.

Mindset Over Mileage

The easiest thing to do when training is at its toughest is changing your perspective. Don’t look at the difficulty of a set In the pool, or the length of a run or intensity of a ride. Look at it as a time in your day to get better at something you love.

For me, swimming initially was always about the end of the season. Starting in September with a championship meet in March meant I had six months of a near daily commitment to get better.

But when I started seeing championship season as the next step of my journey rather than the finish line, I was able to push myself harder. Every day would make me a better swimmer in the long run.

Managing Expectations

Set goals for yourself. If you don’t know what you want to do, how are you ever going to be happy with what you have done?

Pick a race you have to qualify for, strive to place higher than the year before, or set goal times faster than what you have previously achieved. This will give you a tangible result to seek, and something to hold yourself accountable to.

Goal setting doesn’t have to be for six months out, it can be weekly or day-to-day. A saying that I subscribe to is: pick one thing to get better at every day. A small detail gives each workout purpose.

Remind Yourself Why You’re Doing It

What is it you love about your sport? Is it the competition? The feeling you get from working out? Staying healthy? Or just something to do? Find why you really enjoy doing your sport and remind yourself of that fact when the going gets tough. 

For me, I love that when I’m at swim practice nothing else matters. It’s 2 hours a day where I don’t have to worry about anything else but that moment. This mindfulness allows me to compartmentalize even the most difficult practices.

Sports and training are meant to be fun. Don’t take every setback or loss personally. That’s all part of the game! Set reasonable expectations for yourself. If you hit them, great. If you exceed them, even better! But if you don’t hit the goal you’re were aiming for, stop, reevaluate, and move on. 

The day you stop viewing training as a punishment but an opportunity to improve, is a day that will change your training.

About Ham Williams-Tracy

Ham has been active in the swimming world since he was eight years old. Currently, he is a sophomore at Swarthmore College studying English Literature and Economics. He specializes in 400 IM, 500 free, and 200 butterfly. Ham swam for the Aquatic Team of Mecklenburg and Myers Park High School prior to enrolling at Swarthmore. 

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