Achieving your fitness ambitions was never going to be easy: even professional athletes in the hunt for medals and trophies accept that their motivation levels will rise and fall, and their mental focus will sharpen and fade as the weeks go by. The difference between the champions who stay the course and those who quit lies in knowing how to respond to those inevitable dips in desire. RSNG has spoken to some of the world’s best athletes over the last few years to learn more about the tools, tricks and techniques elite performers harness to refuel their dwindling motivation. Armed with these winning insights, you’ll be ready to regain momentum and get back on track...
Usain Bolt, eight-time Olympic 100m, 200m and 4x 100m champion:
‘Use Positive Self-Talk’ ‘There were times – especially when we were doing background training before the race season – when the training really pains you. You have ten 300m sprints to run and when you get to number eight you think, “Oh God, I’ve got two more.” Your legs are paining and your mind is saying: “Come on Usain, you are Olympic champion, you are world champion, just go home.” But you remember that these next two are what made me a champion before and will make me a champion again,” says Usain Bolt.
Jonny Brownlee, Rio 2016 Triathlon Silver Medalist:
‘Team Up With Training Partners’ ‘The social side of cycling really appeals to me – especially at this time of year when it’s cold and rainy. I never cycle on my own in winter, I always go in a group and we have a laugh, which makes four hours of riding in the freezing cold much more fun. In the summer months I join up with a local chain gang and we do some hard riding in a big group. We start at 6.30pm and get back about 8.30pm. You always push yourself harder than you would if you were riding by yourself,’ says Jonny Brownlee.
Motivation will come and go, the secret is to focus instead on commitment
Pete Reed, Triple Olympic Rowing Champion:
‘Improve Your Morning Routine’ ‘To get out of bed for training in the morning I use a Lumie alarm clock. It simulates dawn by producing light. Half an hour before my alarm goes off the room starts to get lighter and my body is slowly roused into a waking state so it doesn’t feel unnatural when finally the alarm goes off. I get straight in the shower as soon as I wake up – even if I don’t need one – because it helps to wake up my muscles, joints and mind,” says Pete Reid.
James Haskell, 2011 Six Nations Winner:
‘Make Your Workout Easy To Do And Impossible To Avoid’ ‘I suggest a simple programme you can do at home, based on bodyweight workouts and simple exercises like star jumps, mountain climbers, squats, lunges, slams, step-ups, planks and burpees. All you need is a mat. No weights and dumbbells. You work hard for 20 minutes, get a sweat on, burn fat, burn calories, pump your muscles up, and then crack on with your day,’ says James Haskell.
Ed Clancy, Three-Time Olympic Team Pursuit Cycling Champion:
‘Focus On Commitment, Not Motivation’ ‘No matter how motivated you are and how strongly you want to achieve your goals, that motivation will come and go. The secret is to focus instead on commitment. Motivation comes and goes but commitment is different: either you commit to a training programme, or you don’t. So on days when you can’t be arsed, accept that you’re not very motivated today and think instead of your commitment. You might not enjoy training that day, but commit to it and in five hours’ time you will feel an amazing sense of satisfaction,” says Ed Clancy.
Jonny Wilkinson, 2003 Rugby World Cup Winner:
‘Aim To Be Better Than You Were Yesterday’ ‘My mentor Steve Black introduced me to the Japanese concept of ‘kaizen’ which is all about continuous improvement. Basically imagine yourself being filmed by a video camera 24 hours a day. That’s not meant to sound like Big Brother by the way, with some kind of restrictive and ridiculously strict parent looking over your shoulder. It is just a way of saying: if you watched that video back at the end of the day, would you be happy with yourself? When you think about your life in that way, it gives you all the purpose and motivation you need every day,’ says Jonny Wilkinson.
Greg Rutherford, London 2012 Long Jump Champion:
‘Take Your Training Outdoors’ ‘I like going into the woods and using nature’s creations for workouts, like a plyometric workout involving jumping onto or over stumps of trees. If you don’t have a gym membership or you don’t want to train in front of other people, it can be good to train outside. I do a lot of hill sprints in the woods near my house,” says Greg Rutherford.
I use Instagram a lot to find inspiration for new exercise movements
Zharnel Hughes, 2018 European 100m & 4x100m Champion:
‘Embrace Your Competitive Side’ ‘We compete hard and we always want to hit PBs at every session. One week my friends might beat me and then the next week I will say: ‘Okay, I will beat you.’ It’s the same in the gym: some days my training partners push more than me, other days I say: ‘I’ve got you.’ It’s a friendly rivalry which helps us get fast,’ says Zharnel Hughes.
Max Chilton, IndyCar Race Driver:
’Switch Up Your Workout Routine’ ‘I like finding new things to do and new exercises to experiment with. Trying new exercises works different muscles you have probably never used before so it’s a really good way to make you stronger. I use Instagram a lot to find inspiration for new exercise movements. Nobody wants to be plodding on a treadmill every day,’ says Max Chilton.
Alex Gregory, Two-Time Olympic Rowing Champion:
‘Focus On How You Will Feel Tonight’ ‘Remember that most of your sense of satisfaction comes after the session. Even as an Olympic athlete, I didn’t enjoy being on the water every day, but I did enjoy without exception the time after the session when I sat down and thought: “I am better after that session.” For the rest of the day and the rest of the week you have something to build on,’ says Alex Gregory.
WHAT NEXT? Learn about the science of self-motivation with the help of this animation about Dr Steve Peters’ The Chimp Paradox.
Comments are for information only and should not replace medical care or recommendations. Please check with your Doctor before embarking on exercise or nutrition regimes for the first time.