staying mentally fresh: 5 tips to help athletes preserve motivation

Everyone knows that a key to success in anything is consistency. Waking up, putting in the work day after day, year after year. Your relationship with fitness and training is much like any other relationship in your life. If you want it to work out long term, you have to find balance.

When first getting into training everything is new, fresh and exciting. Motivation is high and you begin falling in love with the lifestyle. Fitness comes quickly, your body is changing, and you are soaring up the ranks. Your routine is pretty lame, consisting of the same thing day after day, but who cares?! It’s working.

Motivation comes in many forms, but there are just as many elements that can take it away. For every glorious sunny day, there is a frigid snow storm. For every euphoric win, there is a heart-wrenching loss. To reach long-term goals you have to find seek out the highs and minimize the lows in order to keep your head above water day after day, year after year.

Every successful athlete has had to discover their own tips for maintaining balance, and as a professional mountain biker, I am no exception. Here are my top 5 suggestions to finding balance in your fitness pursuits and staying motivated this new year.

Monitor your motivation

    Have you ever woken up dreading your workout for the day? Has it ever happened weeks in a row? It’s normal to feel unmotivated once in a while and we all have that favorite pump up playlist that can get us through those random hard days. When you find yourself pulling in the motivational troops more often than not, it’s crucial to take a step back and give yourself time to think deeply about why you are feeling how you are. Keep pushing and you may dig yourself into a hole that you may not be able to crawl out of. Pause and monitor yourself to find that balance both physically and mentally.

    Sacrifice carefully

    Being a successful athlete (whether you are professional or not) requires a lot of sacrifices. Eating healthy, going to bed early, skipping happy hour to go to the gym, being sore and tired all the time, etc. It can be a great lifestyle, but sacrificing too much can leave us thinking, “Is all of this sacrifice worth it?”, especially when things aren’t going how we hoped. Protect these moments by sacrificing carefully. For me, it means once in a while going out with friends when I could be sleeping, going for a walk with my fiancee when I could be foam rolling, or enjoying a burger and beer when I could be eating a salad and LaCroix.

    Switch it up

    Whatever your reason for training, it’s easy to fall into a routine. While a routine is important to consistency, it’s hard to be consistent when you’re too uninspired and unmotivated to even get out the door. There are many ways to break up your routine. I’m always exploring new roads, changing up my workouts, riding different bikes, and finding new friends to ride with. The pedaling is still the same, but everything else feels different so I never get bored. Don’t be afraid to try something new.

    Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket

    I like to race, and I have always been known to race a lot. While in school at ASU I would line up 30+ times a year in running, triathlon, and mountain bike events.  I loved competing and getting these experiences, but also I found that it helped take pressure off of the big races and competitions. When we build our season around 3 or 4 events it puts a ton of weight on those performances. If we don’t get the result we were looking for, it can really take the wind out of our sails. It is important to fully prepare and taper for key “A” events, but scattering in some local, less important races or experiences will give you more opportunities to put your hard-earned fitness to the test and rack up some results you are proud of.

    Take a break

    Just like you shouldn’t wait to be utterly exhausted to take a recovery day, you shouldn’t wait until you are mentally burnt out to take a break from your training. Incorporating short breaks where you don’t even think about your training throughout the year will have you missing it and more motivated than ever when you jump back in. Honey, I’m home!

    Ryan’s passions for fitness and exploration collide as he pushes himself further and faster than his competition as a professional endurance mountain biker. To see more of his adventures, follow him on Instagram: @rypetry

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