Keeping motivated to train during this COVID Year
(An open letter to the high-performance athletes I am assisting)
This year is one that will be remembered for many things including the trashing many athlete's plans for domestic and international competition, including intentions by some of you to win an Olympic and/or World Championships title.
While I am not in the same league as you, the pressure on me to prepare and perform to defend my back-to-back UCI M65 MTB World Champs title seems to be getting more and more serious with each annual defence. Keeping motivated to train, to eat well and to stick to tough and exhausting goals during the Lockdown and afterwards has not been easy for anyone, especially for those who have had their Olympics shoved out to next year, if not longer.
With there being so much uncertainty about just about everything right now it is so easy to let things slip. Do not let that happen and if you did lose the plot during the Lockdown it is now time to make amends. Now is the time to obsessively build your base fitness and to invest in your health. This extended break in competition is the perfect opportunity to work on laying down the largest, thickest and strongest base of health, skills and fitness imaginable. This is what I have been doing.
Have the mindset of always turning adversity into opportunity
With your main goals such as Olympic Glory now a year away and still uncertain, this is not enough to motivate hard daily training. You need something to light the fire in your belly to get out and train day after day. What is needed is the motivation from having much more immediate challenges than a competition that is a year or longer away. I like to call it the motivation of "clear and present danger". If there is nothing immediately before you to threaten and challenge you, then you have to create some. You need to set your own challenges even if they are imaginary and may even appear to be crazy, pointless or obsessional to the outside observer!
I went into the Lockdown feeling stressed and lost but that was for not much longer than a couple of days. After that short period of anger, confusion and mourning, it was full-on with the resolution to hit the leanest of race weights by August (the MTB Worlds were to be in mid-August) and to do a rotation between either 2 hrs running or 2-3 hours of urban CX, all up and down the streets of our suburb and resting only on the days it rained. Gosh, it was so boring and it became an exhausting grovel because it turned out that we were in the midst of a drawn-out drought! I went for 18 days straight without a break! But I stuck to the resolution and survived. I'm still at it. A run is planned later today and then a road ride with my daughter Mary-Ann tomorrow.
The MTB Masters worlds were cancelled two weeks ago. I knew cancellation was coming two months ago but I kept it alive in my head so as to highly motivate training and nutrition during the Lockdown when the ability to train was severely restricted. My goal weight for the worlds this time was to be 61 Kg or a little less by August, down from 66 Kg before the Lockdown. It is probably 30 years since I was that light (Less than 61 Kg). I'm now sneaking under 63 and heading to 62 while my power has improved markedly. I am flying up the hills unlike never before. Since the Lockdown was lifted I've been getting professional coaching for MTB skills including doing drops and jumps and am making good gains in that area. I should say that my weight during my 20's was always around the 61 kg mark when I was running well, so the weight loss is nothing extreme for my frame. Now the worlds are cancelled I'm a racer without a race, but that is no problem. I'm in great health, more skilful, much faster and more durable than ever which is the reward.
There is a compressed season of CX and MTB coming up with back-to-back racing almost all the way from early next month through to November. It will be too much to do the lot but I'm looking forward to it and am in the right kind of shape to do well. There is nothing like doing lots of racing later this year to perfect the racing skill-sets and to race-harden body and mind for the next Worlds in August 2021. I'll be ready assuming there is a plane to board and no lengthy quarantining at either end!
The rebuilding of my running by shuffling for up to two hours 3 times a week over rocky trails has gone without a hitch. I'm planning to do a few XC running races, the first in about 20 years. I'm feeling rather excited about that as well. All good motivation and rewarding.
If you have not done something similar to the motivational exercise that I'm describing here, it is time to make the start and to get it into place. Do it right now and get started by tomorrow morning. No more coasting along, without any sense of urgency. Do not procrastinate for even a minute longer! It is time for action! Enter next year in the best shape of your life!