By Joey Lee
This year is an important anniversary for me; it marks my 30th year competing in triathlons. Throughout that time, I’ve learned a few tricks to keep myself from getting burned out, stay motivated and keep it fun.
One of the great things about triathlon is that it’s three sports in one. So that, in itself, makes it three times harder to get burned out than those who are purists in any one sport.
But, whatever form of exercise you choose, whether it’s triathlon, cross-fit, yoga or whatever; after long enough it’s easy to find yourself lacking motivation. Here are eleven, (because I go to eleven for all of you Spinal Tap fans) strategies that will help keep it fun and help you avoid burnout.
If I did the same workout every day, I’d make it about two days before I got bored. Do different things, have some hard days, have some easy days, cross-train in another sport; anything to make it different. It’s much easier, mentally at least, if you have specific workouts. Instead of just saying, “I’m gonna go ride an hour,” which would bore the pants off of anyone, say, “I’m gonna go warm up ten minutes, do three minutes hard, two minutes easy…” Get a coach or a trainer to help you with this, and you don’t have to spend a ton of cash, there are online options that are quite reasonable if not free.
Find some people who enjoy the type of workouts you do and you’ll actually get excited about meeting up with them. They’ll also give you a hard time if you don’t show up, so that’s a bit of added motivation. And as a bonus, you’ll probably get some of the best, closest friends you’ve ever had.
It gives you time to think, it gives you time to daydream, it gives you time to decompress from everyday life. I caution against trying to plan all workouts with friends, it can get stressful lining up schedules AND you’ll miss out on some of the joys of being alone.
I’ve seen groups playing catch with tennis balls while running; on group rides always end up having mini-races during the ride or dousing one another with water bottles; I finish each swim trying to see how far I can go underwater in one breath (the record right now is 50 meters) just like I did when I was twelve years old. Find something to make each workout fun.
Workouts don’t have to be formal, they can be as simple as chasing your kids around the yard. You can also teach them to workout with you. My daughter is always trying to mimic me stretching, working my core and riding my bike. When she’s a bit older, I’m going to have her ride her bike with me when I run. The more you can involve your family, the more fun it will be for everyone, and it will get your kids started in the right direction as well!
Let’s face it; none of us are going to make a living out of this, so why take it so seriously? Don’t get uptight trying to be perfect, don’t stress over every little thing, it’s supposed to be fun, let it be!
If you’re tired, feeling bored or burned out; there’s nothing that says you can’t take a break. A few days, maybe a week off can really do a lot to let both your body and your mind rejuvenate. When you start back up, you’ll be surprised how much better you feel. I will plan breaks after several months of hard training and I find that after a few days I’m chomping at the bit to get back at it. A word of caution though, you’ve got to make sure the week off doesn’t turn into two, and then three, and then four…
If you’re in a rut, look for something else. There are tons of different ways to work out, and more coming around all the time. Or you can find something different in the sport you’re already doing; a mud run instead of a road race, an open water swim instead of laps in a pool, it’s only as limited as your imagination, and the internet. And this leads right into…
A change of scenery can do wonders to refresh your outlook. No matter what your chosen sport is, there are always races, camps or weekend getaways in new and exciting locales where you’ll learn something new while enjoying some new scenery.
This is one of my favorites. Allow yourself little treats or rewards to help keep motivated. After a good week of training, I go have a big burger and fries and then maybe (who am I kidding, probably) something sweet. But the reward doesn’t have to be food; clothes, naps, movies, anything that motivates you will work.
This is probably the best way to stay motivated, but perhaps is not the best to avoid burnout. Find something you’ve never done, something you never thought you’d be able to do, work up a plan, and do it! Having a big goal will help you get to the gym. But, you have to be careful to use all of the previous techniques to avoid burning out; otherwise when you accomplish the goal, you may not want to continue with the workouts.
After 30 years in the same sport, I’ve faced some bouts of burnout and lack of motivation. But I have always bounced back using a combination of any, and sometimes all of these tactics. The trick is – understand that you can get burned out, but don’t let it get the best of you, stay positive, stay active and don’t forget to have fun.