From time to time, training can become tiresome, a chore, or generally unfun. Some days (or weeks) the questions start running through your mind as to why you are training in the first place, and it can all become a bit of a pain in the firm-and-well-developed ass. Understanding your “why” can not only help you to rid your mind of these demons, but in some cases it may bring a sense of clarity that perhaps it is time for you to move on to something new.
Everything happens for a reason
Forget the philosophical proverb. When we say “everything” we refer to an action taken, and when we say “reason” we refer to the decision made to take that action. In other words, everything we do is done because we’ve decided to do it (even if we don’t completely understand our own logic sometimes). So in deciding to train/stay fit/exercise, at some point we had some intrinsic motivation to get started. Over time, this may or may not have changed. We may continue with our training routine because our original value still stands, a new value has developed, or we continue out of habit and no longer know why we keep choosing to do this. But understanding the root of your motivation, your “why”, forms the fundamental basis for gaining some level of joy from your training.
Types of “why”
There are infinite reasons why someone may choose to take a course of action. Perhaps you are being held to ransom and if you fail to do 20 push-ups every day for a month, the baby rabbit gets it! (If this is the case, blink twice and we will get help). But for the sake of trying to help those who may have lost their “why”, here are some of the common ones that we hear from our community:
- Fitness: This could mean a lot things. Perhaps it refers to a weight loss goal, a distance running goal, a strength goal, or general physical appearance goal. Is your motivation to reach a certain body weight, run a certain distance in a set time, or lift a certain weight?
- Success/achievement: This may refer to a plan to dominate the world, or perhaps to complete your first half-marathon. Are you looking to win an event or simply master a specific discipline?
- Socialising/community: This refers to where the training takes place, and with whom. This type of “why” is usually the longest lasting because it is less dependent on results and performance. Had a crap day? Who cares! At least it was spent somewhere enjoyable.
- Competitiveness: This is a really tricky one. Competition is really useful for intensity and additional motivation but is also the equivalent of red-lining when you drive. If competing with your colleagues is your primary “why”, it can be really difficult to maintain the consistency of enjoyment. From time-to-time, you may be beaten or perform below your own expectations. This can be motivating to work harder, but it could also be demoralising. We have mentioned previously the risks of judging yourself against others. Just be careful that you aren’t basing your enjoyment on variables like other people’s performances.
- Fear: This is a horrible “why” but a “why” none the less. Fear could be referring to a concern regarding weight gain or general appearance, fear of losing an ability or level of fitness, or fear of loss of social routine (no longer “belonging”). Fear sucks, there is no doubt about it and hopefully if fear is part of your “why”, there are other stronger “why’s” in this list that you can resonate with.
- Habit: Well, as it sounds, habit is basically the “why” of continuing with something because we haven’t considered why we are doing it in the first place. Not so bad if it is a positive habit, but hard to maintain.
Why “why” matters
“Why” can explain your motivation, and explain the times when motivation waivers. It can also explain our habits and behaviours. There is a great article over here discussing “big monkeys” and “little monkeys” which briefly looks at the difference between those who like to train with minimalism, and those who enjoy larger volumes. It also explains why some people look forward to rest days, and others avoid them. If you are motivated by performance and competing, rest days make sense. If you are motivated by the social element and the community aspect, a rest day will feel like punishment.
Understanding your “why” may not be that much of a saga but understanding it can go a long way towards alleviating frustration, understanding fluctuating enjoyment, and acknowledging those periods when motivation is nowhere to be seen. If you aren’t exactly sure which “why” is yours, assume all of the above and then start removing one at a time. Which one do you miss the most? Why…?