This summer we had a guest speaker come to visit the group and he opened the floor up to questions. One athlete had a really good question: "How do you find that motivation to get out the door to run instead of going to the couch or the fridge after a long day at work?"
This question reminded us that not everyone signing up for a half/full marathon running group necessarily has a strong will for a PR or a goal race in mind; but, maybe, they are here for comradery and generally building a healthier lifestyle. They were not looking for the day in and day out exercise goals. When coming into a group training setting some often wonder what they signed up for, haha. Why, where, how do some of these athletes get the motivation to get out the door on a daily basis while dodging life's curveballs? There are two types of motivation that play a huge role in training, intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Let's explain what these are.
Intrinsic Motivation and Extrinsic Motivation
There are two kinds of motivation that you have during training: Intrinsic and Extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation refers to a behavior that is driven by internal rewards. Intrinsic motivation engages in behaviors coming from within because it is naturally satisfying or pleasing to you. Intrinsic motivation occurs when we act without any obvious external rewards - money, praise, medals. We simply enjoy an activity or see it as an opportunity to explore, learn, and increase our potential. In contrast to this motivation, is extrinsic motivation which involves engaging in a behavior in order to earn external rewards, receiving praise, and approval.
Running a speed session on your own for the inherent satisfaction of the challenge or joy of the work you are putting into it; rather than for some separate consequence is an example of intrinsic motivation.
Having a great time with friends at a group run is an example of extrinsic motivation. You may enjoy spending your day doing something other than running, but you're motivated to go run because you get time to see your friends and chat. In this example, you're extrinsically motivated by the ability to spend time with friends.
How do you find intrinsic motivation during a busy lifestyle?
Ok, you want to run more or run better but how do you find the time? Now that we know the two types of motivation and it may be a little clearer to you as to which motivation you possess less of. So, what can you do to help yourself get into the routine of training and try to prioritize it while living a busy day to day life? Let's face it, not everyone can wrap their heads around 5 a.m. runs every morning before work, working all day, and then coming home to take care of their families. What can you do to make training seem more attainable? It is about training blocks.
What is a training block? Training blocks are sectioned times of training/specific training. Most training blocks are 12-16 weeks of work put towards a half/full marathon goal. During those 12-16 weeks of your year (depending if you are doing one race or two - Fall/Spring or Fall AND Spring) you sacrifice for your running goal. You are going into those 12-16 weeks with the knowledge that you are getting up early to run or running directly after work, you have a long run on the weekends, you are cross training/mobility/core, getting enough sleep, and fueling your body appropriately. You put aside every excuse and get the work done. This is all intrinsic motivation - you are doing something for yourself, for the challenge, for bringing out your potential.
Even within our own half/full marathon training groups I see some athletes that have decided to dedicate their season to a goal race and are strictly executing their plans to reach their goals. I also see other athletes attending the group to maintain their consistency, find enjoyment in the run with friends, and stay generally fit. This is extrinsic motivation. These athletes are still maintaining their fitness; however, it is more about the continued bonds they have with other athletes and continuing their running to have fun, reward themselves with group time and teammates to share exercise with.
What should a training block look like? Using my own training blocks as an example: Winter I focus on maintaining my running and adding some strength into my routine. When spring comes, I add in short/fast workouts to get a half marathon completed well. Summer hits and things slow down, mileage increases, and I focus on a longer race goal for the fall. Then all fall I like to get in anything I can after my goal race and before I am "dormant" again. My real training blocks are usually early spring and late summer.
With everything mentioned above, you will notice one thing holds true throughout the year. I am always maintaining, I do not have a goal race and then stop running for weeks. Maintaining my base always allows me to jump into a training block without having to lay the foundation work down all over again. I can get a few weeks of solid training in and run a half marathon well. That is why I see some of the athletes attending group training without any races on their plates, their extrinsic motivation to attend to be with friends, exercise, and maintain keeps their bases up.
In summary, some athletes will always have strong self discipline in running (intrinsic motivation) and some athletes have outside factors that bring them into running (extrinsic motivation). Depending on the season, it can differ for all of us and that is ok. You should not be training hard all year round. Implementing training blocks allows for your body to build up to it's peak fitness level and execute a well planned race. Having downtime and maintenance time allows for recovery, finding enjoyment in running, and bonding with your friends. The best way to handle a busy lifestyle while being an athlete is about breaking things down into smaller sections, blocks you can handle.