"You just have to wrap up and get on with it" Mo Farah answered in a recent interview about how he puts in the huge mileage in his training.
"Don’t think of training as a chore. It’s a pleasure. Enjoy yourself."
It might sound simple, but it’s true. The Nike slogan ‘Just Do it’ works because it’s unfussy, simple and to the point. You get out what you put in. And Mo is right, it’s easy to forget in our busy lifestyles how lucky we are, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s a privilege to have the time, health and stability to be able to put your fitness as a priority. There are worse things you could be doing after all.
You might think it is 'easier' for athletes like Mo Farah, after all they have the team, the genes and the ability to achieve great things, but skill and talent only comes to fruition if it is nurtured, and that means hard graft.
When thinking about your own training, how does it make you feel? Are you proud of yourself? Do you believe you give it your all or have you just coasted along comfortably? Can you honestly say you have put in the workouts to get you where you want to be?
If you’re burnt out, ill or over-trained, that’s another story, but if you’re just a bit tired and not really ‘feeling like it’, that’s an excuse. When you find yourself overcomplicating things, making up excuses and finding any way out of a training session, stop and simplify. Put your trainers on, open the door and get on with it.
Remember, it’s hard to get where you want to be, it’s meant to hurt a bit and you’re meant to be pushing out of your comfort zone. It’s easy to train on the days when everything goes to plan, when you get a great night’s sleep, are full of energy and have carb loaded the night before. But what about the days when you’re run ragged, stressed from work and have a million other things to do? Those are the days it really counts, get your training in on those days and you’ll get the results you deserve.
Your brain prefers the path of less resistance, so it’s natural to prefer sleeping in over getting up early to train, it’s normal to want to go home and put your feet up instead of driving to the gym after work. Don’t give yourself a hard time about it, just recognise it, once you acknowledge these patterns of thought you can begin to overcome them.
So how to counteract these natural instincts? With tried and tested strategies that remove the decision process as much as possible:
- Make plans to workout with a friend – you are less likely to skip training if someone else is waiting for you
- Get your kit ready the night before – It takes an extremely strong willed person (superhero) to get up early, find all their gym kit, pack their bags, iron their work clothes AND make breakfast. Prep all this the night before so all you have to worry about is waking up.
- Use social media – Follow people who inspire you, whatever sport or exercise you’re into. Then when you’re in two minds about training, a quick scroll through Instagram or Twitter should get you motivated to get out there
- Set a goal – We harp on about this a lot, but having a goal, like a race, an event or a target PB will give you purpose, this can really carry you through when you’re wondering ‘why bother?
- Remember that feeling. Think back to how you felt the last time you powered through a workout you really didn’t want to do. The pride, the endorphins and the strength you felt, well guess what, you can feel like that again (lucky you!) and all you have to do is go and do it.
- Tell someone - Just telling someone you’re going training tonight puts it out there in the world and makes you more accountable. It’s a bit embarrassing when they ask you what you did the next day and your answer is "Umm, I went home and scoffed some cookies…"
- Feel grateful – It sounds a bit preachy but if you’re not fighting any major diseases, can afford to fuel your body with good food and can treat yourself to a new pair of trainers every once in a while, then you’re at a huge advantage to a lot of people in the world. If you have a healthy body and healthy mind, why not use it to its best ability?
The good news is, once you start using these tactics (and they do work), you’ll find your self-belief increases, it takes time, but soon you’ll recognise when you’re feeling a bit rubbish and how to trick yourself into training anyway!
Good habits are hardest to achieve at first, but once you’ve got them it becomes easier to make them stick, and one day you’ll look back, see exercise as a positive and enjoyable part of your lifestyle and wonder why it was so hard in the first place!