- Fitness Tips -

5 Ways to Stoke the Training Fire

How to use your motivation toolbox to keep your eyes on the prize.


Now that I’m just a couple months out from the big day, I’m truly in the thick of IRONMAN preparations. Time spent training is at an all-time high and I’m constantly working to juggle other responsibilities. On top of that, I have found a serious need for an extra few hours of sleep each night, which further eats up my remaining waking hours.

It’s at this point many triathletes struggle to maintain motivation. The training/work/life balance feels a little out of whack and I have times where I yearn for simpler days. To combat my waning motivation in these moments, I’ve developed a number of strategies to keep that fire for training burning.

I’ve discovered that it depends on my mood when it comes to what gets my butt out the door to train on any given day. That’s why it has become particularly important for me to have a number of tools in my motivation toolbox to help keep my eyes on the prize.

For further insight on the topic of motivation, I chatted with Olympian Sarah Haskins. She offered thoughts on some top strategies to stay pumped for training, giving a window into how the pros handle these things.

Keep a Training Log

“Hard blocks of training can be mentally and physically tougher than races in many ways and using a training log can be a huge help,” says Haskins.

I personally have been using pen and paper in conjunction with a few different apps to track training. I’ve found that it not only gives me a sense of satisfaction when I look back at all the training I’ve completed, but it also helps me know when to push harder and when to back off.

“A log can help clue me in on when I need to take a recovery day and when I can keep pushing through a tough block,” adds Haskins. “When I get mentally and physically fatigued, I can look back at my training log and see everything I have accomplished. This gives me the motivation to push through those last few days in the hard training block.”

Take Recovery Days

Rest and recovery days have played an important role in keeping me motivated. They feel like something I’ve earned through hard training and commitment to my routine.

Haskins points out the physiological importance of these days as well. “Even during hard training blocks, you need those easy days to help your body adapt and absorb the training so that you can get stronger and be ready for another hard day.”

What’s more, your mind is also rejuvenated after a rest or recovery day. Hammering through training day after day without ever letting off the gas is a recipe for burnout. I’ve definitely come to embrace the idea that rest is part of the training, not the absence of it.

Mix Things Up

They say variety is the spice of life and that certainly applies to training. When I sense my body and mind are getting stagnant, I try a new workout or mix up my routes. Injecting a bit of variation has gone a long way in keeping me excited to get out and tackle training day after day.

“If you always swim solo, try swimming with a group, or find a new trail or bike route,” advises Haskins. “This will help keep training fresh and give you that extra little boost you need.”

Visualize Race Day

For me, keeping my ultimate goal in mind each day has been a great way to combat slacking. I think about how it will look, sound, and feel when I’m at the start of the swim or 100 miles into the bike course or transitioning to the run. This has helped keep the race real to me, rather than some far-off aspirations.

Haskins says that she has found visualization to be important to her own performances. “I like to visualize bike sections or transition,” she explains. “During hard training sessions, visualizing yourself accomplishing your goals on race day can help you push through.”

Recruit Support

“Being around people who are positive and have similar goals can be a huge help toward achieving your personal goals and training with people can really help you, especially during long training blocks,” says Haskins.

Whether I’m training with a friend who is also doing IRONMAN Wisconsin, or with my husband who often joins me for long rides, having people who know what I’m gunning for helps keep me motivated and accountable.

Haskins adds: “It’s also OK to associate with people who have different interests so that you can have a mental break from triathlon as well!”

Indeed, training, talking, and thinking “swim/bike/run” 24/7 will eventually get old. In the same way your body needs a rest, so does your mind. Doing activities that aren’t triathlon related is a healthy way to strike a balance in your everyday life.

Originally written for IRONMAN by Mackenzie Lobby Havey. Posted here with permission by IRONMAN.

Mackenzie Lobby Havey is a freelance journalist, coach, and endurance junkie based in Minneapolis, Minn. When she's not at her desk, she's out running, riding, and skiing the local trails and lakes, and training for her 15th marathon and first IRONMAN race. IRONMAN is more than a family of events, it's a lifestyle. Since the very first race, held on the Big Island of Hawaii in 1978, the series has growth into a movement spanning the globe. For inspirational stories, training articles, and race-day tips, visit IRONMAN.com.

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