By Dr. Kim Cusimano, AthletiCamps
When looking at a new season, I often tell athletes that they need to recommit themselves to the sport. Recommitting means understanding your motivation for continuing to participate.
Motivation is defined as the ability to initiate and commit to training and competition. It becomes the foundation upon which physical training and mental competitiveness build. Motivation is also the energy that drives us to persevere. There are several components that comprise motivation. We will focus on a couple: commitment and goal setting.
The ultimate question you are looking to answer with commitment is: “How much do you really want this?” You need to have a solid understanding of your commitment level because it will dictate the behaviors that you engage in during the season. For example: a highly committed cyclist will be more likely to endure the demands of training and push through tough times than a cyclist who has a moderate level. Neither level is good or bad, but knowing how much you can commit will help you to deal with obstacles that present themselves. Answering the following questions will create awareness of your level of commitment.
A. What is your reason for doing this? (Want to look beyond the answer of: “I do this every year.” If it is to reach a certain goal, the next question is – “What makes this goal so important to you?”)
B. What do you expect to gain?
C. What do you expect to sacrifice? What will your training take away from? Social life, relationships, work, etc.
D. Identify any obstacles to obtaining your endurance goals (work, relationships etc.)
E. What is the passion for your pursuit? (internal value/meaning) What do love about the sport? (May have to ask yourself what you loved about the sport when first competing to get the answer)
The importance of understanding commitment is to make a conscious decision regarding participation. It gives you a greater capacity to endure the demands and identifies the benefit of continuing. You may also use the reasons behind commitment as a motivating force.
Goal setting is essential to good training and competing. It helps to create a positive vision of where you want to go and gives your action direction. Goal setting also helps you to focus on things within your control that help performance. Things like: type of training that you do, quantity, quality, length etc. are all components of sport that are within your control.
Goals should be:
Develop both long term goals (LTG) and short term goals (STG). LTG’s are seasonal and beyond. STG’s are monthly, weekly and daily training or competition goals.
Put your goals in writing. You want to make goals concrete and writing them down helps to do that. You can carry them with you or put them in places where you can see them (refrigerator, walls, mirrors, day planner, etc.) and use them as a driving force. Remember to review accomplishments and setbacks.
Build flexibility into your goals. This means that you will no always accomplish your goals the first time. The trick is to be able to learn from these setbacks and not use them to beat yourself up. Elite cyclists will analyze the situation, figure out what went wrong and make a plan to address the mistakes.
Dr. Cusimano is the founder of OptimalMind and is dedicated to the psychology of performance enhancement and quality mental skills training. For the past 9 years, she has consulted with individuals and teams at the collegiate, national and professional levels, assisting athletes in successfully integrating a mind-body philosophy for optimizing performance potential. She has consulted with the Saturn organization and the U.S. Army on stress management and health. Dr. Cusimano’s OptimalMind programs were developed from her own experience as a competitive athlete, a mind-coach, and a researcher. You can reach her at www.athleticamps.com.