by Hunter Allen, President and CEO of Peaks Coaching Group
After reading Motivation is Overrated by Brad Stulberg, I was inspired.
It spoke to me and to my memories of all of the hours of hard training I have put in over the past 40 years. I started racing bicycles when I was 11, and I begged my Mom and Dad to take me to a BMX race. Since then, I have ridden and raced all over the world and spent thousands and thousands of hours sweating on a bicycle.
I have not been singularly focused though. When I retired from pro racing, I took up rock climbing, ice climbing, and then yoga and tai chi (at first to help my rock climbing, later as a means of inner exploration).
Again, thousands of hours of fun, frustration, sweat, tears and amazing adventures. Since then, I have been fortunate to do some car racing the past 12 years, and let me tell you, winning a car race is much, much harder than ever winning a bicycle race! And during these 40 years, cycling has been there for me. It’s been the underlying practice that I have committed to each week.
What inspired me about Stulberg’s article is the simple premise that I have been living and using for all those 40 years. That is: “You do not need an event to be motivated.”
I practiced BMX freestyle tricks in my parents parking lot for hours, and hours and there were never any competitions, There was only the zeal to improve and learn the tricks.
I did pull ups for hours and built a climbing wall in my backyard–and in 8 years of serious rock climbing–I only competed in a single indoor climbing competition (I won 😉).
Committing to a determined practice was something that I just did. I enjoyed pedaling, I enjoyed climbing, I enjoyed breathing and moving, I enjoyed focusing–and I committed.
Some days are better than others, and your motivation will be stronger some days than other days, that’s normal, but one thing you need to do is to “commit to a determined practice.”
Just do it, as the Nike slogan says. Don’t think too much. Ride your bike every day, every week, every month, whether you want to or not. Do your intervals, climb the mountains, sweat, drink and become the human water filter. You don’t need an event to define your training, to define your improvements, to give you reason to train or keep you focused.
While reading Stulberg’s article, it made me think of all of the martial arts students around the world that practice their katas each day, practice their moves, throws, blocks and special styles. They have committed to a determined practice. They are the water carriers.
They carry the water every day whether it’s raining or sunny, or they are hungry or cold. They get it done. They commit to a determined practice and while there are martial art competitions, most never go to one. They practice for the sake of learning or improving and for life.
What about cycling? What about you? Do you really need an “event” to stay motivated to train hard?
To push yourself during the next interval. No, you don’t. You do need a goal though and that can be as simple as trying to improve your time on your local hill/climb/flat road.
Your goal can be a simple as wanting to finish strong in the next ride with your friends, or maybe it’s just finishing a 60 mile ride with energy to spare. Goals are important and of course some of your goals can be events, but don’t allow events to be your only goals and determine your focus. Find other sources of motivation and one of those should be: Commit to a determined practice. Get out there and pedal. Go. Don’t think. Just go.
One of my favorite T-shirts, I picked up a couple of years ago at the Philmont Boy Scout Ranch in New Mexico where both my sons spent 10 days hiking through the ranch. We hiked over 90 miles in those 10 days through amazing terrain during the middle of summer.
The shirt summed up a philosophy that I have come to live and appreciate in all areas of my life. It’s simple, and it’s message is: “The Pursuit is Happiness.”
There is no destination, there is no event, there is only the pleasure and pain of the pursuit. This is where the daily intervals, feeling in the legs and the profuse sweat only become components of the pursuit.
What components are in your pursuit? What do you look back on now after having accomplished a goal and feel, see, and understand the most satisfying parts were?
Explore those memories and associated feelings the next time you commit.
Hunter Allen is a is a USA Cycling Level 1 coach and former professional cyclist. He is the coauthor of “Training and Racing with a Power Meter” and “Cutting-Edge Cycling,” co-developer of TrainingPeaks’ WKO software, and CEO and founder of Peaks Coaching Group. He and his coaches create custom training plans for all levels of athletes.