I felt great after racing in Hawaii in October last year. It might have been the 2 weeks of island hoping afterwards with my wife, the Kona beers or the long lazy sleep-ins. Whatever it was, a month later I thought I was ready to take on the infamous 'Hell of the West' (2km/80km/20km) triathlon, with 12 weeks to get the engine ready.
Fast forward 5 weeks and it was turning into a Jekyll and Hyde story: I had hurt my calf and was out of running for 3 weeks... that once-pleasurable early morning ride that had me bounding-out-of-bed before the alarm was now a dread that had me burying my head further into the pillow... I was in the rut of ticking the boxes rather than enjoying the sessions. "What am I doing? This triathlon thing bites the big one!"
In hindsight it was the equivalent of feeding my Mogwai after midnight, exposing it to bright light and getting it wet (sorry for the 80s pop culture reference): essentially, like Billy I had not treated my mojo responsibily and in turn it had hatched into a spikey gremlin. Not totally unfamiliar with this loss of motivation (a few years ago I missed the 'off-season' and wondered why I had my grumpy pants on regularly) , I was able to call upon a few ideas that have helped me in the past. Here are 5 of my favourites, tried and tested in the Scott Waters' Laboratory of Life:
1. Accept that the buzz has gone
The first step, like anyone with an addiction, is to acknowledge that there is a problem. You're human. It's normal to get bored with routine. While pushing through can sometimes bring the good feelings back, it also increases your chances of poor form, injuries, lack of focus, and just makes life feel drab and colourless.
2. Change it up
It might be time to intentionally do something different. Try a different running route, find some new trails to explore, spend time with others in a running or triathlon squad, or enter a shorter event if you normally go longer. Anything to shake the rut.
They say variety is the spice of life; I can say first hand it is the savior of mojo. I raced a cycling Criterium for the first time a few weeks ago and was busting with nervous excitement. My heart-rate at 95 sitting still at the start line! It reminded me of what I thrive on - fun, competition and pushing the physical boundaries with a smile planted firmly on my grill.
Research has found that physical activity combined with novelty results in HUGE amounts of happy. So go embrace your own gorilla.
3. Ditch the technology
As what seems to be a common denominator of triathletes, I like to overdose on technology. Garmin this, Strava that, average heart-rate/pace/cadence, how high I've climbed, how long I've run for. For a few weeks I just stopped looking and counting. You know what? I had some of the best trail runs that I can remember, lost in a connection with nature rather than a connection to my computer.
4. Flip the priority
Consider where you might find the best avocado on toast or coffee after the session, rather than worry about having the best run or ride. Take the time to hang out with friends, walk your dog or call your mum. Draw, dance, belt out karaoke and embrace that inner child that needs to do something fun and carefree.
To do that you might need to let go of that voice in your head saying "If I stop/slow down/miss these sessions then I will lose all of my fitness". That voice is a liar (over a short enough time anyway). Trust me, I just ran a 5k PB off the bike after missing a whole month of running. It might end up being the best thing you do.
5. Refocus and reconnect
Take the time to set some new goals that are clear, specific and timeframed. It could be an upcoming race, a benchmark test or a colouring-in competition. Just give yourself something to focus on. Two things to remember:
- Try to have a 1 month, 3 month and 12 month goal.
- Match your goal to what is important to you as a person.
So there you have it. Five ideas to rekindle that spark of excitement that makes you so nervous you can't decide if you want to go to the toilet or jump for joy. When I found my mojo on the Crit track I had an overwhelming urge to do both.