When we watch an incredible slap shot during an NHL game or see an MLB player propel himself into the outfield wall to prevent a home run, we think we can do that. Athletic greatness motivates us for brief moments. The same is true of big games, because we hype them up knowing when they're scheduled.
Yet one of the biggest challenges for athletes is keeping on track and staying ambitious off the field. Here's what you have to remember: the players you see on television making those inspiring plays put in countless hours of training to prepare for their extraordinary feats. (See the STACK Guide to Motivation.)
When things become routine, we sometimes lose focus. That's why goal setting is beneficial for any athlete. It's easy to get bored doing the same thing every day. So what strategies can you use to make sure you stick with your training program and stay motivated?
Your first step is to clearly outline your goals. Concentrating on what you are trying to achieve will help you stay focused and motivated. Try using the SMART strategy for goal setting: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely.
Specific. Narrow it down to what, when and how. Set up small milestones along the way and celebrate when you reach them. Gather some teammates and sign up for Pilates classes or a 5K run. Feel great about yourself by completing something you have never done before.
Measurable. How will you measure improvement and gauge success? Examples include amount of time spent exercising, percentage of body fat lost, weight lifted during workouts or number of academic assignments completed on time.
Achievable. This is extremely important, because if your goals aren't realistic, it will be easy to get discouraged and quit. Before you run a marathon, run a few 10K races, or hop on the treadmill and compete with a friend to run intervals or sprints. Setting goals you can reach builds confidence and motivates you to continue making progress.
Relevant. Your goal should be personally meaningful and reflect something you're passionate about. Are you a wide receiver who needs to work on your speed? A hockey player who must increase your core strength? Break down your strengths and weaknesses so you can build on the former and cure the latter.
Timely. Success doesn't happen overnight. It takes time and effort. Understanding this, break your major goals into manageable sub-goals with reasonably short time frames for accomplishing each.
After you've set your goals, keep them exciting to avoid getting in a rut. Every few weeks, freshen up your exercise routine, try a new activity or a new off-season sport, vary your intensity level or change the order and length of your workouts.
Although it never helps to focus on the negative, think about possible obstacles. Knowing what might stand in your way will help you meet challenges that could prevent your success. Think about it. With everything we do in life, something always seems to block us. So in order to meet our goals, we must recognize potential obstacles and prepare to overcome them.
Take a few minutes to think about what is getting in your way as an athlete. Is it an eating habit, a naysaying friend, insufficient sleep? Or is it lack of effort off the field? Write down three potential obstacles that prevented you from achieving your goals in the past. Then commit to changing three behaviors so you can avoid them in the future.
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