Motivation and how to maintain it

by Ben Burch

It’s cold and dark, you are tired and the thought of getting out of bed is really not that appealing, but every time without fail you will be pleased if you do. I promise.

Here’s an article on some of the tricks that I use to help me continue to train through the winter months, I am no different to the next person, I have built up a toolkit over the years to reduce the chance of failing.

“I really regret that run”

Said no one. Ever.

Firstly make it your identity not a goal, if you can master this and own it you are 90% of the way there. You may have a few identities or different way of expressing yourself do different groups. But take a moment to think about the power of identity over goals.

Bob has a Goal: to get fit and lose weight
Anna has an Identity: I am a runner

Bob is doing pretty well, he’s going to the gym and getting into a routine, it was a struggle to start but he’s going regularly now. He weighs himself and has lost a couple of kg’s and seems to be finding it easier on the treadmill. Progress towards the goal - he’s pleased. Christmas is looming and he has to go away for work, misses a few sessions and then there’s the office party… few days of over indulgence. Christmas hits and family commitments pull him away from the gym. His routine is broken and without realising he’s not been to the gym for a fortnight. Goes again, he’s a determined chap, weighs himself.. gained a kg and starts to question is he making progress? Misses a session or two and it starts to unravel, he finds himself back into his old non-gym routine… January comes and goes - he’s not even noticed that he’s not been to the gym. The next reminder that he should go to the gym is when the renewal comes up. Goal.. failed.

Anna is a runner, well she isn’t, she’s only been running for a week, but she tells people she’s a runner. “Fake it until you make it” and it seems to be working, she’s not seen any noticeable difference but she’s running on a regular basis. Christmas comes and she has to go away for work, she’s a runner now, so she packs her kit - that’s what a runner does, right? Things don’t quite go to plan, work gets in the way but she manages a few short runs - after all she is a runner. Back at home, it’s the work Christmas party, people ask her how the running is - she pops that extra drink down and thinks “you know what, I’m going to run tomorrow morning”. She’s a runner now, she even runs the day after the Christmas party. January arrives, she enters that half marathon she’s been thinking of, not as a stick to force her to run… it’s what runners do.

OK, so they are slightly simplified and shortened versions. But how many people have tried a diet or to go to the gym or get fit or do something and it fail or fade away, before you know you it the idea is a distant memory, let alone the action. This is the point about identity - it is lasting.

Identity can work against you too, I will let you work out if you have labelled yourself in a way that is holding you back. I can’t do that because I am “label”… change the label. NOW.


You need a reason to train - being told to do something by someone else will only get you so far, you need something really powerful that provides that motivation. It doesn’t necessarily have to be internal - more on this later.

I’m typically referring to endurance sports when I talk about mindset and training, it’s the area of sports that I love and find the psychology particularly interesting. Perhaps this can be applied elsewhere, but I don’t have the experience to tell you if it works, although I’d propose that much of it would.

I’m not going to bang on about morning routines, there’s plenty out there to read up on and see if it’s a plan that works for you then great.... but there is one point that I will make. Snooze. Never press that f**ing button, it’s simply the worst thing you can do - the first decision you make in the day is putting something off, delaying the inevitable. So stop it right now - be done with the snooze button, tiny step but one of you taking complete control. (personal admission, my morning routine has gone to pot since Allegra was born, so I’m working out ways to build certain elements back in)


Just get your kit on and get out of the door, quit the faffing about. I think of it as a series of steps from waking to getting out on the road, each step moves me closer and makes it harder to go back. The most important thing is to act quickly and not think too much! So have your kit ready the night before, the minute you wake.. get out of bed and get your kit on - already you are closer to the door than being a sloth.


Understand it, really get to grips with the “why”. Whatever the reason you have to commit to the training. Personally I don’t believe in will power alone. Those of you that know me will be thinking “what, Ben’s so focussed he must have so much will power?”. I just don’t trust will power, it is simply not enough, when the going gets really tough – I want something stronger than that, I want something that you can’t convince yourself to “take a break” or “go on, just have a day off today, you deserve it”.


Set up a really strong set of reasons as to why you can’t quit on your training – not just one, a whole string of them. Every reason that you can build is another prop that will hold you up when you need it. Tell your friends, family, co-workers – tell them what you are doing, ask for their support if needed but the bottom line is you need to make it public – don’t wait, get out there. Why? Because your mind might let you convince yourself to let yourself down and come up with some bullshit internal excuse – but it will be much harder to go public with that. We've all been there, remove the option for failure. Create accountability. With identity comes inbuilt accountability.


I’ll admit I’m not following a very structured plan at the moment, but I do aim to train 6 days a week, now sometimes children or work get in the way of that. But at the simplest level - I know that each day I am going to be training, normally there is a day in the week that is looking predictably hard to train and that will be my day off. My days as a professional athlete are long gone and I have to accept there are other draws on my time, so my training plan has to be more flexible than the ideal, but that’s better than nothing.


Tell people what you are doing and where you are going, make a star chart, put it on the fridge, find an App… doesn’t matter what. But find some way of demonstrating to yourself and those who you are accountable to - that you are making progress. There is something very powerful about momentum and the impact on our little human minds, so build it, maintain it and respect it.


No you don’t need a new pair of trainers (yes, you want them), no you don’t have to wait for the weather to improve (although it may be easier). Take a step today and get on with it, the more you do to move forwards the more history you have in the past. The greatest endurance athletes are the ones that have trained for the longest most consistent periods of time - the sooner you start the better.


If there is one message you take, please make sure that the story you tell yourself and everyone else is aligned with your identity. This is your identity, not something imposed by others or society.

Give yourself permission - who says you can’t? Give me a reason why you can’t and I’ll show you a compelling reason why you can.

So now you need to get up… find a mirror and repeat as many times as you need until it sinks in:

I can and I will. Watch me.

And yes.. you can go training on Christmas day - why? Because that’s what you do, that’s what makes you different to yesterday’s you and why a few months from now you will look back and say “what was all the fuss about”…


Get out there, enjoy it and whatever you are - own it.


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