Every athlete deals with changes in motivation. However, when dealing with canceled events or personal setbacks, low motivation can threaten to derail your training. You can keep your training on track with these tips for finding motivation for tough workouts.

For more information on training and recovery check out Ask a Cycling Coach Ep. 182.



The Problem of Low Motivation

For endurance athletes, motivation plays a crucial role not only for events but in training as well. The motivation for training can ebb and flow throughout your training plan. Some days you are ready to go and crush a workout, and on others, you may not want to get on the bike. These fluctuations are normal, and every athlete deals with them.

However, consistently low motivation can eventually lead to a point where you begin avoiding tough workouts. Over time, this will stagnate productive fitness gains. The issue is not in skipping one or two workouts to recover physically and mentally. The problem comes when low motivation begins to derail your training.

Low motivation can come from many sources, both internally and externally. As you push your body to the limits, it takes a toll mentally as well as physically. Perhaps you are overtraining, injured, faced a setback, or your event was canceled. The good news is that you can still get your training back on track.

Strategies For Increasing Motivation

Increasing motivation can be a challenge. However, there are several solutions to the problem. Recovery, goal setting, and adjustments to your training schedule can work together to increase your motivation. That way, you can keep working on getting faster.

These are progressive steps. The first step is to take a look at your recovery. If low motivation persists, then move to the next step of redefining your goals, and then adjust your training.

Rest and Recovery

If you are experiencing consistent issues with motivation, the first step is to examine your rest and recovery. When you train hard, recovery is equally important. In addition to this, excellent recovery can be fantastic for motivation. Low motivation could mean that you need to take an extra rest day or even a recovery week. Or you might need to take a closer look at your sleep and nutrition.

Often overlooked in recovery, sleep and nutrition are essential. They are similar in that if you get enough quality and quantity, you feel better. Don’t get enough of either, and you’ll lack energy and motivation. It can also negatively affect your mood. One of the best ways to examine your sleep and nutrition is to record data using a journal or the annotations in your Calendar.

Redefine Your Goals

Once you have dialed in your recovery, the next step is to redefine your goals. Goal setting is closely linked to motivation and can help rekindle your passion. When setting goals, it’s helpful to set process and outcome goals. An outcome goal is a result you’d like to accomplish, while a process goal is all about how you are going to get there.

Dealing with a canceled event can be a tough one. You can find another one, or decide to try for it next year. It’s helpful to remember that the training you put in now will be useful further down the road. Another option is to set a goal that isn’t tied to a specific event. For example, you could set a goal to raise your FTP or set a new power PR. Either way, redefining your goals can give some clarity and purpose to your training.

Adjust Your Training

The third step to increasing your motivation is to make some changes to your workouts. There are three levels of adjustments you can make. The primary goal is to preserve the intensity of the intervals. That way, you ensure that you are making the most of your hard work.

Make Your Easy Days Easier

This first level is all about prioritizing your intense days for the sake of productivity. You can do this by reducing the volume of your endurance rides or by dropping them altogether. This will reduce some of your training stress and can help you feel fresher for your tougher workouts.

Make Your Hard Days Shorter

Instead of cutting back the intensity of the workout, try making it a bit shorter. You can replace your workout with a shorter version or cut out an interval. For example, if you have an hour-long Sweet Spot workout, you can dial it back to a 45-minute one instead.

Another way to make your hard days a bit shorter is to incorporate a backpedal. A quick 10-second backpedal can do wonders for helping you make it through a tough workout. This helps preserve the quality of the interval while providing some relief.

Reduce Your Overall Training Volume

As a final adjustment, you can reduce your overall training volume. With Plan Builder, you can easily change the volume of a specific block on the TrainerRoad calendar.

First, you need to find the start of your current training block, then click on the block annotation. In the pop-up window, you can change the volume. Just click “update” to apply the changes.

Make an adjustment in your training volume to help increase your motivation.

Increasing your motivation is a multi-step process. Additionally, it’s one that requires a bit of introspection, then making changes accordingly. Sometimes, you may just need a break from training. But if you want to keep training, these steps can help keep you on track.


For more cycling training knowledge, listen to Ask a Cycling Coach — the only podcast dedicated to making you a faster cyclist. New episodes are released weekly.



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Jesse Fortson

Jesse Fortson lost over 145 pounds with TrainerRoad's help. He uses his experience as a teacher and race mechanic to get faster for crits, gravel, and marathon XCO races.