When the going gets tough and you want to quit…

We’ve all been there before; training seems to be going to well. You’re enjoying the early morning swim, you feel strong during your bike rides, and your pride and ego seem to be on the same page motivating you through tough training sessions and races. Then without warning, Wham! Your motivation seems to have gone out the window, your legs don’t feel strong enough to keep up the pace to stay with the group, the discomfort of training seems stronger than usual and all you can think is, “Dear Brain, what just happened?”

By now you’ve probably learned that when it comes to athletics, your brain can be your best friend and your worst enemy. When you need your best friend and your enemy sneaks up on you, how do you find the motivation to keep going and turn that part of your brain off? Most of the time it’s much easier said than done. I’m sure you’ve heard most of these catchy phrases: “Mind over matter”, “fake it till you make it” “fear is the mind killer”, we could add hundreds of others here, but they aren’t always helpful. Here are a few more tools for your mental toughness bag to help you keep going when the going gets tough.

Real vs. Imagined… Why did you quit?

There are plenty of reasons your brain is telling you to quit, the trick is deciding if those reasons are real or imaginary. Ask yourself, “is quitting (or slowing down) the best option?” There are plenty of reasons that surrendering is ok. If your physical or emotional wellness is in jeopardy, chances are your making the right decision to quit. In the exercise below you will be asked to rate on a scale of 0-5 is your reason for quitting real or imagined? Use this exercise to identify patters for the reasons you quit. This can be helpful for both you and your coach to identify motivation mutineers, and confidence crushers.

Analyzing your Surrender

The first step in getting your enemy brain to go away, you’ll need to assess why you’re quitting. For this exercise all you need is a pen and paper and to honestly answer the following 4 questions:

  1. What happened when you quit? Try to think of at least 3 examples (can be in your sport, in your career, in a relationship) when you gave up, or eased up on a task prematurely. Remember to be honest. You aren’t being judged on this exercise, no one will see this paper but you. If you are having a hard time remembering specific examples, keep this sheet handy for the next time you do surrender during a task.
  2. Rate your discomfort that lead to the surrender: Now think about the discomfort your body and mind were feeling when you decided to surrender. Using a scale of 0-5 rate first your physical discomfort (heart rate, cramps, soreness) then rate your mental discomfort (lack of motivation, boredom, lack of focus or mind wondering).
  3. What’s your excuse? OK Pinocchio, what are you going to tell people when they ask you why you’ve quit? Again, no judgment, we’ve all been there, simply something to think about (you know your coach is going to ask so you might as well have an answer ready).
  4. The nitty-gritty: Get out of puppet mode, why did you quit? List your reasons one-by-one. This is where you come clean with yourself about the real reasons you quit. Once your list is complete, rate on a scale of 0-5 if the reasons are real or imaginary 0 being imaginary 5 being real.