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I get asked this question a lot. I have to be honest, I don’t really know how to answer it. For me, motivation isn’t as simple as “oh I have that race to train for”, or “I am inspired by that person”. Yes, of course, these things factor in, but it’s far more complicated than that.

I can say for sure that I’m not exclusively motivated by results. Of course I would like to get better/faster; don’t we all? But it isn’t about that. It’s not about any one thing really. 

One thing I do know is that you HAVE to enjoy yourself. Otherwise the motivation to train really does start to swirl down the proverbial plug hole and you’re on a fast-plummeting descent into nothingness. 

Nothingness.

We’ve all been there. That moment when there is nothing, not one iota of motivation to get up and train. A mental and physical void, it’s like some sort of energy vacuum. We often ask “how can I find my motivation again?” but the truth is, you can’t. It’s not a game of lost and found, and sure, you can go and watch those excellent Ironman marketing videos which effectively proffer the clichéd goosebumps and scalp-tingling sensations for a transitory moment, but suffice to say, it has an expiry date.

Motivation, for me, is something deep, inherent, inside of yourself; and any amount of YouTube-ing, inspirational speeches and social media encouragement will not get you what you’re looking for. This is not to say it won’t help. Yes it does, but what we need is more deep-rooted. It can’t come from an external source, not if it is for motivational longevity, anyway. 

It is hard. God damn it is hard. People often say to me that they don’t know how I have the motivation to do what I do. I’m sure many of us get flippant comments like these from lazy office co-workers and the like. But I have a revelation for you. I’m NOT ALWAYS MOTIVATED. 

Yes, most of the time, I am extremely motivated, but in truth, it is unsustainable to be 100% motivated all the time, and I’m going to put it out there – I think it’s impossible. Even elite athletes and world champions will have days where they struggle, where they don’t feel like training. Usain Bolt famously (and boldly) said that on days when he doesn’t feel like training he just doesn’t turn up at the track. (That just kind of makes him even more of a legend actually). But it goes to show, we all get days like that. 

It can be circumstantial, and I won’t deny that a freezing cold, pitch black winter’s morning is a pretty tough environment to muster up your motivation – it’s half the reason I decided to spend the winter months in Lanzarote. It’s definitely easier to get up and train in the sun, but there will always be other factors which creep in and try to stifle your motivation. The hills, the wind, the mental and physical fatigue of being in the pool six days a week… etc.

Sometimes it can surprise you. When you're not feeling it, and then you push through the other side, give yourself a talking to (and a healthy dose of MTFU) and boom, there it is, an amazing training session. "Woah, I very nearly skipped that one". Yep, we've all been there too. How do you know the difference between genuinely not feeling up to training and your mind just playing tricks on you? Stealthy little devil... Truth is, you just have to learn about yourself. And we won't always necessarily get it right, but this is what life is all about, right?

We need the dark days of the motivational abyss to then come out the other side and realise why we do what we do, and what’s more, why we love it. 
People often feel despondent when they’re not motivated, struggling to come to terms with it; they desire that gravitational pull towards goal-setting, achievement, relentless training, and yet mentally, it’s not anywhere to be found. 

I’ve learned, over the years, that this isn’t a problem. I accept that I may not feel as motivated as I should, and that this is perfectly normal. Because underneath this masked creature is my motivation, glowing, as it always does.

The fire will never burn out.