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I wrote a post after my end of season break about the importance of listening to your body and letting that 'need to train' come naturally. But I'm revisiting this subject as it's not only relevant, but also seasonally applicable.

What I'm trying to say here is that it's February, the weather is quite frankly something reminiscent of a Victorian torture chamber, the renewed vigour for world dominance stemming from New Year's resolutions has faded into a reality check that it's probably never going to happen, and we're in that rather frustrating 'void' - the limbo period between the Winter off-season and race season.

Motivation, therefore, can fluctuate, to say the least. I see plenty of this on my Twitter timeline, and I'm no different. I have serious off days. It's one of those calculated situations, however, where you need to be really switched on to your body. Yeah, try telling that to a triathlete. *cough, cough* (aka - 'those who do not listen to their body'). 

I'm pretty damn motivated. I know we all think we are to some extent, otherwise we wouldn't do what we do. But recently I'm lacking motivation. I'll have days where I smash out 5 hours of training with a click of a finger, and then days where I don't want to train at all. This isn't over-training, it's just the fluctuating nature of motivation. Sometimes it likes to be there, in your face, encouraging you like a dangling carrot. But sometimes it prefers to hibernate, refusing to acknowledge its own existence.

I think it's fair to say we all struggle from motivational peaks and voids. But there is one key message here which we hopefully are all learning as we continue to plough on this journey of self-discovery - listening to your body. It's one thing feeling like you're not really up for it, and another thing feeling worn down by it. Because it can get to you like that; it's sneaky. You cruise along feeling bloody brilliant, knocking out day after day of productive training sessions, those ones where you feel you're awesome and invincible, and then BOOM. Suddenly, out of nowhere, the motivation has done a runner. You're flat, lethargic, and lacking inspiration. 

It's tough to do, and I think it's a never-ending learning process. But we have to distinguish those days where we feel like we can't be bothered to train between those where our bodies are telling us to rest. Some days you feel so far removed from being motivated you kind of wish you were ill so you'd have a good excuse not to train. Or is that just me!? Then you power through and MTFU - resulting in a good session. "I'm really glad I did that after all". Yeah, we've all been there.

But sometimes it really is a case of listening to your body as it shouts "help, I need rest!". I know when I need rest now, but it still tries to confuse me at times, that demon popping up in different guises telling me why I shouldn't train today. BACK OFF MR. I've got this in hand. I know because I don't tend to feel tired anymore (when I say tired, I mean training exhaustion. When you're truly knackered). Obviously I get the superficial tiredness, but not that total exhaustion where you're crying out for a rest day. 

On the day I flew back from Spain in early January I was going to train. I got up super early to do a few sessions before my flight, but honestly couldn't think of anything worse. I didn't feel tired, I just felt completely opposed to training. Like it was the last thing in the world I wanted to do. I knew I needed a rest day, so even though it was 6am and I was standing fully prepped in running kit, I sacked it off.

My body doesn't recognise tiredness as a legitimate excuse for a rest day anymore. This is because I am so used to blocking it out, every time it appears, I push it away and power through. Because I have to. And pretty much 100% of the time, it works. Tiredness is just a state of mind, right? So now I know, when I feel completely devoid of any inclination to train, and I actively despise the thought of it - hello overtraining. Yep, time for a rest day. One rest day later, and I'm consumed with enthusiasm. That's the way it rolls.

The there are those days where you just feel a bit like you can't be arsed. Yeah, they're more common, and they come in stages. You'll have a really good patch for a while then go through a phase of 'can't-be-bothered-ness'. I'm having one of those now and it definitely isn't my body telling me to rest, it's my rudimental laziness shining through (yeah I'm actually a lazy person just pretending to be energetic ;-) ) These are those periods when you can MTFU and get that ass out your door. The weather is not helping situation but we all know that it makes us harder, stronger, better. 

The thing is, when you are spending SO MUCH of your life motivated, every single day, multiple times a day, getting out there and training, it is hard work. Mentally, it is tough. You're investing serious energy, commitment, dedication, drive, time, and passion on your goals. You cannot possibly expect to be motivated every single day of your life. Some days, just chill out. Accept it's not going to happen. If you force through it, you won't enjoy it, and if you're not enjoying it, what's the point? It will also probably end up being an unproductive training session - 'junk miles'. 

One thing I have learnt, which I mentioned in my end of season recovery post, is that the motivation has to come naturally. If I accept I need a rest day, my motivation comes back with a vengeance. If I feel a bit like slacking off but then manage to get myself in gear, I always enjoy it. But forcing yourself, day after day, will only end badly. You will become bitter about training. It's like Pavlov's dogs - you'll associate training with negative thoughts. 

At this level, what we are doing takes some serious strength of mind - we just need to channel that motivation and fine tune that 'listening to your body' skill. It is imperative to anyone who wants to achieve their goals. When we wake up and it's dark, cold and raining outside and you are having a mental riot in your head about whether to stay in the warm, cosy comfort of your bed, we have a choice. Make it the right one. Stay focused on your end-goal and most importantly, don't forget why you're doing this - for enjoyment.