Blisters 3 min read

How to maintain motivation when training

How to maintain motivation when training How to maintain motivation when training How to maintain motivation when training

Keen to get fit but struggling to maintain motivation? You’re not alone.

Whether you’re trying to beat your 5K personal best or in training for a marathon or big hike, there are always highs and lows when training.

Wendy Searle knows this better than most. Later this year, she heads to Antarctica with the aim of becoming the fastest woman to ski solo and unsupported to the South Pole. It’s a mammoth undertaking – a distance of 715 nautical miles – and one that requires months and months of intense physical preparation.

Having come to polar exploration late in life, Wendy also knows what it’s like to start at the bottom of a mountain, both actual and metaphorical, before working her way up.

These are her six top tips for staying motivated when training.

1) Set long-term goals

I work much better, regardless of whether there’s a massive expedition on the horizon or a half marathon, when I have a defined end goal in mind. Ultimately, when you’re training you have to have an answer to the question “why am I doing this?” because when negative thoughts pop up – maybe you’re struggling on a run or don’t want to get out of bed – it helps with focus. I’d say you can also build a structure around long-term goals that helps you develop habits. Once you develop a habit, you build momentum and can really start pushing towards a goal.

2) Keep things varied and don’t shy away from treats

Good for you if you can do the same thing on repeat and maintain motivation, but in my experience, boredom is your enemy and it’s important to change things up, even if it’s just something small. Maybe it’s the route you run or cycle, the types of classes you take in the gym or the playlist you listen to. I can tell you, I’m sick and tired of tyre-hauling at this point! On a separate note, I also find it beneficial to give myself small rewards. Not so much treats, as in something I can eat, but things I can look forward to. I dangle as a carrot, things I want to do. When I’ve hit targets in the past, I’ve allowed myself to upgrade my kit or gear – a bit of retail therapy! In Antarctica, I might challenge myself to cover an extra mile in exchange for allowing myself to check messages from home when I’m in the tent. You almost get to a point where you’re gamifying your existence.

3) Join forces with a friend

So much of my training is done solo, which probably makes sense if you’re planning to spend five weeks on your own in the middle of nowhere. That said, I fully recognise the benefits of buddying up when it comes to exercise. For a lot of people having someone to lean on, someone you don’t want to let down by not turning up, can be an added impetus when it comes to getting to the gym or going for a jog. I love going for a bike ride with my partner or heading out for a hike with the family.

4) Be flexible

When I started training for my first Antarctic expedition, I was very rigid in my training. I always tried to do what I’d say I do at the time I said I’d do it. As I’ve grown in experience, I’ve become more flexible and kinder to myself. I’ve also come to realise that real life always get in the way, whether it’s train delays, work meetings or responsibilities with the kids. So long as you have a long-term goal in place, you can manouevre around the odd missed training session without too much guilt. These days, I have an idea of what I want to get done in the week and then I try to fit things in whenever there are gaps. If you miss a session you can’t start doubling up because you risk injury. If you beat yourself up consistently, you can carry that negativity with you. When I’m in Antarctica, the last thing I want is to be thinking to myself I could have done more training because that can eat away at you. Yes, skiing for 12 hours a day is a physical endeavour that I have to prepare for but it’s also a huge mental challenge that requires positivity.

5) Keep track of progress

I’m very lucky to have a coach who keeps an eye on my progress using the TrainingPeaks app which gives an overview of how I’m doing across a broad range of metrics. Clearly, my undertaking is at the extreme end of the scale, so not everyone needs such detailed analysis. I know friends and family who use Strava, Runkeeper, Couch to 5K and alike. What apps don’t tell you is that not every training session or run needs to end with you in a hot, sweaty mess. My coach has taught me that it’s not about that. It’s more about build-up and avoiding injury and growing in strength over time. There are obviously some sessions that are intense, but not every session. I’m able to build up a picture in terms of hours and distance and, importantly, how I felt afterwards. That last bit is vital because if you’re regularly struggling it could be a sign that there’s a risk of injury, which can happen if you train when you’re exhausted.

6) Take inspiration

In the polar world, there are so many incredible individuals doing kick-ass things, that you’re constantly inspired. At the same time, when it comes to personal heroes, I always come back to my mum. She’s this tiny little 75-year-old woman who is still riding her bike every day. She can get up a mountain at least as quickly as I can, she’s done tonnes of hill and mountain walking in the past and, who knows, maybe in a different era and with a bit of money behind her, she might have set records of her own. She’s still out there doing it and I think that’s incredible.


To learn more about Compeed’s partnership with Wendy Searle and her incredible expedition, click here.