Motivation – Understanding your why

Why you do something is more important than what you are doing. By being truly honest about why you are racing, may mean you unlock some hidden potential.


As we understand our bodies more and more, we begin to realise that rarely is it that our body is the limiting factor to winning or losing a race. In the sport of triathlon we have seen times when bodies have failed, most famously Julie Moss in 1982 and Jonathan Brownlee in 2016 when the body was literally shutting down but the brain was still going. The term dead man walking or in the case of Moss, dead woman crawling comes to mind. However, rarely in races do we see the winner crossing the line and celebrating but everyone else DNF-ing due to the physical draining of trying to keep up or even collapsing over the finish line.  

In fact, we usually see all the other positions usually congratulating the winner content with their efforts for the day. So clearly this is not a physical limiter, it is a mental one.

The ability to ignore the body’s response when it is screaming at you to slow down is in itself trained. It is best explained by understanding that the desire to push on is fuelled only when the reward is deemed greater than the pain/suffering endured to continue. The minute that needle says that the load is too great, then we choose to slow down.

This clearly makes a difference in the later stages of a race. Anyone who has raced endurance races will know there are two points in a race, one when you start losing focus and slowing down and the second when we realise we aren’t too far from the finish, so let’s put our final push in: we speed up.

Clearly, the “why” in those instances can be more or less tangible – trying to beat someone, win something, or get a finish or new PB. Whatever the goal, it is fairly straightforward. But what about in that final month of training or even six months out? That is the point where the “why” is really important. As that is what gets the athlete out of bed in the morning and asks them to do one more rep, or get out the door in the cold or wet when the comfort of a fire or a film is so tempting.

 Our “why” is that internal desire which gives us strength to do the “crazy” amounts of fitness and exercise compared to other people. It is that motivation that we really understand and is the basis of sports psychology. As the US Olympic Committee says in their hall, “It’s not every four years, but every day”. In order to really be able to dig deep, then you need to find out why you are racing, why you are doing your sport and why you get outside every day. When you truly understand why you are doing something, you become unstoppable against your biggest nemesis: Yourself.