Riding down the Coast for days, one has many hours to think & plan. But more importantly as a coach, you have time to observe – many hours – a handful of athletes. This got me thinking about an article I recently read. It talked about what motivates people in different business environments. Observing the different athletes on the coast, having some longer discussions with them, combined with knowing how they race, left me with the following:
Do you race to win? Or not to lose?
This might seem like a loaded question (and it is) – many may think one approach is better than the other. Instead think of it this as a question that revolves around motivation, and understanding how there are two types of motivation.
Motivation is defined in many circles as approaching pleasure and avoiding pain. If you look at motivation like this, what type of motivation works for you?
The first type is the one we are most familiar with: Charging opportunities. With this it is about the pleasure of making progress, advancing, making significant gains. The pain lies in the failure to do these things: failure to advance – remain stagnant – no progress.
The second type of motivation (and one we often overlook) is maintaining a satisfactory state, one that we are ok & pleased with. The pleasure here revolves around the peace of mind & security this creates, the satisfaction. The pain lies in a failure to remain here – or to make mistakes, to lose this state of satisfaction/peace of mind, being at peace.
Therefore – back to the question: do you race to win (charge opportunities, push the envelope) or do you race NOT to lose…the placing you hold, the gains you’ve made in training and past racing.
Your athletic motivation type might be very different from your work one, or your family/personal life one…Do you know what you feel most ocomfortable with in racing? Understanding this motivation allows you to prepare for a better outcome. How do we together approach the pleasure of racing and avoid the pain in racing…? Knowing this helps us manage your race day a lot more effectively.
I can use myself as a good example. As a swimmer off the front in most races, and specializing in long distance events, it is ALL about preventing my day, my result that I have envisioned and prepared for in my mind, from slipping away. So I race not to lose since I am off the front. To maintain where I am, to be at peace with a solid effort, but not risk too much, maintain my day, and allow fitness and experience to play out. As I get fitter, the time at the end of this ‘maintaining day’ also got faster. I prevented things from going wrong. Or, as so many of you have heard me write and say: I didn’t slow down.
I coach plenty of athletes that are not like this. They enjoy throwing caution to the wind a bit, to charge oppportunities, like the risk they take to blow up because it might just be enough to get them an unknown new result, gain, progress & accomplishment. They are willing to risk a lot to gain a lot.
Are you avoiding losses? Or looking to make gains?
Both have the same PERSONAL result. A race is successful as YOU define it. Having raced well, not made mistakes, is often all you need to have an amazing PR. Many of you have heard me say you have a certain time ‘in you’ by just racing steady, and this time is often a LOT faster than you have been racing…. Others have heard me say its about breaking though to the other side, to suffer and push, to find out what you are capable of. A PR is also waiting for you because you went after it, charged the course when it called for it, risked a lot and broke through to a new PR…
Both results feel the same: you achieved your goals either by avoiding errors, or by charging ahead. Both feel good because success is defined by reaching your goals.
We all have a more dominant type of motivation in us. Therefore the coaching question becomes are you not risking ENOUGH or are your risking TOO MUCH? Being too preventative (not losing) might not be fast enough. Being too promotive (Charging opportunities) might cause unnecessary risks. Balancing these two motivations according to YOUR needs is part of this thought process.
Do you race to win? Or not to lose?
Qualifier: We all know that coaching masters athletes (most of you) is different than coaching grade school, high school or college athletes (they all must attend or are told to train). It is surely different than coaching professionals! Therefore when talking about motivation (and most of my coaching approach), I try to relate everything I observe to the masters athlete: The athlete that competes & participates in this sport by choice, for lifestyle and health purposes. The masters athlete, while still very serious (sometimes too serious!) and motivated, still has another career, family or life responsibilities to deal with other than sports. AND the masters athlete has often not had dramatic athletic success earlier in their lives. Therefore my approach and discussions come from a different perspective than those doing this for a living, or those that are required to participate.