Cyclo-cross season has just started this week and it will go on for the next 10 weeks on a weekly basis. Some people do it for fun and some people are really competitive. With my competitive nature, I personally find that cyclo-cross is a great way to just give it all I have in the saddle and have fun with it. I am not in a hurry to verify the results after a race. For me it’s all about the fun and the feeling you get afterwards. All I want to know is that I have given all I have and that I feel that I could not have pushed more physically. Of course there is this technical aspect of the race that I want to get better but that comes with experience and time.
This weekend made me think of heart and desire. In horsemanship you can tell how good a horse will be by not only its genetics and its training, but also you can determine how good a horse will be by his heart and desire. Some people call it determination. Without it, even with the best training you may have, you can only go so far. That is what makes the difference in the end of the day. I like to believe that I am a driven person. I love competing. I find it a great way to get out of my comfort zone and to grow as an individual.
Not everyone is made out of the same mould and that is why not everyone is active and healthy. Determination to race or compete may be hard to teach but racing is not the only solution to have a healthy and active lifestyle. What is important is to find what drives you to go. If motivation is an issue, it is important to understand that there is not just one sort of motivation. There is a spectrum that goes from extrinsic motivation to intrinsic motivation.
Ideally, as a coach, you would like your athletes to be all intrinsically motivated or at the very least internally or partially internally motivated. Training does not need to start there. Going from no motivation at all to some level of extrinsic motivation is a start. Recognizing it helps understand how you can get from one end to the other end of the spectrum of motivation. Depending on the day, my level of motivation may vary from “partially internal” (behaviours based on identified value to me) to “Internal” (Integrated behaviours satisfying a psychological need) to “Intrinsic” (enjoyment, pleasure, and fun).
The art of coaching motivation is a never-ending learning process. From what I have learned, trying to control each and every step of your athlete will not work (just like with horses). Empowering them to taking the initiative in and outside of the training process is key. What kind of challenge will keep them moving forward? What will make them feel related to the training? What will get them out of their comfort zone without them going into survival zone? What is the comfort zone really? Your comfort zone is the place where you will feel the most success (around 80% and more of the time). What is the survival zone? Your survival zone is the place where you will feel the least success (less than 50% of the time).
Helping people keep progressing by getting in their own “sweet spot”, out of their comfort zone (where they will get successes 50–80% of the time) is key. Not everyone is created equal and that is why a coach can be a good way to identify your needs as an athlete by evaluating your weak links. By doing this we give our athletes the tools to keep progressing.
Coaching people is about creating an environment that allows the athlete to motivate himself. The athlete does not have to be training with you all the time. Autonomy (control), Competence (teaching them how) and Relatedness are key concepts for the athlete to get self-determination, to keep progressing and training on their own as much as training with their coach and or mentor.