One of the mistakes I see recreational athletes make time and time again after a period off due to work, travel or illness is the assumption that you’ve got to get the legs fit and strong again before you work on your mental game. It’s as if the mental game depends on good legs. The opposite is in fact true. Interestingly, we face some of our biggest mental demons when we are unfit and trying to get back to that performance level we were once at.
Brad Stulberg, the foremost columnist on human performance at the moment, argues in his latest book Peak Performance that you need to have a good reason in mind for why you are training or racing:
1. We are constantly balancing perception of effort, or how hard something feels, with motivation.
2. If we want to endure more effort, which often leads to better performance, we may need to increase our motivation.
3. The best way to increase motivation is to link our work to a greater purpose or cause.
4. Especially when we are feeling tired or worn out, we should think about why we are doing what we are doing.
Having a good why is better than having good legs, in my opinion. Your motivation is all about your mental game and it is your mental game that gets those legs turning or running.