Your Inner Athlete: How To Stay Motivated When The Days Get Shorter

By Dr. Haley Perlus on February 26, 2016 , categorized in Endurance, Strength + Conditioning

Stay Motivated

When you take 20 athletes of equal ability and give ten of them mental training, the ten with mental training will outperform the others every time. Whether you’re an athlete in competition, a health enthusiast, or new to sport and fitness, Sport Psychologist Dr. Haley Perlus shares how professional athletes mentally train to maximize results­—and how you can apply these insights to your life. Read on to empower yourself to take control of your mind, overcome fear and doubt, and realize your true potential.

Even more so this summer than most, I enjoyed my fitness training outdoors. Running on the trails, hiking up mountains, road and downhill biking, swimming in the lake, and even yoga on the deck added a level of enjoyment I simply couldn’t get inside a gym. Plus, with more daylight, you would find me training at 6:00AM or 8:00PM. In fact, unlike the rest of the year, in the summer waking up early or getting out after dinner to train is enjoyable for me.

Then, fall hits. Now that the days are getting shorter and the temps are getting colder, our motivation to maintain our training is tested. Here are three things to help you stay on top of your fitness through the fall and winter:

1. Reassess your motivation for achieving your goals.

It’s a good idea to assess your motivation for fitness and conditioning. It’s not just about what you want and why you want it. When you know you’re going to be faced with obstacles (i.e. shorter days and colder temperatures), it’s essential to identify and accept the sacrifices you must make to achieve yoru goals. Are you prepared to train in the dark? Are you prepared to invest in clothing and equipment that will make it possible to train in colder temperatures? Are you willing to say no to the instant gratification of going directly home after work and hold out for the long-term fulfillment from training? These are the types of questions that will help you determine whether you’re ready to really strive for your goals this fall.

2. Participate in training concepts you truly enjoy.

The primary reason people stop participating in any activity is a lack of enjoyment. You may have heard that running is the best way to trim your booty or that yoga is amazing for developing lean muscles and flexibility. If you don’t enjoy those activities, however, with shorter days and more excuses for skipping your training, you will not exert 100% effort and you will most likely dropout and even quit training all together.


Regardless of the time of year, I always encourage my clients to incorporate activities they enjoy with the training they must do to achieve their goals. As we head into darker seasons, participating in training concepts you enjoy will make is easier to stay committed and consistent to your goals. Even if you’re training for a marathon, if you enjoy dance class, take the time to dance. If your personal trainer has given you a weekly weight program, but you love long-distant running, work with him/her to incorporate running into your weekly plan.

3. Take advantage of the buddy system.

Especially in the fall and winter, ever notice how easy it is to talk yourself out of one, then two, even three training sessions? Sometimes we need more than just ourselves for motivation. A friend, relative, or co-worker, might be feeling the same way. Why not buddy up with them?
If you believe you can achieve all your goals by yourself, well perhaps you should think again and partner up with a friend. Having someone to train with will hold you accountable to your program and help you to achieve your program. It is far easier to let yourself down than it is to let down a friend. You wouldn’t want your training buddy to be waiting for you at the fitness club while you are at home sleeping in, now would you?

Also, fitness participants who are able to maintain their fitness program for long periods of time do so with social support. When people you care about are privy to your fitness goals, three benefits occur:

  1. Accountability. It’s much easier to let yourself down than it is to let someone you care for down. When you make a promise to someone else, it doesn’t feel good when you don’t follow through on that promise.
  1. Your friends and family love you and want you to succeed. During those moments when you don’t feel like training, they will remind you of your goals and help you move through the difficult times.
  1. Listening board: We all need to communicate our thoughts and feelings. What an amazing experience to come home from a great training session and share the details with your significant other. Conversely, when you don’t have a good training session (and it will happen), you have someone who will be there to listen to you without judgment. They will comfort and care for you and cheer you on for the next session.

Take a few minutes today and address these three things above to make sure you’re prepared for fall and winter conditioning. Reassess your motivation by identifying and accepting the necessary sacrifices you must accept to achieve your goals. Do your best to incorporate the training concepts you truly enjoy in your weekly plan. Finally, ensure you have social support to help you to stay committed to following through on your training program each week. When you are properly prepared, it won’t matter how much sunlight the day brings or what the temperature is, you’ll have all the armor you need to look and feel your personal best.

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Dr. Haley Perlus

Dr. Haley Perlus is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Vega’s Expert Panel. With a Ph.D. in Sport and Exercise Psychology, M.S. in Sport Pedagogy, and numerous fitness and coaching certifications, Dr. Perlus is an expert at empowering athletes of all types and health enthusiasts achieve peak results. An adjunct professor at the University of Colorado, international speaker, former Alpine ski racer, appointed Industry Leader for IHRSA.org, and author including soon-to-be-released The One Minute Dietand Guidebook to Gold, Dr. Perlus helps people reach their highest standard of performance. For a free chapter of one of her books visit www.DrHaleyPerlus.com

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