Training Willpower

So after receiving a bollocking from my wife yesterday about how I tend to give up on training if I don’t hit all my target sessions and then blame everything on kids/work/cold/injury etc I decided I want to take this as motivational criticism.

I am not a very strong willed person and would love to know if it is possible to train will power - or if any of you have any hints and tips for overriding the easy option.

In races, I’ve quit a lot when the going gets tough (or when I just CBA) - ignoring one event which I quit due to high chance of dying, I have quit 3 ironman, 10 ultras, 6 marathons at least (I have completed about 15IM, 20 ultras and maybe 50 marathons). I’ve ditched loads of training sessions halfway through, and not started hundreds which I had planned (particularly evenings which I can never get motivated to even start on)

This is not just about triathlon but all stuff. I’m pretty weak willed when it comes to diet and will nip to the convenience store for crisps/chocolate/haribo/lager as soon as I fancy it (we don’t keep any of this stuff in the house as it would be consumed immediately).

So, any thoughts. I’m sure lots of you manage due to massive competitiveness vs others, but I’m genuinely only ever going to be competitive against myself and have not quite managed to reset my objectives so probably chasing impossible PBs from a decade ago.


I’m 100% like you.
Especially on the not buying crap food/drink, then just nipping to the shop for some.

I also don’t really like exercise after 6pm.

I’ve quit a few events recently, too.

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Ironman completion rate 83%
Ultra completion rate 67%
Marathon completion rate 89%

I’d say you’re doing pretty well in context


I am not sure weak/strong are particularly helpful as there’s an implicit judgement. Really it’s motivation not a lack strength isn’t it? I am stubborn to the point if being pig headed and should have quit events instead of making myself ill or properly injured. Maybe you need to look at the root for your motivation for training and be realistic?


Am I confused here?!

Weren’t you the guy who ran on a t mill at daft o’clock in your shed?

Your list of races is very very impressive, personally I think your being a bit hard on yourself.?!

Concentrate on what you did/ can do rather than dwelling on the past.

The amount of calories required to prepare for that lot, I really wouldn’t worry about diet.

Better to have tried and failed than never tried at all.


a few random ideas.

  1. habit. Just try and make a routine and stick to it. If you have a plan then get your kit on and start. You’ll often feel better once you do
  2. Ditch the numbers. Train how you feel - that way you don’t give up if you’re not going as well as you are expecting/wanting
  3. Finish every session to time/distance. Even if you have to go slow. Just make sure you do the 1 hour, or 5km or whatever.
  4. Allow yourself, say, 1 session a week where you can ditch it. But that’s it.

Once finishing each session becomes ingrained you can work on putting in more effort.

p.s. yeah, it’s not easy. I have got lazier as I’ve got older.


Number 2 is golden.

Anything is better than nothing.

I think this is where I really struggle on the bike outside. Soon as pace starts to drift and fatigue comes just CBA. Which I think must be why I’ll always prefer big loops or out and backs. Cause cant cut it short then.


A lot of this is about habitual behaviour patterns. I’m guessing you’re not on the spectrum! Statistically though, the more events you do, the more likely you are to have mishaps, bad days and have to withdraw for whatever reason. But your daily training is something different; that’s about habits and enjoyment.

Because I’m a bit OCD, and Ironman training is a pretty un-enjoyable experience for me, I have often considered just entering an Ultra and not really training for it specifically, so there’s no pressure. I actually did that for a 400k Audax, and it was a really nice no pressure adventure. I think pressure we place on ourselves to succeed takes the pleasure out of it.

I would say take a break from your usual goals, and find a new one; one without specific targets, other than to enjoy making the finish line.


Yeah, I did run on the treadmill but I had the TV on - how you manage 4hr+ sessions on the turbo I have no idea.

I think part of it though is how not to dwell on the past. Yes, I’ve done quite a few races and some of them have been hard but that makes keeping going in something shorter or less inspirational more difficult. An ironman is still really difficult even if you’ve done loads before.

Diet wise, it’s the quality not the quantity I’m concerned about.

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:radioactive: disconnect alert, disconnect alert :radioactive:

Tongue in cheek , probably a good thing you are not even stronger willed. You might have done yourself a serious mischief by now

We can be our own harshest critics sometimes!


I think it’s a fascinating area though - what motivates us to exercise, train and compete?

I got into this malarkey when I was 18 and whoops, 3 decades have gone by and I’m still doing it. Sometimes that surprises me a little, but I’m kind of at peace with it.

A bit of exercise is just a normal part of every day now & that feels OK. Having a reasonably balanced lifestyle, a reasonably healthy body, getting out into nature - these can all be motivating things.

Training and competition are different, I sense a sort of danger here for my middle aged frame and psyche & haven’t quite got this part figured out yet


What happened to icon?

What are those numbers?


God botherer…?!

Sub 10, almost


I assume they are my Ironman finish time according to Poet!


Once I’m on the turbo I can go for hours, strangely if I get off I rarely get back on … but I’m pretty lucky time wise.

I guess you get to a stage/ age we’re you know yourself … there is no way I could do those early runs … I can only swim early .

I’ve tried bike and runs and I’m crap, we’re all different I guess.

A totally different challenge as leader suggests is a good call?

Got ya!


Such a shame not that you’ve ever mentioned it …?

No, it was Ironman Regensburg. Undoubtedly an over-distance course.

It was 10 years ago now; but would you like to hear more about it?


You’re right, it is about motivation, not strong/weak.

How does your stubbornness work in your head. Let’s say you are in a ‘C’ race and it gets hard and you are on a lapped course where it would be dead easy to stop. What keeps you motivated to continue?


That’s a really difficult question (as is your original one), and has got me thinking now. I’m trying to draw out reflections on my own situation that may or may not be helpful (if only for comparison/alternative viewpoint) as well as some tips. I seem to have a real split personality. A number of aspects of my life, including what i would say is me ‘generally’ i’m super lazy. I avoid conflict, i look for the path of least resistance and i’m really not particularly motivated. But when it comes to sport, it’s like a switch just gets flicked in my head. I can’t explain it all. All of a sudden i’m direct, focussed and can be pretty motivated, but it’s time limited. By that i mean i can and have struggled to maintain the discipline and focus and motivation on a long planned race build for example, missing sessions and getting frustrated. But when it comes to race day i’m super happy to put myself in the hurt locker. Was the same as a kid on the footy pitch. Wasn’t the most talented, but was nearly only the one still sprinting for lost causes in the 89th minute.

I think maturity and a growing comfort in who i am has led me to being much more flexible on my training approach. I don’t set x kms per week, y sessions etc because i know i’ll get frustrated by not hitting them. So instead i have a rough outline of what a training block will look like and i keep it very flexible. This way i don’t get into that negative spiral of ‘well i’ve mossed these three sessions, so i’ll never be ready, so i may as well not bother with my remaining 5’ type thing.

I’d say motivation is the driving factor to completion of the said events. Do you want it enough, like really want it. Clearly you’re a motivated and talented endurance athlete. You simply woul’dn’t have entered and completed that many events if yiou weren’t. Perhaps there are too many races/challenges, which has had the effect of diminishing the worth which you assign each one. So that way ‘failure’ or a DNF doesn’t really mean anything. So that external pressure that drives you to compete and finish just gets weaker. An obvikous way around is aiming for fewer events, but maybe not the ‘all eggs in one basket’ as that creates its own issues.

As for will power, that can definitely be trained. Before any of my big ultras for example i will go and do one session that is an absolute suffer fest. Horrible weather, reps, hills, night time. Whatever. But i’ll do it alone. I’ll have a rough target, but overall it’s just to suffer. That way, when it comes to race day, i’ve got that one session to reflect back on when it’s getting tough.

What i can’t isolate is what drives me to complete those sessions. Especially when i’ve done challenges, like the triple VK i did last year, that have no real purpose (like a race) other than just seeing if i can. I guess if i’m being honest there’s got to be some ego related stuff going on. Both internally and externally amongst my friends. Maybe you’re too nice and friendly and laid back and you need more of an ego taht can get wounded by not finishing, to give you that extra drive. I think there may actually be a serious point in that sentence somewhere.

That’s a bit of a brain dump, and don’t know if that helps at all. But i agree with pretty much everything that’s stated above.