Motivation – The most important performance enhancer

3 of our athletes, from left: Christian Mikkelsen, Nikolaj Skjøth and Silvestro Pagano

This post is about understanding motivation. We coach sports, and in meeting with our athletes we try to understand where our athletes are on the wide spectrum of motivation. Understanding motivation, is a tool to understand what drive yourself towards your goal. I’m often surprised how many are uncertain about why they want to do a race like an IRONMAN. Responses to the question “so why do you want to race an IRONMAN” (run a marathon etc.) often gives us replies like “I really like to challenge myself”, “My friend talked me into it”, “I want to change my lifestyle” or for the seasoned athlete “I want to see how fast i can do it”. While these are all perfectly valid responses, they are all quite superficial and tells little about about what’s the real motivation. So lets try and break it down a bit to understand a bit more about the two categories motivation is divided into.

Intrinsic motivation

Intrinsic motivation means your desire to do a certain task comes from within, like curiosity wanting to know how you perform under certain conditions, or what you are capable of. Independence, the need to feel unique. Social contact, the need to have social interactions. Social status, the desire to feel important. These are just a few examples of intrinsic motivation, something that comes from inside you and gives you a desire to do a certain task.

Extrinsic motivation

Extrinsic motivation means your desire to do a certain task comes from an outside influence, while its not coming from the inside, it can still be very rewarding to fulfill an extrinsic motivated task. A few examples could be a Finisher certificate, qualification slot, scholarship or money reward/sponsorship. You can say that extrinsic motivation makes you do a task because of the reward.

Because all sports need motivated athletes to reach a high level of performance, a lot of research is done in this field to better understand motivation and the above is just the two major headlines. It should also be noted that not just one system needs to be at work at one time, it could be that you are both intrinsic and extrinsic motivated. What is important is that you try to understand what drives you, this will help you in times of low motivation. We all experience periods of low motivation, that is perfectly normal, but not everyone gets back up from a deep hole of being unmotivated without a deep understanding of themselves. I hope this post gave you a few tools to better understand what fuels your desires.