As we hit the beginning of race season for endurance athletes, twitter and facebook are filled with photos of bikes perched at the top of big climbs, selfies of muddy trainers and Garmins at the end of 20 mile runs and those lucky enough to be on international camps are sending home snaps of their swim toys on the deck of a sunny outdoor pool. The duathlon season has already kicked off, the half marathon medals are piling up, the marathon countdown clocks are ticking and before long we’ll be dipping our toes into lakes to prepare for triathlon.

So have you thought about what is motivating you this year? If you are just forging ahead because endurance sport is your thing and you always done it then spending a little time to identify and focus on your specific motivation can be incredibly helpful to helping you improve your performance. And when you don’t remember why you are doing your sport, or the races you’ve entered it is all too easy to back off or even stop when it gets tough or life gets in the way.

There are two types of motivation. The first comes from inside you. This is when you are competing for the love of it, simply because you get personal satisfaction out of the training, out of striving for targets or just the joy of being able to do that sport. The second type is more externally driven. This may come from the medals you gain, the prize money you win or the accolades your friends and family give you when you do well. Neither is better than the other but, if your motivation comes from within it can be more robust and stay with you when you come up against set backs.

If your motivation is that you love being fit and healthy you will, in the main, be happy looking at your training plan and seeing 6:30am swims or hard treadmill sessions. Even if that session doesn’t go well your motivation remains high because you are inspired by the process, not the outcome. If your motivation comes from winning prize money your motivation will be through the roof when you are doing well but if you get injured, your rate of improvement slows or you simply have a run of bad luck you will find it really hard to maintain the motivation to keep going and training will feel like a chore.

Whether your motivation comes from internal or external factors all sorts of motivation can be fuelled – if you are able to identify, hone and make the most of yours.

I find free writing is a really good way to do this. You need a pen, notebook, 30 minutes where you won’t be disturbed and, for me, a monstrously large mug of coffee. Then all you have to do is daydream and ask yourself a bunch of questions as you write. What to do you want? What would make you happy? When you have those amazing days where you feel grateful and supported and appreciative of all you have, what is that thing that you are most grateful for? What gives you your buzz in sport? What is driving that? Working backwards from these questions can help you identify your motivation. If your daydream is standing on a podium at the end of an Ironman paying for a Kona slot then you’ve got a pretty big clue. If your dream is lying in bed at the end of the day with sore legs and a green week on training peaks then another big clue. If it is having your son or daughter ask to go running with you because they want to be like you when they grow up then ‘inspiring others’ may be your motivation. Whatever you feel it is once you’ve identified it you can work to bring it into your training – making your training really effective and a lot stickier.

For example, if Kona qualification is your motivation then research into what you need to achieve, speaking to previous qualifiers, creating some ‘Kona’ sessions in your training plan and putting up a previous world championships poster will help you stay motivated after a tough session or before one if your heart is not in it. If you are motivated by inspiring others then joining group training sessions, signing up to be a run leader or taking coaching classes can be a great way to stay on top of what you want to achieve and give you the buzz you need to stay on track.

So actively identifying your personal motivation and then entwining that with your training and races plans can keep you on track and your goals in sight.

What is your motivation?