Finish What You Started

Ah, motivation – that magical M word that seems to get thrown around more than, well that other M word (think about it) …

Let’s face it, it’s easy to be motivated just after a race, when the weather is nice, when it’s light outside, when your friends are training for a race too and you have training buddies all around you. It’s easy to stay motivated when you’re in a routine, when all there is to do is to swim, bike, run, eat, work, sleep … and repeat, like a drumbeat.

But how do you stay motivated when things get real? How do you maintain motivation when work is flat-chat, deadlines are flying at you from every direction and you’ve been asked to travel interstate to cover a race on the weekend? How do you stay on track when your friends have finished their racing seasons and they’ve officially swapped long training weekends with weekends filled with eating, drinking, being merry and sleeping in? How do you focus on your goals when you’re tempted with the dangling carrots that are screaming at you to stop? Because surely you need to maintain balance, right?

Well, sure. We all need balance – absolutely. But when there’s a big goal at stake, when you’re working towards something you have always wanted, sometimes that requires a little bit of tunnel vision and motivation that comes from deep within.

Here’s how I do it:

  • Firstly, my primary driver is this – I’m here to finish what I’ve started. Never before have I been good enough to qualify for a world championship. And while it scares the absolute shiz out of me to be lining up with some of the best age groupers in the sport on the start line of the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in South Africa, in September (and yes, that fear does drive me), I’m mainly driven by the opportunity – the opportunity to finish what I’ve started and, to test my limits and to see what I’m made of.


  • Mix things up and do training a little differently. For me, I need to keep things fun. I’m not someone that can just grind through training, day-in, day-out doing the same thing each and every day. I need to mix it up. So, working closely with my coach, we’ve added a few different things into my program to keep me motivated. It’s been about trying new things (and yes, doing so smartly!) to keep it all fresh and fun. My most recent example of this is trying a crit race for the first time. Oh my gosh! It was so much fun. I took part in the Sandown Twilight Crits here in Vic, a few weeks ago and it was the best! I was scared and so nervous before it – I get really anxious before all of my races, so it was a great way to add a speed session into my week while also shaking off some racing demons. Plus, it was nice standing on the top spot of that podium once the race was done 🙂


  • This sport can be lonely sometimes. It can be lonely when you’re out at the 90km mark of an 180km bike ride, facing the elements alone. It can be lonely when you’re having to no say no to social occasions and party invites for the umpteenth time, and instead choosing to stay in on a Saturday night because you have a five-hour bike ride the next day. Remember: working towards your goal is usually only for a few months. Take it one day at a time and cross each day off on the calendar so you can physically see how far you’re progressing. And if they know how important it is to you, your friends/family will understand. As for being out on the bike alone, in the middle of winter or facing a mega headwind on the way home … well, how bad do you want it?


  • Use your circumstances, make them work for you rather than against you. I use the insane Melbourne traffic as a major motivator to get to early morning sessions. Traffic on the freeway can get seriously crazy in the mornings so it’s a lot easier for me to get up stupidly early to drive to the pool or to a ride. I much prefer sacrificing sleep compared to sitting aimlessly in traffic getting RAGE (and not the fun, music video kind of Rage)! Also, if I get to a session and everyone else pikes (due to an unexpected downpour or poor sleep or sleeping through the alarm), because I live so far away I have no choice but to get the session done – well, it’s either that or nap in the car. So, I’ll either do the session (or a modified version) or if the weather is foul, I make sure I have other gear options with me, like my bathers and towel etc., so that I can swim instead of riding/running if there’s a torrential downpour for example.


If I’m travelling for work I make sure I throw my runners and run gear into my bag and usually chat to my coach about making that weekend a run weekend. Also, most recently I’ve used work travel as a way of adding a run TT into my training block when I took part in the Mooloolaba 5km Twilight Run on the weekend. It was fun and I managed a nice little PB, but I completely forgot about that damn hill! Mother – F it hurt! Ha!


  • Eat, drink, and sleep. I’m much better as a human (ha!) and much more motivated when I’ve had enough to eat (to support the training), when I’ve had enough to drink and when I’ve slept. This means having a lot of snacks on hand. Water bottles are currently over taking my desk in the office and I make sure I’m asleep as early as I can because I know I’m no good when I try to burn the old candle at both ends.


  • Get organised! It’s a lot easier to make excuses when you’re not organised. For me this means being organised with my meals/snacks, being organised with my training gear, scheduling in my run sessions at lunch times (to make the most of the hour long break) rather than trying to do them after work (and once I’ve spent a good 90 minutes battling traffic on the way home – this drains me so I know that motivation will be low and the excuses high if I leave my run workouts to after work).


  • Have goals in each session and sign up to races along the way. For me, sessions are made easier if I know why I’m doing what I’m doing. Also, I find it a lot easier to stay motivated and on track when I sign up to races along the way – races where I can test myself to see how all the training is progressing. My first race of the 2018 season is going to be the half iron distance at Challenge Melbourne. I’m excited to test myself, and to see how the training program is paying off so far. Let’s just hope the weather plays nice this year.


They’re just some of the ways I stay motivated and on track. Actually, I’m starting to think that motivation maybe isn’t the right word for all of this.

Because, really, while you can be ‘King D’ of all things motivation and you can know your ‘why’ (throwing around the clichés like they’re confetti) there will be times when you are suffering from a major case of the CBFs. And that’s when the other (perhaps more important) word comes in – discipline.

You’re never going to feel like getting up at 4am to go to training – no matter how motivated you might be. Stop relying on your feelings and on whether or not you feel motivated. If you really want something bad enough and you’re disciplined you will make it work.

As Mum likes to remind me on a regular basis: You choose to do this sport; you chose to sign up for that race.

So … J.F.T! (I say that with love 🙂 )


Margaret Mielczarek

Margaret Mielczarek is the deputy editor at Australian Triathlete Magazine and writes the web series 'Shenanigans of a Deputy 2.0'. She is a passionate age-group triathlete and four-time Ironman finisher - currently in training for Ironman number five!

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