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How to Maintain Motivation in Lockdown: Key Tips I Am Applying During the Second Wave

It was only a couple of weeks ago that I was musing on how great it was to be "released" from the French Covid-19 lockdown back in May. Running long and wild on Pyrenean trails never felt so good and it looked like freedom was here to stay. All until the 30th of October when President Macron announced another four weeks of stay-at-home restrictions... This time, I am prepared to apply the lessons I learnt from the first lockdown to stay motivated for the next weeks! Here's how.



Reading the excellent article in the New York Times, Build Mental Endurance Like a Pro, I remembered all the times I failed to stay motivated during the first lockdown here in France. I let the chaotic "every day is the same" feeling wreak havoc with my routine. I lost interest in training when all races got cancelled and there was nothing ostensibly waiting for me to train for. I set some goals, but didn't quite stick to them. All the sort of failed attempts at motivation that I don't want to see repeating themselves this time around.


Yes, going back into lockdown is tough, especially as the final days of autumn brought sunshine and clear skies over here in the Pyrenees. However, there are ways to stay motivated and active and overcome the feeling of being "caged in" by our 1-km perimeter, 1-hour-a-day exercise restrictions. To avoid losing motivation during lockdown, here are some tips I'm planning to stick to:


  • Create a routine and follow it

  • Set achievable goals and measure progress against them

  • Embrace positive self-talk

  • Try something new and fun



Create a routine and follow it


In the run-up to Christmas and with the days growing colder and shorter, running motivation, or even the drive to work out at home, will understandably dwindle. The best way to avoid this is by creating a routine and teaching your body and brain to stick to it.

Research has repeatedly shown the importance of routine for our mental wellbeing. Moreover, having something to plan for is beneficial to brain health, even if that "something" subsequently changes or gets cancelled (like a running race). The benefits of a routine are numerous:

  • It creates structure around your day and makes you feel more productive;

  • It fosters a sense of accomplishment;

  • It builds motivation and energy.

Researchers at Hackensack Meridian Health remind us that a routine doesn't have to be something very elaborate. It can just include a regimented commitment to follow some simple steps daily, from eating meals at regular times to going to bed at the same time each night.


So, in order to beat lockdown blues, I've started to schedule every day, loosely, around set times for working, exercising, reading / learning, and relaxing. Of course, unexpected client requests from my freelance writing work do pop up, hence why the schedule is flexible and can be adjusted. However, starting every day with a 15-minute planning session where I allocate time to specific tasks and make sure to include my workouts ensures that I have breaks to look forward to throughout the day. I also feel more productive when I can tick off the things I've done at the end of the day, including workouts!


Set achievable goals and measure progress against them



When we went into the first French lockdown, I wanted to train for a 100-mile race. I also wanted to do an unassisted pull-up in the home gym before the end of those 8 weeks. I mentioned these goals out loud, but never did anything to actually follow up, measure progress, and adjust as needed.

My motivation to run dwindled and I didn't look after my diet in any particular way. I consequently didn't achieve anywhere near the fitness levels I was at 8 weeks into my training plan for the UTMB CCC last year. A large part of the reason for that was that I didn't measure and break down my goals into smaller, achievable mini-goals that would guide me towards my end objective.


For this second lockdown, I've made it a point to track progress. One example is that I'm setting a weight loss goal and tracking my progress with the MyFitnessPal app, ruthlessly measuring against daily calorie intake goals so there's nowhere to hide.


Another good way to think about goals it breaking them down into achievable elements. For example, I am now aiming to "stay fit for long-distance running" - but that's a woolly, non-measurable and all-encompassing goal. Breaking that down into smaller goals such as running two interval sessions per week, setting a 10-km PB before Christmas etc., seems a lot more focused and achievable.


Embrace positive self-talk


Recently, I have been doing a lot of research into life and business coaches and their philosophies for approaching success. Whilst there are many different perspectives out there, they all have one thing in common: positivity. Whether celebrating success, drawing from past achievements, or projecting positivity through affirmations, bringing positivity into a tense situation such as lockdown can make a huge difference.


This is also linked to the concept of reflection for me: by actively looking back on and recognising positive and negative past experiences, we learn and build plans to either repeat success or avoid failure.

So, what does this have to do with training motivation? Plenty! All too often these days, I finish a run thinking I could have done better, I was too slow, or I didn't try hard enough. However, I'm making it a point of reviewing every session and looking for both what went well and what didn't go well. There are often lots of positives I didn't expect when I look back, such as whether I've increased my cadence or running form, or how this latest run compares to the same one during the previous lockdown. All too quickly, we tend to focus on negatives and forget to celebrate the positives.


This has wider implications in daily life and I've found this approach to give great results in my freelance writing business planning from week to week. But that's another blog post all in itself!


Try something new and fun


The key to staying motivated to train through any restrictions is to have something to look forward to. While routine does play a huge part in that, the other tip is to find a fun new type of exercise to get you moving.


For me, I've finally cracked and joined Zwift. I'm a long way from setting any records, but it's a great way to keep motivated to ride indoors for more than 10 minutes before boredom strikes, and a social tool as well. Given that I can only run for 1 hour every day, extending my workout time with an indoor ride will allow me to not only keep burning calories, but also work on my endurance and have fun while I'm doing it, too.


Conclusion - Staying motivated in lockdown


Balancing movement restrictions with continued training is not an easy task and it's easy to allow the current overwhelming feeling of uncertainty impact on our motivation to stay active. However, by embracing a few simple techniques, lockdown doesn't mean letting go of fitness goals, but simply adjusting and adapting.


Finally, remember that "Successful outcomes are never the result of a single choice. They are built up through good choices over time. [...] A fit body is never a choice, it is a series of choices." (James Clear)




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