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Boosting Athlete's motivation

Updated: Oct 23, 2023

Man and Woman happy athletes jumping together in the street of NY

Being a professional athlete requires immense dedication, discipline, and resilience. Maintaining consistent daily workouts and perseverance through tough times might sometimes be challenging.

Here are strategies that can propel professional athletes to keep pushing forward:

Goal Setting

Specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals can guide training schedules and provide a clear path to success. For instance, an athlete might aim to shave off a specific number of seconds from their sprint within a two-month training period.

Develop a Routine

Developing a workout routine requires careful consideration of your fitness goals, current health condition, and daily schedule. Also, establishing a workout regimen contributes to discipline and constancy. Professional athletes like Michael Phelps mention the importance of a training routine. Phelps—a holder of 23 Olympic gold medals—follows a specific daily routine that has led him to astonishing success.

Here's a step-by-step method for creating your routine:

Establish Your Fitness Goals

Your goals could range from weight loss, muscle building, improving stamina, to enhancing flexibility or overall wellness. Knowing your goals will guide your choice of exercise and workout style.

Assess Your Fitness Level

Determine your current fitness level and health conditions. This is important to avoid injury and ensure the effectiveness of your workout plan. You might want a fitness assessment or a medical checkup for this.

Decide on a Workout Style

Based on your goals, pick a workout style that suits you - it could be aerobics, weight training, HIIT, yoga, Pilates, or a combination of several.

Design Your Weekly Schedule

Decide on how many days you wish to work out per week, balancing your rest days. A typical recommendation for a moderate exercise routine is exercising 5 times a week for 30 minutes each session.

Plan Your Daily Routines

Break down your weekly plan into daily routines. For example, if your plan includes strength training & cardio, you could alternate these throughout the week. Include warm-up and cool-down periods in each session.

Vary Your Routine

It is important to vary your exercise routines to avoid plateaus and ensure all muscle groups are worked. You can decide between different types of workouts or increase the intensity of your workout gradually.

Monitor Your Progress

Regularly track your progress by setting checkpoints, like weekly or monthly. This will help identify if certain exercises are working well or need to be adjusted.

Consult a Professional

When developing a workout routine, it's beneficial to consult with a fitness trainer who can provide you with expert advice tailored to your needs and goals.

Remember, consistency is key to seeing results. Starting slow and gradually increasing the intensity of the workouts can help maintain your motivation and avoid injuries. Always remember to listen to your body and rest when needed.

Visual Reminders

Keeping visual reminders of one's goals and achievements can motivate athletes to stay on track. Pictures, vision boards, or even written goals can constantly remind one what one wants to accomplish.

Embrace Failure

Falling short is part of the process. The famous NBA star, Michael Jordan, once said, "I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed." Understanding that failures are stepping stones toward success can help athletes handle rough patches.

Mental Conditioning

Mental strength is just as crucial as physical strength. Techniques such as visualization and mindfulness can improve focus and decrease stress. For example, Serena Williams, one of the greatest tennis athletes, frequently talks about the role of mindfulness and positive affirmations in her victories.

Support Network

A strong support network that includes coaches, teammates, family, and friends can make a significant difference, especially during challenging times. They offer encouragement, share experiences, and provide the necessary perspective to keep going.

Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP)

Among the above, Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) techniques can also be a powerful tool to boost motivation in athletes. Here's how:


Anchoring involves associating a physical gesture with a positive mental state. Every time athletes achieve a breakthrough, they can create a physical ‘anchor’ like touching the tip of their thumb and middle finger. When facing a challenging situation, triggering this anchor can recall that same positive state, providing a motivation boost.


Visualizing success can boost confidence and motivation. In this technique, athletes imagine in detail successfully performing their sport activity. They use as many senses as possible in their visualization, enhancing its effect. Visualizing success can help athletes stay positive and motivated.


Modeling involves identifying someone who excels at a specific skill or behavior the athlete wishes to improve. The athlete studies this person’s beliefs, self-talk, and behaviors to emulate and integrate these aspects into their own routine.

Positive Self-Talk

Positive self-talk is a powerful NLP tool. Instead of focusing on what can go wrong, athletes can tell themselves what they want to achieve. Replacing "I can’t lose this game" with "I will win this game" can shift mindset, creating positivity and motivation.

Belief Change

This technique involves identifying limiting beliefs and replacing them with more empowering ones. For instance, a belief like "I can't perform well in pressure situations" can be changed to "Pressure situations bring out the best in me."

By incorporating these NLP techniques, athletes can enhance their motivation during workouts and forge mental resilience to navigate rough times. However, it is recommended for athletes to consult with a certified NLP practitioner or mental conditioning coach for personalized guidance and safe practice methods.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): A Tool For Boosting Motivation

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a widely recognized psychological treatment approach that operates on the principle that our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are interconnected. Adjusting one can positively influence the others. For those struggling with motivation, particularly in fitness, CBT can prove to be a valuable strategy.

CBT for negative thoughts

CBT encourages individuals to identify and challenge negative thought patterns that limit motivation. For example, thoughts like, "I'm too unfit to exercise," can be transformed to "Everyone starts somewhere, and I can improve with effort and time."


CBT goal setting

CBT emphasizes the importance of setting realistic and measurable goals. For example, instead of a vague goal like "get fit", a specific goal like "Jog for 30 minutes daily" provides a clear direction and promotes motivation because progress can be tracked and celebrated.

Healthy CBT Coping Skills

CBT helps individuals develop healthy coping skills to handle setbacks or frustrations which might obstruct motivation. Techniques like mindfulness and stress management can aid in maintaining focus on fitness goals amid challenges.

CBT and self-efficacy

CBT helps in building self-efficacy, which is an individual's belief in their ability to succeed. This belief can significantly boost motivation to persist in their workout routine against challenges.

Implementing Behavioral Activation in CBT:

CBT uses a technique called behavioral activation, which promotes engagement in mood-enhancing activities that align with one's goals, encouraging individuals to stick to their workout schedule even when motivation is low.

In conclusion, CBT provides a psychological toolkit that can effectively enhance motivation by changing the perception about fitness, setting realistic goals, learning to cope with setbacks, building self-confidence, and promoting positive behavior. By applying these strategies, individuals can foster a more positive and motivated approach to maintain their fitness routine.

Remember, motivation does not come about in a day. It's the product of consistent effort, a positive mindset, and the will to keep going even during hard times. Professional athletes must cultivate resilience and dedication to their craft to keep building upon their success.



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