Knowing Your Why

In running, as in other things, we need to locate the inner meaning and enjoyment of a task. While training for a marathon, we should ask, “What kind of runner am I?” What makes us go to training? What makes us return to training? How do I measure a successful workout? Psychological research has shown distinct patterns of human thought and personality traits. These can be broadly described as internal and external.

Internal Motivation

Internal motivation is when an athlete’s performance is based on enjoyment of competition, excitement or the desire to learn and improve; when participation in a sport is pleasurable. Internal motivation often exhibits itself in task-mastery orientation (running a personal best in a race or improving intervals in training).  Taken to an extreme, this runner likes to practice, but does poorly in races, searching for the ‘perfect’ race.

External Motivation

External motivation is when an athlete’s performance/motivation comes from awards or the approval of others. External motivation often exhibits itself in ego orientation (motivated by social comparison, e.g., how many others they beat in the race).  Taken to the extreme, this runner does not feel her performance was ‘good’ unless she wins the race and sets a course record.

Understanding is the Key

Inherently, neither is good or bad, but helps to understand what drives us to perform better. We each fall somewhere between the two extremes in our motivation. Use this insight to align your goals, pick your races and decide on your race strategies and unlock your personal best race after race.