Paralympic and world champion Hannah Cockroft gives her advice on how to stay motivated to train throughout winter
It can be tough to maintain motivation for training through the gruelling winter months. Whether your goal is a world championships or a parkrun PB, it takes a certain mindset to get yourself going.
Wheelchair racer Hannah Cockroft has been dominant in the sport since 2011, winning double Paralympic gold at London 2012 before triple gold in Rio four years later, with a number of world titles also claimed along the way. Here she gives her top tips for keeping focus.
“My motivation to train in the winter months usually comes from guilt tripping myself,” Cockroft says. “I’ve eaten too much, I’ve had a lazy morning or maybe I have seen one of my rivals post about training online. Any of these thoughts get me straight into my chair!
“Once I’m in my chair, I love training and I can motivate myself to get through the sessions at full capacity. Here’s some more incentives I use to keep me going.”
1. It’s a great way of getting warm
I’m from Yorkshire, so the heating doesn’t go on until it’s into the minus degrees outside. Training is a great way of getting your blood flowing, to energise you for the rest of the day and to stay toasty and warm in your own skin!
2. Treat yourself
Set up nice things in the week so you have something to look forward to as a reward, especially around the sessions that you find the most difficult.
At the moment, I’m doing lots of mileage so, as a sprinter, by mid-week my legs and shoulders are starting to get tired and ache and I don’t look forward to getting in my chair. So, I arrange to meet a friend for lunch or go shopping with my mum. When I know I’ve got something like that to do in the day, it makes me want to get my exercise out the way.
3. Love what you do, so it never feels like a chore
If you don’t enjoy the activity, find something else that you do enjoy. That’s a little easier said than done for some, including myself, but I know once I am doing my chosen sport, I am in my element. Find something that makes you feel like that too.
4. Set goals
I work in four-year cycles, so my current goal is the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. I break this down into weekly, monthly and annual goals too.
Next year, I want to retain my world titles when the championships come to London for the first time. I’m really excited to get back in the Olympic Stadium, in front of a home crowd! To do that, this month I need to increase my mileage during sessions by building on my endurance power, which means getting back in the gym for the first time since Rio!
Make sure your goals are manageable too. They have to be believable before they will be achievable. Your goal can be anything from increasing mileage, to losing a little bit of weight, to managing your time better. As long as it’s something you actually really want to achieve, it will keep you driven.
5. Remember the feeling!
Remember when you finally managed your first 10km distance and how much of an achievement it felt? Don’t you want that again?! I love the feeling of winning, I love knowing that I’ve achieved something I’ve worked so hard for so long to reach. If I forget that feeling, I have five Paralympic gold medals at home to remind me! So, find your something that reminds you why you’re doing it and remember it.
6. Surround yourself with a great ‘team’
I’m lucky to have a coach who pushes me every day to better myself. I have family who will provide motivation on the days I feel I have none. Best of all, I have friends in my sport! My favourite training sessions are those where there is a bit of competition so set yourself up with friends of similar abilities and let your competitive side out during the off season.
7. Indulge in some good food
I hate it when people say to me ‘oh, you can’t eat that, you’re an athlete!’ When I ban myself from eating something I like or want, it makes me feel rubbish and it becomes the only thing I can think about.
Everything in moderation and as part of a healthy balance is fine, you train hard so sometimes you deserve it! Food can also be great as part of training. I love bananas or jelly for a quick snack before training. After training, milkshake is great for muscle recovery but tastes yummy too so it’s a treat.
8. Use the beat
I love music and there’s so many good albums about at the moment. Training is a great time to listen to them and find your favourite, motivational songs.
I mix it up, so I train to something a bit more upbeat for a fartlek session and my recovery sessions are much slower so I’m not encouraged to try and sprint!
» Hannah Cockroft is an ambassador for national charity Youth Sport Trust, which aims to get young people of all ages physically and mentally healthy through sport and physical activity. She was at Youth Sport Trust’s National Talent Camp this month sharing her inspirational story with 350 of the next generation of athletes, coaches and officials. For more information follow @YouthSportTrust or visit www.youthsporttrust.org/national-talent-camp