Friday, November 23, 2012

Commitment to your training: Are you in sync with your goals?

Versión en Español (Original Spanish published in 29 april 2010)

As Güllich said:
"The hardest part about training is making the decision to start training at all"

And he was right.

But, once you have made your mind, the big hurdle to overcome is the temptation to give up (Weinberg and Gould, 1996).
There are plenty of excuses.

The other day I had to do some running, and luckily, it was a very nice afternoon. It was inviting.
It was a good day to be out there.
So different from the previous month, when I got home several times completely soaked by the rain.

But not this particular day: clear sky, warm weather... and easily the biggest crowd of walkers, runners and cyclists in the whole year.

The same goes for the gym: when the good weather comes is when most people start to show up.
And then many people state their commitment: "Now I'm going to be "serious" about training, I'll come 2-3 days every week, and climb every weekends... this is it! Because the nice weather is here".
Similar statements can be heard when the season starts, or after the summer holidays. Or in january.
The climbing gym gets crowded.

But this doesn't last long...

Later, as always, only the "usual suspects" remain; when it's too hot or too cold, as it is most of the time in Toledo, people start vanishing (no complaints here, because that way it's easier to get some quality training).

This takes us to the following reflection

There are people who never miss a session, and go training no matter if it's a holiday, it's snowing or scalding hot; it's the same if they don't feel like training it, or have some kind of personal problem, or they are tired. By contrast, there are others who only train when all external conditions are favorable, or when they feel like it. They're not persistent.

What makes each one behave like they do?

Is it due to their personality, their motivation, the way they were taught to deal with challenges...? People who persevere in their goals do it because:

- They have the confidence to reach their objectives
- They persist in their behavior and they believe that working day by day is key to achieving their goals
- They have a high level of commitment

Commitment and Performance

Is there any relation between approach and commitment, and the increase in performance, achievement or, even better, reaching athletic excellence?

Evidently, yes

If there's something that sets apart the high level athletes, it's their quest for excellence, the desire to be the best in their sport. Their willingness to make sacrifices and their dedication is easy to perceive, they display a work ethic that translates into a higher motivation and persistence to fulfill their objectives. Reaching the top and staying there is the result of thousands of hours of work, process optimizaton, and a conscious and thorough drive for improvement. Is this feeling of self-efficacy and confidence what lets them endure the difficulties in their sport and their daily lives (Ruiz Pérez, L.M. and Sánchez Bañuelos, F., 1997).

As Goleman (1996) writes, the effective practice will result from the coincidence of factors like long-lasting enthusiasm and resilience against every kind of drawbacks.

Summing up, being, or wanting to become a high level athlete, needs a great motivation and confidence in the first place, and then, an involvement big enough to devote lots of effort and training hours.

In most cases, at least here and now, it means that most of the time that is not spent working or attending basic needs like eating or sleeping, must be used for training or trying to lead a lifestyle favorable to our athletic aspirations.

Experts talk about the 10-Year Rule (Chase and Simon, 1973), or the 10000 hours of deliberate practice (Ericsson et al., 1993) to master some activity. According to Ericsson et al. (1993), deliberate practice is a form of training that is not intrinsically motivating, that requires high levels of effort and concentration, and doesn't translate into immediate social of financial rewards.
Dani Andrada on The Ultimate Route. Petzl Roc Trip Kalymnos 2006. Photo: Sam Bie
Very few are willing to submit themselves to that...

Yet there are many people who, not being as involved, are constant enough in their training, and show a healthy dose of commitment and persistence.

How do they do it, or, how can we manage to get it?
  1. First we need to set our goals in a realistic way (in terms of health, recreation, social, performance...)
  2. Then we will assess the amount of investment needed, be it biological (effort level, physical and psychological aptitude), time or financial
  3. Once all of the above is clear, we should consider if we have that kind of resources and motivation
  4. Finally, we will commit (or not) ourselves to devote that time, money and effort to fight for what we desire. Then it's "just" a matter of persisting, resisting... or reassessing the whole process.
Eva López. Johny Mamemonic, 8b. Cuenca.  Photo: Jose Yáñez
Very well, but, does this assessment usually take place?

Do you establish realistic objectives and, more importantly, do you have enough involvement to achieve them?

Do you ever ask yourself if you are investing enough time and effort to reach your goals?

Have you ever wondered if your desires are unattainable, mere dreams that you know you won't ultimately fight for?

How many hours and days do you allocate to tasks that focus on goal-seeking?

Are you consistent with what you want?

  • It is not realistic to aspire to send a route of a grade you never climbed before, that doesn't suit your strengths, and that you try only 2-3 weekends during the year, while the rest of the time climbing much easier routes that do not help you in developing your ability to manage the difficulty and face your fears and limitations...
You will need to think if this is what you really want and can do, or if it's too hard to cope with both physically and psychologically, and so it would be better to move on and start climbing and training for routes that you can truly enjoy and be motivated with.
Ola, finally you did it!!
Aleksandra Taistra on Cosi fan tutte 8c+ (Rodellar, Spain). Photo: M Kwiatkowski. Source:
  • You want to perform a high volume of good quality training, but you are limited to one hour two days a week because you have three children, you work double-shifts and won't renounce to going out with your buddies twice a week... it's unmanageable.

Figure out your priorities and assign your family, friends and training the time they deserve, while revising your aspirations accordingly.
  • You start a rehabilitation program to recover from a serious injury, because they told you it was the best way to get over it... but just a few days into it you give it up...
Be aware that if you give up you won't recover, and this will happen because your commitment isn't adequate.

  • You want to make the podium in competitions or climb really hard routes but you only train or climb twice a week and every difficulty alters your training routine... it will be really hard for you to get there.

Stop and think what really drives you and act accordingly. Remember the 10-Year Rule.
Adam Ondra. The Change, 9b+. Flatanger (Norway). Photo: Petr Pavlíèek. Source:

Causes for giving up

Apart from setting ill-chosen objectives, low commitment, imbalance between needed (time, effort, aptitudes) and available resources, another reason for resigning is low self-confidence.
There are people whose major motivation is avoiding failure, and will rather give up than facing the possibility of defeat... paradoxically, they prefer to provoke that same failure they dreaded (self-fulfilling prophecy) than risking to suffer it later.
This way, their fears come true time after time, so they unknowingly reinforce that low confidence, that turns into a low or short persistence.

Summing up

Some important thoughts that can be gleaned from this post are:

1- Resilience and commitment are key for achieving what we want
2- If:
- our objectives aren't realistic,
- we lack an adequate commitment because they aren't important enough for us, or
- our resources are insufficient...
It would be legitimate to give up, or change the goal for other one that better suits our circumstances.
As Carver and Scheier (2007) said, it's as important in life to keep on trying time and again as letting go and realize that we are not capable of doing it.
Because the ability to make that kind of decisions at the right time is also a kind of competence.

Keep this in mind:
Achievement requires lots of time, effort and even money...
Be consistent with your objectives, adjust your level of commitment and you will always stay motivated.


  • Carver, C.S, and Scheier, M.F. (2007): Engagement, Disengagement, Coping and Catastrophe. In: Handbook of Competence and Motivation. Edited by Elliot, A.J. y Dweck, C.S. Guilford Press. New York.
  • Ericsson, K.A., Krampe, R.T. and Tesch-Römer, C. (1993): The role of deliberate practice in the acquisition of expert performance. Psychological Review 100, 363-406.
  • Goleman, D. (1996): Emotional Intelligence. Bantam Books.
  • Ruiz Pérez, L.M. and Sánchez Bañuelos, F. (1997): Rendimiento Deportivo. Claves para la optimización de los aprendizajes. Gymnos. Madrid.
  • Simon, H.A. and Chase, W.G. (1973): Skill in chess. American Scientist 61, 394-403.