This too was a requested topic. This topic might apply to athletes of all ages. For an older athlete there are two parts to it. First, what motivates you and second what keeps you motivated.
Since motivation is unique to an individual, I can really only speak to what motivates me. That said, as always I invite feedback, comments and topic ideas.
For me motivation is painfully simplistic: THE LOVE OF THE SPORT. As readers of this blog you have heard me say, “I fell in love with the ice.” This is true. There is a visceral heartfelt tug that I long for when I am not with the ice – hate the cold – love the ice.
A friend said to me this week, “Gee Prata, have not heard from you in months. You get married?” I replied, “Well, I am already married to the Ice and my partner is Gabriel my sled.” Yes. As internally focused as it seems, when you drive a sled at 90 MPH in a tunnel of ice you must be one with your sled.
I have done sports of some kind my entire life. There is a mental side to this sport which can beat you in a second. Literally, I rely on my love of the sport, the ice and amazing opportunity I have to do this. Basically if you are motivated by the love of the sport then everything will be ok. Yet is so difficult under extreme competition pressure to remember why you are there.
Now the hard part, WHAT KEEPS YOU MOTIVATED? Many things play a role here and it is easy to say love of the sport, but there has to be more in the summer when one is miles from ice, Gabriel is sleeping without runners and my training is on a track and in a gym. I am committed 100% of my day – this can be exhausting day after day. To train you need sleep and the right food all the time. So that is a commitment that means you give up other things when there is no one to remind you for the LOVE OF THE SPORT. There are times that you dig deep for those things that drive and motivate you. For me, in addition to the love of the sport, I have some grief issues. My mother would love that I am doing this – My brother Patrick, no longer on earth, is the poster child for the USA 1996 Summer Games – there are many other losses including a brother of whom I am immensely proud and was an Army Ranger. But when I stand on the ice behind Gabriel and I get ready to go, Mama and Patrick are there. Grief is an interesting motivator. They watch and guide, I know it; they also understand “for the love of the sport.”
When asked what motivates me or any athlete sometimes, some might think, “Fame and glory.” If it is for fame and glory, those are the wrong reasons. Dreaming of fame and glory is fine and might serve as a motivator for some. Personally I strongly caution against it. The view of slamming your body into an emotional train wreck can often be the result. I propose that as an older professional athlete I have the wisdom to know that my sport and role in it remains a hat I take on and off. Ever met an attorney or a doctor who have forgotten that they were a human on earth first, then they got a degree and it is not who they are but a role they play for part of their human life on earth? It is not what defines me as a person. If a person is defined by any singular role or hat in their life, they often set themselves up for disappointment.
Finding something to live for is NOT the same as being defined by it.
So at the end of the day – there are days I would rather not go to the gym – those are days I still do something. I do something every day. Some days that is mental training or spiritual training. Being motivated to do a sport that is 85% mental requires balance and motivational factors that may not be typical.
And there are days where I have gone to the gym and after six minutes turned around and walked out. This is life and humanity. You dig deep and power through what others can not imagine. That does not mean although I think I am super human, I am not invincible.
I think this bone bruise deep in my elbow acquired a few weeks ago in a Calgary competition is a good reminder that even a concrete wall with no ice on it is still a bit stronger than me –SOMETIMES – maybe perhaps but not really…. The LOVE OF THE SPORT IS THE BEST CURE FOR ANY PHYSICAL OR EMOTIONAL PAIN THAT COMES WITH THE JOURNEY!!!
I LOVE BEING ON THE ICE AND SLIDING…IT IS FOR ME THE MOST UNDESCRIBABLE EXPERIENCE OF MY LIFE THAT BRINGS TEARS TO MY EYES …. SOOO WHAT MOTIVATES ME IS TRULY THE LOVE OF THE SPORT.
Guest post by Anna Prata, an Olympic hopeful Competitive Skeleton Athlete. Otherwise known mainly by her last name of Prata, she is 100% committed and passionate about living every moment of her life and leaving it on the field every day. In her non-athlete time, Prata is a highly successful executive in the niche of corporate turnaround. Both her corporate life and her sports life have similarities of stealth, intensity, and speed in creating value and less time down the ice; while wearing Kevlar to protect from the dangers of companies in distress and from potentially hitting a wall of ice at 90 MPR. Ms. Prata is not a nutritionist, a physical therapist or in any way should her opinions be considered medical, physical or psychological advice.