Inspiration Trumps Motivation Every Time

Training & Health

10/14/2008| 0 comments
by Chris Carmichael

Inspiration Trumps Motivation Every Time

Given the choice of who I’d rather coach, I’d take one inspired athlete over 10 motivated ones.

Given the choice of who I’d rather coach, I’d take one inspired athlete over 10 motivated ones. Here’s an example of what I mean. During the early years of Lance Armstrong’s storied cycling career, he was motivated but not inspired. He was being paid to race a bicycle; he was good at it, a fierce competitor and a very powerful rider, but racing was just his job. When he felt like training, he ripped off great performances and won races, but then there would be times when he’d lose focus and drop off the radar, and I’d have to track him down and get him back on target. When he returned to the sport after cancer, however, motivation was replaced by inspiration and his commitment to training and competition, and his performance, took off by leaps and bounds.  

There’s a big difference between a motivated athlete and an inspired one, within any sport and any level of participation. Motivation gets you out of bed and into the gym or to trailhead, but inspiration pushes you to get the maximum benefit out of every effort and every workout.

Motivation comes and goes because it is a product of logic. People are motivated to exercise because of simple equations like: More exercise = greater fitness - love handles + sex appeal. There’s a mathematical, mechanical component to motivation that leaves it vulnerable to changing circumstances. Motivation goes out the window, for many people, if the equation gets thrown out of whack by poor weather, a new girlfriend or boyfriend, or mounting obligations at work. Inspiration, on the other hand, plows through the math to keep you on track for your athletic and fitness goals, even through life’s ups and downs.

Inspiration is the most powerful performance enhancer on earth because it enables you to access deep reserves of power and energy that simple motivation can’t touch. In Lance’s case, the process of fighting cancer required every ounce of his strength and commitment. He dug deeper than any race had previously asked of him and learned what he was really capable of when he directed the full force of his attention and devotion to a goal. With his second chance at life, he gathered inspiration from the millions of cancer patients and survivors with whom he shared a common bond. The inspiration to show the world that cancer was beatable, and that survivors were anything but damaged goods, drove him straight to the top of sport and sustained him through a record-breaking streak of victories in one of the world’s toughest endurance events.

You don’t need to stare death in the face to be inspired, but I have found that athletes and active individuals driven by inspiration are far more likely to achieve their goals than those motivated by consequences (positive or negative). There’s no shortage of possible sources of inspiration:

· A close relative’s struggle with cancer, diabetes, or MS?

· The work of a bigger organization like the LiveStrong (Lance Armstrong Foundation), Race for the Cure (Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation), or Team Duke (John Wayne Cancer Foundation) events?

· Octogenarians finishing Ironman events?

· Paralympians breaking world records and scorching the able-bodied competitors in the field?

The big question is: What inspires you?

For more information on the latest in training, fitness, and nutrition from Chris Carmichael and the coaches at Carmichael Training Systems, go to

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