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How to prepare mentally, stay focused and keep motivated


The Red Bull X-Alps is the world’s toughest adventure race, a gruelling 1,138km journey, across six countries from Salzburg to Monaco. So how do you keep motivated, not just for the race itself, but through all the months of training beforehand?
My first tip is to make the race – and all the highs and lows it will bring – part of something bigger. Don’t view it as a challenge in isolation. Make it part of your larger life goal. Perhaps you want to spend your life having adventures that pay their way and keep you out of the daily grind long-term? If this is the case, the Red Bull X-Alps is a means to that end. It will improve your skills, toughen your mind and body, and motivate you to chase your wildest dreams. Every step, all the aches, the tiredness, the hardship and the effort don’t just give you a better chance of winning the race, they also take you that little bit closer to achieving your bigger dream. Knowing that is the best mental preparation, and the best motivator of all.

It will also remind you that this is the life you have chosen – that it’s actually fun. Yes, you encounter some tough times during a race like this, but it also allows you to do all the things that excite you. Instead of sitting at a desk, you’re surrounded by the most beautiful landscapes on earth, hiking, flying and thinking for yourself. Compared to that, blisters and aching thighs are a minor detail. They’re just the price you pay for living the life you love. Take some time to look around you. Count your blessings. What better motivation could there be?
There are, of course, times when it’s hard to stay focused, and tiredness takes its toll. And that’s when you might feel like giving up. The key then is to focus simply on the next step, the next flight. Forget the sheer scale of the distance ahead and concentrate instead on the here and now. Walking can seem painfully slow sometimes, that it will never get you across a country, let alone a continent. But by just putting one foot in front of the other, it’s incredible how the miles get swallowed up. And before you know it, you’re somewhere else, your mood has lifted, and you’ve rediscovered your motivation for the big stuff.

Humans are addictive creatures. But just as you can get addicted to cigarettes, you can also get addicted to training. The first time you get out of bed in the dark to go on a 40km training run, your mind and body will scream “No!”. Do it a few times though, and that “No!” will get gradually quieter. After a while, you’ll find it even becomes a “Yes”. Once your training becomes routine, you’ll find a new kind of inner motivation, a new focus on the task. And then you’ll feel disappointed when you don’t train, or go that extra mile.

But don’t forget to keep challenging yourself. When you’re training, for whatever it is, it’s best to be in a state of “flow”. If you’re doing something too easy for your abilities, you’ll get bored – and give up. Try something too hard, and you’ll get stressed – or injured. But strike the right balance between your skills and the challenge you set yourself, and you’ll find yourself in flow. Time will slip by almost unnoticed and you’ll find yourself utterly focused on the challenge.

Whatever you’re doing, keep going. Don’t give up. And move!

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