Down time after the fencing season is over can be both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because the pressure is off in many ways, allowing fencers to take a breath and get their heads together. It’s a curse because finding that motivation to train when there is no competition ahead is challenging for many fencers.
Lots of fencers plan ahead to the next year or are fresh out of Fencing Summer Nationals that to help them stay uber motivated over the summer, but there are plenty who struggle to find the drive to get going.
Getting that motivation back is important, and what you need most of all is to take advantage of the tools that you don’t even know that you have! Training is at its heart about a fencer teaching themselves to think differently.
But how do you do that? Here are five techniques for finding motivation to get up and going in the off-season.
Off-season Motivation Technique #1 – Make it real
This is an idea that gives fencers a tangible way to see the importance of training each and every day. Boxes on a calendar don’t have a big impact on our understanding because they’re just lines on a page.
- Choose an item to represent each day of training before the season starts again. It might be coins, chocolate candies, dollar bills, whatever you’ve go on hand and feels motivating.
- Figure out how many days of training you’d ideally have during the off time (this is where that calendar comes in). If that’s three days a week or four days a week, whatever you and your coach decide, count up the days that you have between now and the start of fencing season. For instance if you want to train four days a week for ten weeks, that’s forty training days.
- Count out that many objects and put them on a table in front of you.
- Get two jars and label one “days I trained” and “days I skipped training”
- Every day of training during the off-season, the fencer puts their coin or their candy into the appropriate jar.
- At the end of the break they get to keep what’s in the “days I trained” jar, but they have to give away everything in the “days I skipped training” jar!
Our brains have a hard time understanding large numbers. Anything over ten often falls into this nebulous category of “a lot”. That’s NOT helpful with fencing training! We need to see how much training we’ll miss if we just take it off, we need to hold it in our hands to make it real. One day of training doesn’t seem like that much, but when you’re holding fifty jelly beans in your hands it feels substantial! That’s because it is substantial.
Taking time off from fencing training for the summer or the off season might seem like it’s not a big deal, but in reality fencers who do are missing out on a ton of progress they could be making. Thinking about it one fencing class at a time doesn’t seem like much of a waste. Realizing that each of those fencing classes missed add up shows just what a waste it really is!
One note here is that this motivation technique works well with fencers of every age. It helps us all to see the big picture of what our training adds up to, even when it seems like the reasoning for our training isn’t so cut and dry because there’s not a competition to directly train for.
Off-season Motivation Technique #2 – Make it visual
Humans are visual creatures. It’s the reason we can’t stop looking at pictures on our social media and that art continues to inspire us so deeply. What’s cool is that fencers can use visual cues to keep us motivated to train when the season is over!
Images can help competitors to keep that passion fired up. Here are some ideas about how to do that.
- Get a poster of your favorite famous fencer for your bedroom
- Add a fencing image background to your computer/tablet/phone
- Put up pictures of YOU fencing around the house
- Change the placement of your fencing gear so that it’s visible during the off-season. Hang it on a hook in the hallway instead of putting it in the closet.
- Hang your old gear up to decorate your walls. Fencing jackets, old weapons, and masks are basically art when you hang them! And they’ll keep you excited about fencing.
- Put a picture of your coach up somewhere you’ll see it every day. This helps you remember that they’re pulling for you and supporting your training!
- Hang an Olympic flag outside your home. Those rings are powerful motivation.
- Display your fencing trophies/medals/certificates. Each of those exist because you worked hard for them through training!
The trick is to keep fencing in the front of your mind so that the excitement stays through the season and when the season is over. The better you support your own positive thinking about fencing, the better you’re going to be able to get to your training without having to convince yourself to do it.
But what if you’ve already got fencing things everywhere on your walls? (Hey, some of us are already there!) Then try moving things around. Science tells us that moving our physical surroundings makes our brains excited in a happy way. That’s why it feels so good to rearrange the furniture or mow the lawn. That feel good feeling is going to be associated with fencing if it’s your fencing decorations and pictures that you’re moving around!
Off-season Motivation Technique #3 – Make it personal
This is a perfectly powerful and wonderful technique that works AMAZINGLY! Dedicate your off-season training to a special someone in your life. Often we find it difficult to do things for ourselves, but we can masterfully do them for someone else.
Here you’ve got two options.
- Dedicate your off-season fencing training to a coach, parent, sibling, fencing hero, etc.
- Dedicate your off-season fencing training to an opponent.
Either one of these options works wonderfully, depending on what you have going on in your life.
Fencing isn’t a cutthroat sport, despite being swordplay. We certainly don’t want to make more of rivalries than they have to be or turn them into something negative. However if you have a specific fencer who you have struggled to beat in competition season over and over again, then it can be a super motivator to dedicate the off season training time to overcoming the challenges that they present. When that lazy summer afternoon comes along and you think “I’ll just take this one training day off”, you think about that specific rival who challenges you and go work to make yourself better!
On the other side, dedicating fencing off-season training to someone that you care about or want to impress is incredibly powerful as well. Kids can dedicate their training to a beloved grandparent and keep them updated on their progress during the off-season and keep them updated about how it’s going through the summer.
Off-season Motivation Technique #4 – Watch Major Competitions
Sometimes the best motivation is a little daydreaming! Or perhaps we should call it inspiration from the best.
The best fencers in the world fight for the top spot at the Fencing World Championships every summer, except for years when the Olympics are being held (in which case you’ll of course be following fencing in the Olympics for motivation!). There are plenty of ways to watch online for Fencing World Championships, all it takes is doing a quick search to find out where you can watch.
It can be a bit of fantasy to follow top fencers, watching your favorite athletes and learning all about them. But building up our heroes is incredibly inspirational no matter how you slice it. This is a great motivational technique for kids, but don’t discount how important it can be for teens and adults to get into it to!
The World Championships always coincide with the off-season here in the United States, making them the perfect option for fencers who need an extra push of excitement.
Off-season Motivation Technique #5 – Make a pact
There’s nothing so motivating as a partner! Accountability is the name of the game with this technique.
It’s as simple as finding a fellow fencer who’s also struggling with the motivation to get up and get to the club for training when the season is over. Talking to someone about your struggles and your challenges makes it easier to get up and get going.
If you’ve got a friend at your club and in your class, look to carpooling or setting up social things around your fencing training to encourage you to want to go.
But this works if you know someone who trains at your club or if they’re one of the fencing friends that you’ve made from far away. Got a fencing pen-pal on the other side of the country that you met at an SYC last year and keep in touch with? Ask them to be your accountability partner for your off-season training!
Whether your accountability partner is local to your club or someone who’s far off, create a schedule where you check in with each other and commit to motivating one another on those tough days. Send each other motivational quotes, pictures, or songs. Whatever works for you and helps encourage you to get moving! Friendship and camaraderie are essential to success in sport and in life, so use it to help you stay on top of your motivation for that off-season summer of fencing training!
We hope that these ideas help you to make the most of the off-season in fencing! It’s a perfect time for fencers to hone their skills and grow without the pressure of the competition season on top of them. Great fencers go on vacation, but they don’t take the summer off. What’s more, all fencers find that off-season training actually feels good!