“Every runner questions the purpose of the effort at one time or another.”
Defining The Grind
Motivation, especially in the middle of a training program for a race, is challenging. We runners are a tough bunch! A runner is willing to pound pavement for weeks on end in any element that presents itself including torrential rain, humidity, and even snow if need be.
I am often asked about motivation. More importantly, what do you do if you find that motivation is suffering, being insidious or sudden as it might be. It is silly to think that we will always feel like lacing up our shoes, if ever actually. Nevertheless runners still find a way to make it out the door.
Following are five keys to motivation for you to consider:
- Your goal might be too ambitious: It is important to set both well thought out long-term and short-term goals. Each requires specialized attention. Sometimes we set long-term goals that we are simply not ready for. In the case of a marathon, it is common for new runners to not give yourself enough street time before taking on the rigors of marathon training. Any short-term series of goals you set to achieve this massive undertaking will disappoint due to injury and frustration that comes with slow body adjustments to intensity. Consider a series of shorter races the year before you start your marathon training.
- Assess your commitment: If you started training on an emotional high, and believe that motivation is only what you “feel”, then you will likely not make it through your training program. Motivation requires you to take action regardless of how you feel. Assess your commitment, not how you “feel” about your progress. The fact is, given time, you can run just about any distance. However, there are many days, if not most, when you will have to take action and stick to your commitment regardless of how you feel.
- Allow yourself to shift focus: You likely started running to lose weight. It was a good idea because it works. The problem is that over time you realize that weight loss as a runner takes longer than you ever anticipated. Disappointed? Sure! That means you have no choice but to focus your attention on the other powerful benefits of running, benefits that are not as easy to physically see. Focus your attention on the cardiovascular benefits. Notice how anxiety is no longer the master of your domain. Have a history of depression? No problem! The intensity of running works some of those kinks out too!
- Become a rewards junky: As driven people, runners focus intently on the outcome, failing to see the amazing scenery along the way. I realize that you are much more sophisticated than a Skinnerian rat! But don’t forget you need a crumb too! Buy yourself that shirt you were thinking about the other day. Treat yourself to a restaurant once in a while. Or, if you are like me, get addicted to finding and purchasing new running gear! Believe me, it motivates!
- Build a support system: If the people you love, and those you surround yourself with at work and home do not support your efforts, get a divorce, quit your job, and find a new group of people to hang out with! UMMMM….NOOOOOO! But seriously, every runner needs to surround themselves with folks that will be there during the wins, and also during the periods when running just plain sucks! Life is a flash in the pan. Only spend it with people who care about your journey.
Join The Struggle
Everyone has tricks to getting through the slumps. I invite your addition to the list above. For now, know that I am a runner as well, and I understand how it feels to struggle on this journey. I also know how amazing it feels to get across the finish line knowing I gave it every part of me.