In most of the books and blogs I’ve read about writing, the first piece of advice is “put bum in seat”. In other words, to borrow from Nike, “Just do it”. That’s a bit misleading. You not only have to stop procrastinating, you also need to have a creative idea to work with. It’s not uncommon in the writing process to stare at a blank screen or sheet of paper for a long time without any results. Sitting down and getting to it is more helpful than not doing so, but it doesn’t guarantee success.
Running isn’t that complicated. You don’t need to be creative; you just need to do it. Just. Do. It. Then why is that so hard sometimes? Recently my brother – and frequent running partner – sent me a one-line email that said, “You are not nearly as fun or interesting now that you are a non-runner.” I guess he misses me! We’ve spent the last 4 years enjoying frequent and long phone conversations commiserating about our weekly training efforts. Until June. After our last half marathon in Ottawa at the end of May I was ready for a break. That was my story and I stuck to it. The problem was that once I stopped it was so darn easy to just stay stopped. I became an example of what we learn in physics: inertia – a body at rest stays at rest. My summer has been one of inertia.
I’ve had a lot of good excuses:
1. Too humid
2. Too hot
3. Too hot and humid
4. Too rainy
5. It looks like it might rain
6. Too full
7. Too hungry
8. Traveling (although my running gear came with me and had a nice time in my suitcase)
9. Have company (who went out for runs while visiting us)
10. Just don’t feel like it (The real truth)
OK, not such good excuses. The reality is that I probably did need a bit of a break. My long training runs just hadn’t been going well and the excitement of the race environment in May didn’t give me the extra kick I had been missing, even with perfect running weather. The challenge in taking a break is making sure you have an effective return strategy. My brother is right, we need a target race.
It’s obviously easy to stop, I’ve proven that. But there are so many reasons to keep going:
1. It’s good for your cardio health
2. It’s good for weight control
3. It helps you have more energy for other things (I realize this seems a bit counterintuitive, but it’s true)
4. It teaches you a LOT about paying attention to what your body is trying to tell you (including when to take a break)
5. It gives you entry into the welcoming world of recreational runners, who love sharing their tales of triumphs and tribulations. What a supportive and non-judgmental community.
And now, how to motivate yourself to get up off the sofa and lace up those sneakers:
1. Set yourself a goal (a target race or a target distance, whatever works for you)
2. It should be a reasonable goal; you don’t want to set yourself up for failure.
3. Post your goal somewhere where you can be reminded of it often, like on your fridge door or the wall over your desk.
4. Tell people about your goal so it’s public knowledge and thereby harder for you to get out of it (something about pride!).
5. Find a training program that works well for you and keep it close at hand. Remember that a schedule is meant to be flexible; don’t use missing one planned training run as an excuse to give up.
6. Find a friend (brothers and husbands work well, too) to work towards the same goal.
7. Find some inspiration. Diana Nyad, the 64-year-old woman who just swam from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage is a good option. If she can do that while battling jellyfish stings, surely I can run another half marathon.
It turns out that ebbs and flows in motivation is natural, but so is giving up. With that in mind, I’m ready to turn my ebb into a flow. Phil, are you up for hills? How about the Blue Nose Half Marathon in Halifax next May? Or the Washington, DC Rock ‘n Roll Half in March? Other suggestions for favourite spring half marathons are also welcome.
Then, of course, our names may get drawn for the London Marathon in April. That would bring the motivation on fast, very fast!