Motivation, where are you hiding?

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.

Halifax waterfront,  Source: novascotia.com

Halifax waterfront, Source: novascotia.com

Then, of course, our names may get drawn for the London Marathon in April. That would bring the motivation on fast, very fast!

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13 Responses to Motivation, where are you hiding?

  1. Lisa says:

    Oh Jane, I used all your excuses this summer as well, I fell off the running wagon around mid June, maybe it’s the province we live in, to hot, humid or rainy for running. I have been traveling for work through Ontario and Quebec and my poor running shoes never get to feel the soil of a foreign terrain but the bumpy trunk ride. Good luck with getting back on schedule.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Hi Lisa. I’m glad to hear that my sneakers are not the only ones that spend trips staying in the suitcase! We maritimers are good at spending all winter planning what we’ll do when summer comes, and then we remember that it’s too hot. 🙂

  2. Roy McCarthy says:

    I’ve no doubt I’d have given up running at this stage only for starting a joggers group in January. As well as introducing adults to jogging it’s given me the imperative of lacing up three times a week. And actually I’m enjoying being part of a group after training solo for 10 years. Another Couch to 5k group starts on Monday and I think we’ll have another sizeable crowd.
    Goals no longer work for me – I have no shame in abandoning them 🙂

    • Jane Fritz says:

      You jogging group sounds like fun, Roy, and also rewarding. I don’t buy your dismissal of goals, however. I don’t think you’d have 3 published books and one on the go without having set goals! 🙂

  3. jennypellett says:

    I read another blog today whose post informed us that in America it is Fight Procrastination Day today, so your post is spookily timely! You are so right – goals need to be set, or, in the case of writing, deadlines are helpful – especially to me, who has been faffing around all summer break – so much time on my hands and no inclination to get down and write lots!
    Good luck with your running program, and keep on blogging 🙂

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Fight Procrastination Day, now there’s something worth buying a card for! I’ll have to write that on my calendar for next year. 🙂 I know what you mean about the same challenge re writing. That had been my lofty goal for the summer as well. Ha! Maybe summers just aren’t meant to be productive. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for Fall.

  4. But you still managed to get a very fine, interesting post out of it, didn’t you!
    Do it again–I like this 🙂

  5. DM says:

    I need to rekindle the fire in another area of my life- finishing a book I started. Motivation is such a mystery to me. I don’t live by my feelings, but @ the same time, it feels like I’m trying to start a fire with wet fire wood. Good to have you writing again ! DM

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks for sharing motivation challenges, DM. If you’ve got a book on the go, I’m sure it’s something worth finishing. For me, Fall is always the best time to re-engage. Something about that lifelong back-to-school feeling. You may have to whittle down your to-do list to make room, however, based on the many farm activities you blog about!

  6. alesiablogs says:

    I like this post. It has been an interesting 6 months for me with my new found walking routine. I have loved the results, but this was NOT easy. I am now trying to figure out how to lose 20 more pounds! So for now I am walking about 1 and a half to 2 hours a day. It is difficult to find the time, but I had to make it happen as no other exercise worked for me. I know most would not have the time to do this, but it was really my only choice.
    Thanks for your motivating post! Alesia

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Alesia, I hope you are justifiably proud of these accomplishments to date. That takes real determination. I’m pretty good with sticking to schedules, but I do find that once I stop something it is really hard to rev up the engine again. It seems that rests have their downsides! Keep up the good work!!!

      • alesiablogs says:

        There is a feeling of accomplishment. I am dealing with chronic back pain though that I need to get into therapy for this week, and I think the walking is causing it to be worse, but I am not going to stop walking unless the doctor tells me I need to. I hate to give it up for any reason, but I may need to rest my back more. I am not good at staying still.Thank you !!!

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