I’ve neglected my blog much too long this summer. No real reason, other than the voices in my head have been unusually quiet, so I’ve felt uninspired and uninspiring. I’m happy (?) to report they’re back, talking over each other in their need to be heard, and coming soon to a blog post near you. Turns out, they’ve all been sulking this summer because they thought we weren’t going to get some much needed R&R someplace salty and sandy, because when we booked a last minute trip for later this month, they all came out of hiding, quivering with excitement.
The loudest voice has been talking about motivation. I don’t know any long term runners, including myself, who haven’t been asked how they stay motivated to run. I think I can answer for all of us with two simple words, “We don’t.”
I frequently lose motivation, even (or maybe expecially) in the middle of a training cycle for a race that I’m looking forward to with intensity. Doubt in my abilities, inclement weather (which for me means cold), that weird combination of anticipation and dread inspired by a particularly hard workout, not eating well, eating too well, discouragement in lack of progress, feeling too fat for my running skirt, just pick a reason. I’ve lost motivation for all of those and more.
Having fallen in love with this sport early in my running life, and knowing that I want to be a life time runner, I knew I had to learn to deal with that sinking lack of motivation that comes to every runner, even elite ones, at various seasons during their running lives. For me, that was accomplished by making it a habit, like brushing and flossing my teeth (which I’m also frequently unmotivated to do).
I’ve learned that it’s okay to take time off from running, as long as I maintain my fitness doing something else. I’ve learned to listen when my body starts complaining about over training and heed its warning. I’ve learned the value of rest days, and the importance of cross training. I’ve learned to take my running clothes with me when I work out of town or go on vacation so I don’t get out of the habit, and that a simple change of scenery will often breathe new life into a stale training plan.
When you first begin running, or begin again after a break, motivation is an almost constant companion. But, after you’ve accomplished your goals, run the race or lost the pounds, the new kind of wears off. If it’s not something you’ve taught your body to expect, you may lose interest and stop.
That’s where that habit thing comes in. Some may call it discipline, but I don’t. I’m not particularly disciplined, but I am a creature of habit. After too much time off, my body reminds me in subtle, then not so subtle, ways that it’s time to lace up again.
For instance, earlier this summer, I had a somewhat frightening migraine that triggered a spike in my normally very low blood pressure, making me feel bad for several days. By day four, I was done with feeling bad, so I forced myself to get out of bed before 7, and headed to a local trail for a walk. My mind kept telling me to go back to bed, but my body knew. I walked so slowly that the turtles looked at me with scorn, but in less than five minutes, I felt better. And, I felt better the rest of the day. I made myself walk at least 30 minutes every day for the next week, and finally, my BP got back to normal. Within a couple of weeks, I was running again, back on my training plan.
When my alarm clock goes off WAY too early, I sometimes resort to trickery to get myself out of my nice, warm nest. I tell myself that I’ll only go for ten minutes, and if I still don’t want to run, I can go back to bed. I never end up back in bed. Once I start, I’m reminded of how much better I feel when I run than when I don’t.
It all comes down to this for me: I’ve felt bad, and I’ve felt good. Feeling good is better. I’ve been fit, and I’ve been fat. Being fit is better.
I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t say that I sometimes give in to the siren song of my comfy bed with my warm man in it, but more often than not, I get up and out the door to get my run on. That said, I turned my alarm off this very morning and stayed in bed another half hour. What can I say? Stuff happens.
I’ve never once regretted getting up early to run, but I have almost always regretted sleeping in. For me, for now, that’s enough.