I am writing this as I am getting ready to go out for this week’s long run. I am preparing for the Avenue of the Giants Marathon on May 1st and since the race is exactly one month away, I am at the peak of my training mileage. As much as I am looking forward to running among the redwoods and as much as I want to be as prepared as possible, some days I just don’t feel like going out there an “doing it” (no offense to Nike intended). Marathon training spans many months during which motivation can easily ebb and flow. Today is one of those days when my motivation seems to be non-existent. Of course, my first thought then was…this would make a great blog post. Because it happens to EVERYONE.
Even Olympians and legends like ultra-marathoner Scott Jurek have these days too. Scott Jurek is a seven-time winner of the 100-mile Western States race. As luck would have it, I am currently reading his book North, which chronicles his attempt to break the speed record for completing the almost 2,200 mile Appalachian Trail. When you set out to run 50 miles a day for almost 50 days straight, you are bound to suffer from a lack of motivation from time to time, and Scott talks about just that in his book. But back to me for a moment (LOL)…
How do I deal with days that I just don’t “feel” it? I am no legend. No title or prize money is ever on the line for me. I am just a regular person who runs for fun. What happens when it is not as fun as I had hoped?
First, let’s distinguish because a day that sucks and chronic “suckiness” (yes, I just made that word up). Like the difference between chronic depression and having a bad day, I differentiate between losing my overall motivation and losing motivation for a day, several days or even a few weeks. Even the cheeriest among us have bad days. Chronic suckiness–when day after day, week after week, and month after month you don’t feel like getting out there–may mean you are burnt out and need a change for either your mental or physical well-being, or both. I encourage you to heed the signals your body and your mind are giving you. But I also encourage you to not give up too easily. Just because you are having a bad day, does not mean you are clinically depressed. And just because you do not feel like going out for your long run today (I am talking to myself here…) does not mean you need to throw in the towel altogether.
I am not going to lie to you, getting fit takes discipline. Discipline is different than motivation.
Motivation is what you want to do at any given moment. Discipline is what you do do at any given moment. Yup, it is time to put on the Big Girl Pants here. We all do things that are not necessarily what we want to do. For example, I often get up to walk the dog when I really just want to sleep in. That is the difference between discipline and motivation; and my pup Lucy appreciates that I am disciplined about her potty walks. Why am I disciplined about her potty walks? Well, for one, I do not like what happens to the carpets when I am not disciplined (you get it…). Thinking about your fitness WHY also helps when motivation ebbs.
Why do you want to get fit? If you have not already identified your WHY, that may affect your ability to stick with it. Personally, I want to stay fit because doing so will allow me to age gracefully and continue to do the things I enjoy, despite the fact that my birthdays keep coming. Your reasons may be different. Whenever I start working with a new client, we always start with identifying her WHY. For some, it is an upcoming epic journey such as snorkeling in the Galapagos, swimming with the dolphins in Bimini, or hiking the Inca Trail in Machu Picchu. For others, it is a more daily experience, such as being able to keep up with grandkids, reduce the effects of asthma, or reverse the trend toward diabetes. In his book, Scott talks a lot about his WHY and what keeps him going.
On these sucky days like today, I remember that it is not just about motivation. It is also about maintaining the discipline to reach my goal and knowing why that goal is important to me. So, if you will excuse me now, I am heading out for my long run…