Winter is here: cold temperatures; early sunsets; an increase in excuses not to do X; a decrease in motivation to do X. Living in the Northeast poses many difficulties for winter running. Just leaving the house can be difficult when the winds are whipping around and the thermometer reads single digits. Every part of you feels cold. “Why should I go out there and torture myself?” I found myself asking this question on a recent run. 30 minutes into it I felt drained of energy, my hands and feet were cold, and my motivation was nil—so I stopped. While I wish I hadn’t, it gave me a moment of pause to contemplate both sides of the issue of self motivation. (Katie would kindly point out that I am always looking for an opportunity to over think and philosophize—it’s true, but I digress.)
Yes, there are many times when we stop when we could go on. If we have a goal we want to achieve we need to push ourselves in order to realize it. As Susan Lacke succinctly puts it, “Goals are supposed to be hard. If it isn’t hard, it’s not a goal — it’s a task.” But sometimes running is a task, and that’s fine. I don’t think there is necessarily anything wrong with that. Running can be a part of your life, it can be a part of who you are—I know it is a part of who I am—but no one says that you have to kill yourself every time you lace up your shoes. Most of my recent runs have been just about going out and running. No watch; no set mileage; to regiment—just running. If I am having an off day I cut the run short. I firmly believe that most people view running as a chore, as something that isn’t fun to do. So until that mindset is changed running will continue to give people that “Ugh” feeling. If more people realized that running does not have to be all or nothing then perhaps running might become more of a part of their lives then as merely a means to some end. (I digress again.)
Having said this, keep in mind that change (especially changing who you are) is very often uncomfortable. Moving beyond the placid waters of what I am used to can be painful. The first time I wrote a philosophy paper I was terrified; the first chapter of my dissertation was overly nerve-racking. The first time I ran a distance longer than 5k was hard; the first time I ran 13.1 I thought I was going to die. But every time I went beyond what I thought was my threshold I realized that that perceived stopping point is always subjective: it can always be moved.
For myself I have always found that if I establish a tangible goal (e.g., register for a race that is longer than I have ever run) I will need to push myself. “Need” may be too strong of a word, but I do feel a kind of compulsion to ensure the achievement of that goal. Keep this in mind next time you don’t think that you can do something. “I can’t run that distance, it’s too far.” Well, sign up for a race at that distance. Now you know that race day is coming, so what are you going to do about it? As my one of my philosophy professors would say, “Quit kibitzing around the table.”
I want to end this little post by re-posting some helpful hints from Susan Lacke’s recent post, “The only thing stopping you is you?”, at No Meat Athlete. These are partly for you, but also reminders for myself:
- Make it public. Quitting is easy when you keep your goals to yourself. If you tell the world about it, you’ve made yourself accountable. And you’ll probably inspire someone.
- Use denial as a weapon for attacking doubt. (If you want to borrow my mantra: “I can, I will, and kiss my ass.”)
- Ignore what other people have to say. Especially if what they have to say starts with “You should…” The only person who knows what you “should” be doing is you.
- Know your reasons. Make a list of reasons why you want to accomplish whatever it is, and include painful ones like “If I don’t accomplish this I’ll feel ___ and I’ll let down ___.” Make your reasons detailed and emotional — you want to really feel it so that you’ll be motivated to act.
- Keep a journal of your progress. Focus on how far you’ve come, not how far you still have to go. (“I took two seconds off my average minutes per mile today. I’m a BAMF!”)
- Stop comparing yourself to others. Your goal should be about achieving the upper echelons of your awesomeness, not someone else’s.
- Mentor someone else. Whether it’s someone who wants to become a vegetarian or is training for the same 5K you did two years ago, mentoring is a great reminder that you accomplished something that, at one time, you thought was impossible.
- Refuse to settle for less. Don’t water down your goal because it’d be easier. Goals aresupposed to be hard. If it isn’t hard, it’s not a goal — it’s a task.
- If you stumble, learn from your experience and try again – no one ever said you only had one shot.