I’ve been spending a lot of time lately listening to podcasts. Specifically, Nicole Antionette’s Real Talk Radio. I listen to them when I’m driving, doing mundane, no-concentration required tasks, or sometimes while I’m running. I gravitate towards the ones that talk about running, or that interview a runner. I’ve listened to Lauren Fleshman, Dominique Jackson, Nick Symonds, Sarah Robinson, Kate Grace and Ryan Knapp. To be honest, I’ve become a little bit obsessed: I crave them when I go too long without, and I find my brain coming back to the ideas and connecting to different parts of each episode at different times.
One of these was the episode with Ryan Knapp. A running coach and ultra runner, Ryan talked a lot about the idea of motivation. It’s a huge thing in ultra races, where you are inevitably hurting, struggling, wanting to quit and likely finding a lot of reasons why you want to quit, versus why you want to keep going, and struggling to find that motivation to push forward and keep putting one foot in front of the other. Or maybe, even more so than that, during training when you are struggling to even get one foot on the floor and out the door to get started.
We all have those weeks, those days, those periods during our training where it is just such a difficult, task to just go on a run. The struggle is real. The bed is warmer, the couch is more comfortable, the idea of going home is nicer and the inner drive is severely drained. The motivation is slacking.
And so, most of us turn to things that motivate us. Maybe we sit there and look at inspirational quotes, call up our friend and complain about whatever has happened that day, procrastinate by doing something else, but inevitably, in the back of our mind, is the same thought going around: I’m not motivated to go running, (or do my workout, go to the gym etc.).
Let’s talk about this for a second though: are we not motivated or we are allowing the idea of not being motivated to be a reason we aren’t doing what we know in our heart we want to be or should be doing. Is this need for motivation to fuel us, pushing us forward, or holding us back?
I can’t take credit for this concept and thought process, as it was really Ryan Knapp who set it in my mind and spoke about it, but it’s so true: maybe sometimes we just need to recognize that we may not want to do something, but we still can do it, and that we don’t need any special thing, like this big hit of motivation to make it happen. That maybe, sometimes, we send ourselves in a cycle, where we think we aren’t quite feeling like doing it, and then blame it on lack of motivation and then when we can’t find that motivating thing, don’t do anything at all.
But when you break it down, we are searching for this special “thing” – inspiring pictures online, a call from a friend, a partner to show up at the door – that is going to make us run, when maybe, we want to work to train our own mind to make us run. It is very often, during running, that are you at that intersection where you want to quit, but know you want to keep going (think marathon, bad weather running, long training run etc.). Whether it’s during these times, or the times we just can’t get started at all, we want to be able to harness our mental strength to be the thing that pushes us over the line on those days when it’s hard or when we don’t necessarily want to. And more than that, it’s about making the disconnect between not being motivated, and using that as an excuse of why we can’t do something and simply recognizing that maybe we don’t want to do something, but that we can anyway.
The next time you find yourself struggling, or feeling like you have a lack of motivation, take a few minutes to think about the situation and be honest with yourself: are you using the notion of motivation as an excuse and reason you can’t run, and letting it hold you back, or is motivation genuinely what pushes you forward. And if it’s holding you back, work on a little self talk: “I don’t want to do this, and that’s fine that I don’t want to, but I know I can anyway, so for the next hour, that’s what I need to do.” Because you totally have it in you to do it anyway!
I’m not saying, I haven’t been victim to this same thought process: I’ve even written lots about lack of motivation, or finding motivation, or how to get motivated. And I think it is normal to go through periods where you are in a bit of a running slump and find it hard to get out the door for a few days (or weeks). But the last time that happened to you, you probably made up a heap of excuses of why that was happening (busy at work, not enough sleep, sore muscles), and then went searching for a heap of ways to get you back on track. You likely didn’t acknowledge in your head, “okay, this is how I’m feeling, and that is okay to feel that way,” before separating that feeling from the knowledge that you can do the task anyway. This latter way of thinking is where I’ve been spending a lot more mental time lately – both running/fitness related and every day life related – and it is a refreshing perspective.
So if any of this sounds like you and what you are experiencing in terms of thoughts on motivation, or struggles with running, do yourself a favor and switch your mindset. Because remember, even if you don’t want to do something, you still can do something . . .