Saturday, May 19, 2012

How do you stay motivated? Five things I have learned.

It's morning.  Early morning. You are awakened from your sleep by an annoying alarm clock.

"Time to go run, uuuuugh"

The bed?  Warm.  Soft.  Really soft.

"Man, laying here feels so good.  Let me gather my thoughts."

Your wife/husband/partner/dogs are all still snoozing away.  They look like you feel...warm...comfortable.

The hour?  Too early really.

"Who gets up at this time of day to exercise anyways?"
"I have already ran 4 times this week.  I probably need a rest day!." 
"Heck, it is probably raining out there.  I think I can hear it."

Adjust the alarm for another hour, roll back over to sleep.

Feeling guilty.

Feeling like a total candy-ass.

"Get your butt out of bed lazy!  If you don't get out today, it will make it easy to roll over again tomorrow."

Turning off the alarm and getting out the door....

Does this sound at all familiar?  

We all go through it.  It is hard to stay committed to a rigorous exercise plan day in day out for years on end.

I have worked out at least 10-12 hours a week (sometimes much more) for the last 15 years.  I have managed to stay motivated (more or less) during the whole time period.

During those 15 years of hardcore training, I have learned at least five things about motivation.

Motivation ebbs and flows.  Some days running is a total joy.  Some days it is just "meh".  Some days it really sucks.  The key to managing these ebbs and flows is to not get wrapped up in the day to day brain talk.   I fully expect I will not love running a day or two a week.  That's okay to me.  I recognize that no matter how I feel, I gotta get out there and do the work.  My body is mostly independent of my self talk and I can deal with the ups and downs.

When you are temporarily unmotivated to exercise, do it anyways.  Push yourself to just get started.  I can tell you that some of my best mornings are ones where I almost talked myself into staying in bed and pushed myself to shut down the negativity in my head.  My self talk always congratulates me at the end of the miles for not wussing out, getting started and then getting it done.

Know why you exercise and remind yourself of this frequently.  Do you run for thinking time?  Do you exercise to rock a hot bikini on the beach this summer?  Do you run to lose weight?  Are you training for a race?  Whatever the reason, remind yourself why you exercise frequently.  Steer your inner self talk to the results of missing a session.  "Hmmm, I missed my 8 miles this morning.   I need to put in the miles to stay on my training schedule for the SF Marathon.  I really want to do well at SF!"

Get some strange.   Yup, I said it, but I am not meaning it in the way you took it!  What I do mean is that you should change up your routine if you start to feel stale.  Go from road to trail.  Run to bike.  Throw a boxing workout in.  Go to a yoga class.  Whatever...just change it up for a few days.  Your motivation will return for your primary exercise vehicle soon enough.

Plan extended breaks to give your body and mind time to regroup.   After each of my 9 Ironman races, I took a month off.  I lived like a civilian for 25-30 days.  I did it for a number of reasons, but the main one was to give myself a period to bottle up motivation.  ( I always relished the return to normal training after the extended break.)

As the Nike commercial goes....

Just do it!

If you want to share your motivation secrets...throw a comment below!