Motivation is a really personal thing. Nobody else can motivate you, but what they can do is help you to figure out what your unique and individual motivation is. This can be through telling you what motivates them, so you can take a small part and see if it fits and perhaps inspire you with their stories. That is the carrot and it is by far the best way of doing things. The other way is the metaphorical stick which is, to be honest, a crap way of trying to motivate yourself. I think that most of us are born to rebel, so when you tell us to run to lose weight or cycle to drop our blood pressure then the first thing we want to do is eat a doughnut and get angry. Can you imagine if the hulk was triggered by doughnuts? They’d have to ban Bruce Banner from Krispy Kreme.
As you can gather I am not motivated by weight loss, or by my blood pressure. On the face of it I don’t really like running that much at all, so why do I do so much of it? It’s an interesting question and probably not one I could have answered a year or two ago. I would have given you some trite and nebulous answer like “to stay healthy.” That’s a load of man-vegetables really.
I am a believer that we determine our deaths by the manner in which we live our lives. It stands to reason that statistically that which you do most is the thing that is most likely to kill you. This means I’m either going to die eating a massive plate of fish and chips, or one day I’m going to fall off of or into something while I’m out leaping around the countryside. Another reason to carry some form of ID while running, so in a squillion years when archaeologists find my remains they can give my descendants closure. I like standing on the top of hills so I guess there is an outside shot that I could perish in some brilliant flash of lightning while I am admiring the view. If I do then hopefully someone will get it on film.
What I am trying to say is that if you enjoy the fish and chips without the running. If you prefer to sit on your sofa, gain weight, indulge your whims and die in situ then that is up to you. Be sure it brings you peace in your enjoyment of it though and it isn’t just some self-pitying cry for help that nobody is around to see. If it truly makes you happy to do such things then fill your boots. I am happy for you, but don’t be surprised when the doctor tells you that this behaviour will kill you. I once had a conversation with my doctor where she asked if I do enough physical activity. When I told her what I did she then suggested that perhaps I did too much. I laughed, after all I’ve already stated that I don’t do it for my health.
DO WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY! (As long as it isn’t eating babies, pickling your neighbours cats or generally being an evil fuckwhit.)
So, back to the question. Why do I run and could you be motivated by what motivates me? I can tell you the former, but I am afraid you will need to figure out the latter for yourself. Like all worthwhile things it takes some work and time to figure it out. Anyway, here goes.
I sat down a while ago when I realised that exercising simply to lose weight is rubbish. It doesn’t work. For me that is not motivation enough. I looked at all the sports I have been involved in and asked myself “what about these do I really enjoy?” My answer was that I really enjoy a good hilltop view. That was it, that was how I got started. I then found the nearest hill, and was lucky that it was a small peak on Dartmoor with an amazing view. I then either walked or ran up it every day for about six months. Sometimes I listened to a podcast, others to music (Dartmoor sheep really aren’t a big fan of my singing), and other times I let my ears go au naturel and listened to the streams gurgle and the birds sing. I really enjoyed it. I clawed my way out of the clinical depression that I was fighting at the time. I became fitter and healthier than I had ever been, simply as a by product of doing something that I enjoyed.
Some days it was easy to get out of the door, other days it was hard. But not once, never ever ever did I regret stepping out of that door and going to the top of that hill. Every single time I felt far more awesome when I get home than I did when I left. I simply became addicted to that feeling and it has fuelled my running ever since. If I felt like staying home, or hiding in my office behind a pile of work, I would remember the feeling that I had the day before as I came back from the hill and I would soon be putting my coat on. It wasn’t about speed, or performance or stamina. It was about feeling better about myself and being a better person inside my head where nobody could see.
After several years running has become a part of me. I no longer have to force myself out the door. I want to run up the hills, explore the woods, watch deer in the valleys and listen (and occasionally fall in) to the streams. Sometimes it hurts, it really hurts. Physically and mentally. I smashed myself hard against the Larmer Tree marathon last weekend, and if I wanted to I could dwell on the pain and on the hard miles. Alternatively I could remember the 4 hours of banter and conversation that I had with the other runners. I met interesting people including a world championship level decathlete and an inspirational dude that was coping with his wife’s death from breast cancer last year by running 20 marathons this year in her memory, and to raise money for charity. I saw his t-shirt as I passed him and slowed to talk to him. He mentioned that running had got him through it all, and it wasn’t because running is easy. I also ran the fastest trail marathon that I have ever done. Bonus!
There are of course plenty of other benefits from having a “feel good” addiction that is fuelled by running. This is going to sound like boasting and I guess it is. I am showing you the carrot (not my carrot, it isn’t that kind of blog.) I get to eat a lot, an awful lot, and I don’t have to worry about the calories in that glass of red wine. If I am late for an appointment I can run to it and recover my breath within seconds of stopping. If I want to take in a mountain on a whim it doesn’t take too much time out of my day and I can get my “feel good” kick in without it making too much of a dent on family time. When I commute I can choose between loads of options. I can run, cycle, drive a car, ride a motorbike, take the bus, or any combination of the above! Did I mention that my blood pressure is in the “athletic” range, that my resting heart rate is in the 40s and that my BMI is excellent? That just sort of happened.
Some of you will notice something missing from my blog. I haven’t uttered two words so far that many wannabe athletes get intimidated by. Those words are “speed” and “performance.” I am not motivated by either, however some of you will be. You will want to shave a nanosecond off of your time and will get great joy out of it. I don’t, but if it makes you happy then crack on and I’ll catch you at the finish. Hopefully both of our smiles at the end will be equally massive because we are both out there having a good time 😀
Find out what motivates you and do more of that. Don’t start tomorrow. Do it now.
Enough of my self-indulgent ranting. If you’ve made it this far then it is time for you to answer the question. What makes YOU happy? Find YOUR motivation.