Motivation, and Five Ways To Get It


There are so many times I hear people say, “I’m too busy to run!” “I’m too tired to work out!” “Seriously, my day/work/job has been exhausting.” Hell, sometimes I hear it from myself, and sometimes it’s true.

But usually, it isn’t.

There are tons of people out there who work exhausting, grueling days – 10 hours, 12 hours, tiring exhausting work – and still stop at the gym on the way home, or go for a run at night.

“But my gym isn’t open late!” “I can’t run here at night, it’s unsafe.” “But I’m so tired.”

These are excuses.

There are plenty of workouts you can do in the safety and privacy of your own home (You Are Your Own Gym); some of them only take 12 minutes (BodyRock). Many gyms are open late; many neighborhoods are safe.

It’s really up to you.

Trust me, I understand. I have a very broken body, and I work 12-hour days when I’m not going to grad school: I understand busy schedules and limited energy.

Here are some of the ways I can get myself going when I need to.

  1. Just go. Don’t give yourself the choice. Tell yourself you have to do it. Yes, this makes a workout feel like a chore rather than a prize – but it can get you out the door.
  2. Compromise with yourself. Sometimes when I’m exhausted and supposed to run 6 miles, I’ll make a mental compromise: If I go out and I still feel horrible, I’ll just do an easy 3. If I feel okay, I’ll do all 6. More times than not, I feel great once I’m actually out there, and I’ll do the whole run. But I’m also careful to listen to my body — if it does feel horrible, I cut it short, enjoy the fact that I did something, and make sure to rest.
  3. Treasure your rest days. This goes with the above — make sure you take a note of your rest days. Pay attention. Notice how you feel after them. Don’t fill them up with workout-y stuff and pretend they still count as a rest day just because you’re not doing a run. The more you can specifically let your body rest, the more likely you are to have those needed reserves of energy on days you want.
  4. Don’t be a loner. If you’re having trouble motivating yourself, don’t do it by yourself! Join some kind of social fitness network (MyFitnessPal, Fitocracy, forums at NROL4W, etc etc...), or use your Facebook / Twitter / etc to keep yourself honest and motivated. Do a challenge with a friend, or let your coworkers shame you into that late night pushup routine — whatever works for you.
  5. Understand yourself. If you really are tired, and you do skip a night, appreciate that – and come back harder the next day. If you get down on yourself for skipping one night, that feeling will just suck away all of your energy, and you’ll end up missing a week… or more. Allow yourself to really enjoy the night off, and then use that rest to hit it extra hard the next day.




Tuesday Summary

Today was the kind of day I can really have trouble with.

I came home from work and I really just didn’t want to run. I just didn’t. It’s hot as crap here, and humid, and I knew that if I tried to do an outdoors run I would turn into a sweat-cicle. And I had a 5 mile tempo run on the books (3 mi tempo, 1 mi warmup / cool down at either end), and that’s just gross. But I also just didn’t feel like running it on the treadmill… Somehow I knew that even though it was in the nice AC, I didn’t have the concentration in me to do a run that severe.

There’s also the fact that I have realized I jumped the gun a little with this training plan. I haven’t consistently run 10+ mile weeks since… Last year. I’ve run them, sure, but between injuries and the business trips I keep getting sent on, they haven’t been consistent. So I’m looking at the plan for today and thinking, it’s hot. It’s gross. I am too out of shape for this anyway. I can skip to meatballs and wine, right?

Well. Somehow, I found it in me to actually go for the run. And I’m surprised; Driving home from work exhausted, I fully expected to skip it. But there’s something about just making yourself do it. No, it isn’t fun. Yes, running should be fun. Yes, it sucks. But you have to stick to it. Eventually it will get better — you will get better. If you get better and you still hate it, then evaluate your sport choices. Until then, you just have to put in the hard work.

If I want to see any kind of changes, I have to stick it out through these bad days too.

I did compromise with myself, though, because I realized that going from 1-2 runs a week to 12 miles a week is a really bad idea. So I set these compromises:

  • no speed work yet. The new plan is: long slow run Fridays, easy run Sundays, and only-as-fast-as-I-can on Tuesdays, for the next few weeks.
  • Cut a mile or two off each run so that I don’t injure myself like an idiot.
  • Today I ran 4 miles: 0.5 warmup, 1 mi moderate, 1 mile moderate-fast, 1 mile moderate, 0.5 mi cool down. It kind of sucked. It’s hot as crap out here, and I am pretty sure I got blisters because my feet aren’t used to this pounding yet.

    I need to rework the running part of this training plan. I need more of a ramp into the actual training bit.

    But I ran! I’m completely happy with 4 slow-ish miles on a day I thought I was gonna quit.