Head Games Part 1: Motivation
As I have learned over the past few thousand miles, running is more of a mental than physical battle. In fact, I have even logged enough miles and hours of contemplation on this subject that I have come up with a percentage. It seems to me that running is approximately 90% mental and only 10% physical. So its ironic to me that so many runners focus so much on the number of miles they are getting in, the number of minutes spent training, wanting to get in just one more 1000m rep, JUST ONE MORE!
Am I guilty of running that extra 0.05 of a mile just to hear my watch ding? Absolutely! Do I run some of my workouts faster than my coach asks sometimes? Yes… Do I feel extremely stir crazy right now because I just got my wisdom teeth out and haven’t run in … wait for it… 2 WHOLE DAYS **DUN DUN DUNNNNN? Yes, extremely sir crazy.
But then I remember that only 10% (my own number, maybe don’t put full faith in my sagacity) of my running prowess is accounted for by fitness. So therefore I should spend far less than the vast amount of time that I do worrying about the actual physical training aspects of my running. For this reason, I wanted to create a recurring “Head Games” post where I discuss and address the mental aspects of running since I have identified it to be such a big deal.
The first “Head Games” post is about Motivation *said like how Spongebob says Imagination, hand waving included*. In these cold dreary brumal days, it can be so hard to get out the door. Motivation is one of the biggest mental hurdles to overcome as a runner; to willingly subject yourself to pain and discomfort because… why? Keeping the perspective of what you do now helping you later, is sometimes hard to remember when its -10 degrees outside and you’re snuggled up in your comfy bed watching copious episodes of The Office. Well here is my advice to myself and whoever else is reading this…
Think of your physical training as an investment. The lines “money in the bank” or “cashing in today” are frequently seen on runner’s Instagram captions and they have some truth to them. The training that you put in today is an investment for those days in the future, when you find yourself at the end of the race able to push just a little bit more. At the end of a strength workout able to lift just a little bit more than the time before, able to do just one more rep. And this investment, unlike the monetary kind, is not depleted once used. It will be there at your disposal for future times as well.
When I really don’t want to get up to run, it sometimes takes me until the last possible hours of daylight to do it. However, I remember the promises I have made to myself and that I am a person of integrity and thus I forge ahead. I remember the running dreams I have for the future and that I owe it to myself to at least try. This is not without making some compromises though. Sometimes I say to myself “just put your running clothes on and then we’ll reassess if you really want to run”. But by the time my clothes are already on I have committed to running; I have tricked you once again self! Next, I say “Oh you’re feeling tired today, okay well just at least get through 5 miles and then you can stop if you really want to”. And usually by the time I get through 5 miles I have completely forgotten about this small deal that I made with myself because I am enjoying the run so much. Albeit some days it doesn’t happen this way and I do stop at 5 miles, but you know what, that’s okay.
I do the same thing in races, I make small deals with myself if I’m feeling especially nervous or intimidated by the fields of talented girls that I have the privilege to race. Usually the deals sound something like a flowchart and go something like this: get to the 2k mark with the leaders if you’re not feeling it back off and if doing okay stay with leaders, next get to the half-way mark and if not feeling it no big deal settle back but if doing okay start getting hyped for some move-making, lastly if I can get to the last 2k (my personal safe-spot) feeling strong, then f$&@ing let ‘er rip!
But it has taken 4 seasons of gritty collegiate XC, and 3 seasons of track to work up to a flowchart of mini deals like that. It used to be deals like: just finish the race, or try not to think about dropping out of the race this time. My first few races at Santa Clara, I would frequently find myself asking “Why again did I ask to be let onto the track/XC team? Why is this fun??? Wow, soccer was a lot less painful…” I would think about quitting during every race, but I knew if I could get to the half-way point my own stubbornness to just finish the damn thing would carry me through to the finish. The first time I didn’t think about pretending I somehow passed out or broke both of my legs just so I didn’t have to finish a race, well that was a momentous day for me! Its all about perspective and the process.
Also, helping me to stay motivated is remembering that I run because I like it, I really do. If you do not find yourself relating to this last sentiment you might want to re-think what you are doing, and I will be the first advocate for anyone looking to switch sports or hobbies. I like the way running makes me feel, and I know that often even a sub-par run will help me to feel better than if I was to not run at all.
Lastly, some might just need some tough love for motivation to get out and run (my personal favorite kind of motivation). No matter how many small deals you make yourself or the perspective you have on your passion and love for the sport sometimes you just need someone to tell you: if you want to accomplish badass things then get out there and train like a badass. This is no excuse for not training smart, a subject on which I could write a whole novel. But if you really want to accomplish those big goals you have to get out there and just at least try, you owe it to yourself. It might be snowing and -14 degrees outside, but if you can get over your mental demons and get out the door you are already 90% of the way there!
Now time to buck up and be a badass!