Tuesday, January 31, 2012

W.O.W.: Staying motivated

44 degrees. At 6 a.m. This morning. January 31.

Days like today are made for running. Even though I didn't have any miles on tap because parent-teacher conferences are shaking up my schedule, I found myself digging out the capris and lacing up my sneakers. It would be a shame to squander such a gift, I thought to myself.

Not every day is like today, where I find myself genuinely excited to run and so antsy to get out there that I can't even wait until Mark leaves for work. There are days I have to fight like hell to live the life I've created. The life I want to live.

When I went through the comments for Words of Wisdom (W.O.W.) week, I was surprised to see just how many were related to motivation. You wanted to know how I got motivated and stay motivated. You wanted the key.

The truth is: I’m not sure I have one. It's just that I've assembled a powerful arsenal, if you will, to keep me going.  

Fear. No matter how much I’ve tried, I cannot shake the fat girl. I worry that I will gain back the weight I lost or slip in terms of eating and exercise. I don’t want to lose who I have become and the pride I feel in her just because “I don’t feel like it” or “I can’t take it anymore.” When I was training for my first half marathon, I was so scared that I wouldn't finish that I wouldn't dare run even tenth of a mile less than the plan dictated.

Accountability. It’s not so much about motivation but learning to be accountable to yourself. If I choose not to work out, it is me making the decision. If I order a large chocolate malt, it’s my decision. And to flip that reasoning on the side, it’s not Mother Nature dropping a thunderstorm on your area the day of a run just to ruin your run. Your husband wasn’t acting like an asshole so you’d eat a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. OK. Maybe he was but then he wasn’t acting like an asshole – he is an asshole (another topic all together).

Passion. I personally like to run. I like the challenge, seeing myself get better and the structure of a training plan. If someone told me that the only way to lose weight was to swim, I’d be a million pounds because swimming is very often a suckfest for me.
Tangible ways to measure success. For the past two years, I have tracked nearly every mile and recorded my pace in an Excel spreadsheet. It's not only useful for training purposes but for motivation. When I get down on myself for not running the way I did pre-Miles, I can look back and see how far I've come since my first brutal post-baby run. Carrie just posted about being frustrated with the scale and then saw a pleasant surprise when she took her measurements. This works, too, with a weight tracker. You might have had a bad week but how has the scale looked over the course of a month?

Treat yourself. And don't forget to celebrate the gains you see when tracking. There's nothing like new gear to make you want to workout.My very generous BFF sent me a pair of running sleeves and a running skirt for Christmas, and I've been dying to wear them ever since. This morning's mild weather was just what I needed to try them out. On the other side of things, I remember the first time I tried a pair of size 10 jeans and they fit. A new pair of jeans was just what I needed in the middle of my journey.

Friendly competition. Enlist a friend in your efforts … and then try to beat her. When BFF and I were doing WW, and her success helped motivate me to do what I needed. The desire to beat her at the weigh-in (sorry, love) helped motivate me to do more. I find the same thing in terms of running. I have a co-worker who is a lifelong runner and goes out 5 to 6 days a week. On the days he runs, he will walk past me and quote his mileage. I love being able to “one up” him.

An annoying dog. I know I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: the thought of wearing the crap out of Denali is enough to make me want to run a marathon some mornings.

Set new goals. Maybe you wanted to run 3 miles and now you can. Think about running a 10K. Maybe you have hit your goal weight. Think about toning or taking on a new workout challenge or lifting more weights. After running my second half marathon, I set a goal to run a third and do it in less than 2 hours. Always having something to work toward gives me a reason to keep going.

If all else fails, give yourself a good talking to. I was reading Runner's World in the bath after my run this morning, and I was struck by something Kate Gosselin said. The mother of 8, who was this month's "I'm a Runner" feature, said, "If I say to myself, 'I don't feel like running today,' I'll say out loud, 'Are you a quitter? No. Are you a champion? Yes! Then why are you thinking about quitting? I'm not.' I'll say this over and over."

What are your tricks for staying motivated?

Tomorrow: How I got motivated.


  1. Races definitely help me stay motivated to run and stay in shape.

    Friends help me to show up to a workout - hate to disappoint them. I've found it's a slippery slope once you start canceling on your workout buddy.

    I'm never ceased to be in awe of your determination and the resulting accomplishments!

  2. Thanks for the shout out Kim! I find that you have to just plow through the unmotivatidness (totally a word, I'm ignoring the red line), until the motivation comes back, because it will. I am also a firm believer in the "21 days makes a habit". Sometimes I have to drudge through that first 21 days and know that at the end it will have become a habit that I will want to continue. It especially works if you see some results (even if they are small).

  3. :) I'm so glad to help you out! - you inspire me daily. Those sleeves look pretty awesome!!(:

  4. This is slightly off topic, but, have you ever had any issues with your knees that prevented you from running when you first began this journey? Or did you wait to run until after you'd lost some of the weight?

  5. Motivation is my number one issue to be honest.

  6. Great post! I think the most efficient form of motivation for me is signing up for races. I also LOVE running with people and will never turn down a run with a friend.

    After that, I think that I too have the fear factor motivating me - I don't ever want to go back to weighing 300+ pounds. Another big one is the feeling of accomplishment I get after each run. I NEVER thought I would be a runner - so even a one mile run always feels like SUCH an accomplishment.

  7. This is my saying.. "If it was easy everyone would do it." I find myself saying that when I feel like stopping during a run. Thanks for the tips!

  8. LOVE this post!

    When I first started, I used races to motivate me. I signed up for enough races, and big enough races, that I HAD to keep training.

    WHile I still sign up for races (to beat MYSELF, haha) I NEED to run to maintain a calm and level me. I'm not sure when that happened, but now, running is non-negotiable. And if it's been too long, my hisband gives me that exasperated look and sends me out the door...

  9. After I lost my weight it took years for me not to think I would wake up one morning with all the weight back on. I think the big way that I stay motivated is to find something I LOVE to do!! Passion is my favorite motivator. And, I love writing down my workout in a log. Hope you had a great run! :)