Last week I ran another ten miler. Now let me be the first to say that I do not enjoy running and generally keep my distance at about 2.5 miles every other day. I have hit times in the past where I’ve reached a sustainment plateau and started experiencing the so called “runner’s high”; but then you take one week off and you are back to ground zero.
I’m not currently training for any long distance runs, so what is the point. Running periodic ten mile distances is a way to remind myself that I can do it, as sort of personal challenge; but also to remind myself why I don’t run long distances consistently.
While running I have things I tell myself to keep motivated and continue pushing. Sometimes I think of how good it feels after running or working out; when the endorphins are flowing, you feel mentally healthier and harper, the way you view your own body is improved, and the next day you can feel all your sore muscles.
At 6’ 3” and 235 lbs.; it’s not as easy as when I was a buck 80. While I run I need motivation which generally starts with a good music track and ends with a motivational motto, phrase, or mantra to help drive me.
You might be exhausted, or like me, just not enjoy a particular phase of fitness. Below are some of the thoughts that have driven me through the years and continue to motivate me; especially on tem mile plus runs. I hope you will share some of your motivational ideas in the comments below.
These awesome pictures are courtesy of google search and not my own products.
Have a Goal.
We have to have something we are driving towards. For me they are specific weight and rep goals on flat bench, deadlift, and squat; as well as miles per week on runs. I can’t train for everything I’d like to, but I can set a hand full of specific goals. Make sure you are not inundating yourself with too many goals and that they are achievable goals even if they may take months or even years to reach.
End every work out with a congratulation of yourself. We all have bad days on the trail or in the gym, but congratulate yourself that you still did what you were capable of at the time, and end on a positive note. If you are not satisfied remind yourself that you will do better next time and use your less than satisfactory performance to motivate you in a positive manner.
I read an article about a Navy Seal that was interviewed after completing a long distance relay race on his own. By the end he had stress fractures in both his feet and was near kidney failure. The interviewer asked him how he could possible push himself so far and not quite. His response was that when we think our bodies are ready to quite we have only reached 40 % of our capability. I found this number significant in that it indicates firstly that our minds often quite before our bodies. Secondly, that while you’ve pushed hard, you haven’t even reached half of your potential.
Half Way Mark.
If I’m doing a long run I never think about or dwell on the return trip. If the trail is 5 miles out and 5 back I only focus on that 5 mile point. If you can reach half way and there is no way to sham out of the rest of a run, you will make it back; even if you have to hobble or crawl. This is one of the reasons I don’t like tracks or treadmills, they are monotonous and they are too easy to quit.
Accept the Challenge.
I love adverse weather or conditions. It might be rain or snow, or the fatigue in the gym after a sick infant kept you up all night. Accept that your performance will be subpar, and kick in the endurance mode. Embrace the suck and drive on.
Only You Matter.
Don’t let another person’s performance level bring you down or intimidate you. We generally train for ourselves and our own goals. It doesn’t matter if you get passed on a run. It doesn’t matter if there are a bunch of muscle bound beasts at the gym. There will always be faster and stronger people than you. Don’t assume they are looking down on you or judging you. They don’t know where you’re coming from or where you’re going. Exercise for yourself and not for them.
Strength in Numbers.
The flip side of only worrying about yourself, is finding a group of likeminded persons that would like to train with you. It might mean a lifting or running partner in the same general fitness range of you, or a hiking or yoga group. Humans are social creatures, and having peer support might be your key to drive and focus. I’m an introvert and loner and prefer doing my own thing; but I have lifted better and heavier in the past with a good workout partner.
If you are doing the same routine you will likely see motivation drop; especially if you feel you’ve reached a plateau. If you want to work the same muscles or train for the same goals, try alternating how you move forward. The simple act of bench-pressing has dozens of alternatives that you can train and challenge yourself with. Change up distances or add sprints to your regular runs, etc.
Train as You Fight.
I would be remiss on this site not to mention something in conjunction with prepping. If survival is your motivation then your fitness routine might focus around combatives and backpacking for hours on end. The happy thoughts of the apocalypse might be your driving factor and give you direction in your approach to fitness.
Age is a Mindset.
Some of the fastest endurance runners and strongest lifters I know are years and even decades beyond me. It mat take a little longer to get in shape, and you may get out of shape a little quicker; but don’t let that hold you back. You may have to adapt your training also; a 25 year old will naturally run farther than a 45 year old; but that 45 year old is likely far stronger and can lift more than his younger counterpart. Either way, never let age be a deterrent to getting fit.
Don’t Fight Yourself.
As a last personal point; know your body and what you are built to do. A person with a natural tall lean build is likely more suited for endurance and cardio. A stocky heavier set person will naturally be more suited to lifting heavy and bulking up. You can cross train, and should cross train, but trying to push towards something you’re not physically built for can be a frustrating uphill battle. I’m not saying don’t strive for goals; but don’t embark on a journey that will end with you distressed and frustrated. The fact is, we can’t have it all. If you are new to fitness or have physical limitations start slow and safe. Again, know your body and work to your natural strengths and abilities; you will likely find more satisfaction in this than fighting yourself.
A Men’s Fitness article by Amy Roberts listed these motivational ideas.
Change Your Program
One of the most no-brainer fixes for a workout slump: Do a different workout. Too often, people fall into a rut of doing the same thing every day (hello, International Chest Day), or even every workout. Not only can it become a snoozefest, your body will stop adapting and those gains you were making will stagnate.
S.M.A.R.T, that is. Good goals are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound. In other words, if so far your only intention in hitting the gym X times a week is so you don’t die young or get fat, well, perhaps you need something a little more targeted. Maybe you want to focus on your aerobic health and see if you can train so your resting heart rate drops a few beats per minute, or you want to get more serious about your fat loss endeavors to go down a notch on your belt. Now pick a (realistic) deadline, build a plan, and get to it.
Become an Early Bird
You’ve heard before that people who work out first thing in the morning tend to be more successful at following a fitness program. Ever wonder why? Well, yes, it’s true that there’s something to be said for getting it done and getting on with your day. But it actually comes down to willpower, explains Friesen. “It’s like a gas tank and it generally depletes over the course of the day,” he says. So, if you’re having trouble sticking to planned post-work workouts, consider scheduling them in the morning and see what happens.
Try the 5-Minute Rule
Another favorite tactic of Friesen is what he calls the 5-minute rule. Set a timer and start your workout. If after five minutes you still don’t want to be doing it, you have full permission to stop.
“Your alarm goes off early and you’re like, I don’t want to get up and work out!” he says. “You make excuses—It’s going to be painful, I’m too tired—but these are almost always biased and incorrect.” So get up and do your warmup. In most cases, once you get started, it won’t seem so bad after all—and might even be kinda awesome.
Create a New Pre-Workout Ritual
This could mean putting out your clothes and sneakers so you’ll trip over them in the morning if you don’t put them on, or starting with some awesome psyche-up music, or sipping some coffee or a pre-workout drink to boost your energy. Set yourself up for success.
Make it Double Rewarding
Sure, the workout has benefits in itself—weight loss or maintenance, muscle strengthening or building, plus all those feel-good endorphins. But why not make your workout time something to look forward to by using it (and only it) to listen to your favorite podcast, or pick up a book on tape, or check out a new Spotify station?
Stop Going to the Gym
If all of your workouts occur within the four walls of your long-term health club, maybe take it outside for a run or bike ride, or try out that bodyweight-training course they built at the local park. Another option: cheat on your current membership and use a free trial pass to that shiny new gym that opened down the street. Or stay home and do calisthenics in your living room. No matter your new venue, the change of scenery may be all you need to hit it with renewed vigor.
One of the most tried-and-true tactics, the Buddy System is a great way to stay accountable. Even better: Choose an activity, like tennis or boxing, where if one person doesn’t show, the other person is SOL. But what if you don’t have friends (who want to work out, that is)? Make some! Join a running club, find a sports league, take a fitness class, strike up a conversation with the dude who just asked you to spot him, join a Facebook group of like-minded people… Bottom line: find your people and motivate each other.
Sometimes you just need a prize to put your eyes on. That can mean signing up for a race or other fitness event (think: strongman or powerlifting competitions), or even just recording your numbers—time, load lifted, etc.—and trying to beat yourself at the same workout week after week. A good place to start? A self-administered fitness test.
Put Money On It
A big motivator for some people is to get their money’s worth. So sign up for that swanky gym you’ve been eyeing and make it a priority to make your visits cost less than $20 each. Other pricey-but-worth-it fitness investments: Hire a trainer, create a home gym, or get a class card to that martial arts studio you’ve been considering. And don’t let your hard-earned cash spent go to waste! Another tact: Put a dollar in a jar for every workout you complete. Then spend that cash on that thing you’ve been wanting but couldn’t quite justify.
Buy a New Toy
Related: A fancy new gadget can also provide inspiration. Whether that means that souped-up triathlon watch, some cool new free weights, that fitness tracker everyone has been talking about, or even a slick pair of kicks—anything fitness-related that you’ve been wanting to try out will get you excited to work out again.
Forgive us while we get a little pop-psych-y on you. Some people respond well to positive thinking. The motivational self-talk that works for them is to dwell on all the great things that’ll happen if you get in a workout. “Things like, ‘People will notice me at the beach! Women will find me more attractive! I’ll feel great!’ are the motivation you need to get your butt up and do it,” Friesen says. Try it yourself.
On the other hand, some people are just glass-half-empty types. (You know who you are.) So while it’s nice to think that pep talks might get you going, the reality is, you’re motivated by the fear of the bad stuff that could happen if you don’t. “People who are high on negative emotions tend to make goals to prevent bad things from happening,” sys Friesen. “It actually helps to actively look at the negative if you don’t do it, such as you might get flabby if you skip your session.” If you’re this personality type, you now have permission to get down on yourself for being lazy. Well, sort of. There’s a fine line between motivational pessimism and just plain bumming yourself out. Be careful with this one.
It sounds a little hokey, but regardless of how you see the proverbial glass, spotting a photo of yourself (either at your best or at your worst) can be enough to get you moving. Or maybe a photo of someone else—your hot girlfriend, your sweet giggling kiddos—will do the trick. Either way, be old-school by tacking your image of choice up to your bathroom mirror, the fridge, or on your computer monitor, or go 21st century by making the photo of someone else your smartphone background photo.
Take a Break
Yup, that’s right. Your sudden blahness could actually be a sign of overtraining. A little time off—for both your body and your mind—might be exactly what you need to come back better than ever. That break shouldn’t be an excuse to sit on your butt, though—you should still keep moving, just maybe not at the same intensity as before or at the same exact activities. No matter what, don’t make it open-ended. Whether a couple of days or a week or two, pick an end date for your hiatus and then get back to it.