Thanks to everyone for the ideas on what to write about.
They’re all super helpful!
So let’s talk MOTIVATION.
I often get asked how I stay motivated to run even when I’m not training for a race. This is an excellent question considering many people train for a race and as soon as they cross the finish line, they stop running for months on end… and sometimes for good.
Signing up for a race can be super motivating and many people need something on the calendar to give them a reason to run and train. That makes perfect sense, but I am not one of those people.
I actually try to keep the amount of races I register for at a minimum. I don’t like the constant pressure to run a specific distance and pace and I prefer to run for the joy of it. Case in point, my only race this entire year will be the Chicago Marathon in October, but you will still find me running 5 days a week.
So how do I (and so many other people) find the motivation to wake up before dawn and lace up our running shoes? How do we get ourselves to run for hours and hours every week when no one is chasing us?
The simple answer is, I genuinely LOVE running. I find it to be an excellent prescription for health and happiness.
I have suffered from pretty serious depression since I was very young. The only two things that ever worked in making me feel “normal” were medication and running, and I discovered both in college (thank goodness).
It has become abundantly clear that running is like therapy and I need it to function optimally. I am not saying it can completely substitute professional therapy, but it is incredibly cathartic. When I have anxiety or I feel awfully down, all it takes is 5 miles to feel significantly better. That is some powerful medicine right there. It’s temporary, but that’s why I do so much of it.
I know that even when I don’t want to run, I never regret doing it. This makes it easier to never skip a run. I also know that I am a nicer person to everyone around me after I run. It makes me a better partner, employee, colleague and friend. It’s like Kate version 2.0. Post-run Kate is a total upgrade.
My desire to be fit and to be fast definitely helps when I’m training for something. I don’t want to miss a workout because I want to perform well on race day. But physical fitness can be achieved in so many ways that don’t involve running. I could do crossfit, practice yoga, or play tennis, but I choose running because I love it. I also enjoy spinning and pilates but they don’t bring me the same type of joy that running does.
Running is just different. It’s hard to explain because it’s so much MORE than exercise.
A lot of people run for weight loss or to look a certain way and I would be lying if I said my physical appearance wasn’t one of the million reasons I run. It definitely helps to keep my weight in check. However, that only accounts for maybe 10% of why I lace up my running shoes nearly every day. I could easily give up running and take on pilates, for example, as my primary form of exercise and have a killer body. I am willing to bet my body would actually look BETTER if I ran less and did more pilates.
But I’d rather do the thing that makes me feel damn good not just look damn good. That’s why pilates has always played second fiddle to my true love, running.
Nike summed up how I operate pretty simply with their slogan “Just Do It.” If it’s good for me, I just do it. I eat my greens and brush my teeth because it’s good for me. Running isn’t any different. It’s as simple as that. I hate to oversimplify it because I know not everyone functions this way and behavioral change is a complicated beast.
I also have an amazing running partner in crime. We set morning or after-work run dates and they’re basically like our happy hour. I love spending that hour with her and it’s our time to catch up, vent and just hang out. Having that run date is something I look forward to and wouldn’t miss for anything.
My best piece of advice for those days when you’re really dragging ass and don’t want to run is to tell yourself you only need to run ONE mile – minimum. If you still feel shitty after one mile, you have permission to stop and call it a day. Just try. If you feel alright, keep going. 10 times out of 10, you’ll run farther than a mile. Works like a charm.
I’d also like to point out that running isn’t for everyone. If you consistently dread the hour of the day you’ve set aside to run, maybe you should seek out something you enjoy. Find the thing that makes you feel alive and free. The thing that makes you feel like a better human after doing it. Find a form of fitness you love so much you want to share it with all your friends. Life is too short to do something you hate — that’s why you’ll never find me at a CrossFit box or swimming laps. 🙂