Big confession - For the first time in 3 weeks, last Saturday, I ran. With moving to Louisville, KY in the past 3 weeks and settling into our new house, amidst COVID-19 and the heat and humidity of summer, I have run once in the last 3 weeks. If I were coaching myself (which I am), I would be very concerned as well when I see something akin to this sea of red in Training Peaks.
With everything going on (the heat and humidity of the summer, races being cancelled due to the coronavirus and urges to quarantine and social distance), it is totally understandable that motivation is probably at an all-time low for most people, myself totally included. With moving into a new house and being a first-time homeowner, the cleaning and unpacking never ends! There is always something else to take care of. If there isn't a race to train for, what is the point? I mean, even virtual races have that much less accountability and camaraderie to keep things going. When you are truly on your own, how does one maintain or start up again the drive to keep running or working out? All this brings me to my (potentially) controversial point - motivation is a bunch of crap.
Motivation can be powerful, but transient. Motivation is fleeting - here one day, gone the next. As Ken Chlouber says it so well in this awesome, inspirational pre-Leadville 100 speech - "Motivation will not get you to the finish line. Motivation will desert you when you need it the most. If you are counting on motivation, forget it."
In that same video, he goes on to say, "The one thing that will get you to that finish line is total commitment." However, life happens, sometimes other things take higher priority and we have to manage/juggle our commitments. After all, it is just running. Right? After some time away from it, though, the hunger and the wondering start to come back but what is the motivation? Right now, there really is none. Maybe fear, fear of losing all of that fitness that I have worked for over the years but fitness doesn't last that long and I lose a lot of it every winter anyways. So what prompted me to lace up and go out the door?
It was commitment to an idea, or rather, a renewal of a commitment to an idea that I have tried to share with all the athletes I coach - Do something every day that makes you a better athlete. For runners, you may think that this means running every day but nothing could be further from the main point. The act of running itself is a small part, albeit important, of everything that goes into making someone a better athlete. If you need it, taking time off to do some active recovery and to heal will make you a better athlete in the long run. So is taking time to stretch, to do yoga, to cross-train, to strength train, etc. Something is better than nothing and it really helps avoid feelings of failure and disappointment if you accomplish something every day. Couldn't go out for a run but decided to do yoga instead? AWESOME! You are now more flexible and your muscles are looser and maybe your core is stronger too! Didn't go out for a run but decided to eat an entire pepperoni pizza by yourself? ....Carbo-loading for something? :D
What this means for me is getting back to a routine of getting runs in, doing yoga, stretching, foam-rolling and making some time every day for one or more of these activities so that I continue back on the path of becoming a better athlete. Nothing is really motivating me at this point as I am not signed up for any races. I don't have running groups to run with or anyone else. It's a bajillion degrees outside with the humidity of sweaty armpits. What gets me out is just committing to doing something.
Sometimes we need breaks from long-term commitments to ourselves (case in point) and that's okay as long as we take a chance to revisit these commitments and renew them periodically. They may be a bit arbitrary, as long as it means something to us. This idea of becoming a better athlete means something to me as I still have bucket list goals I want to accomplish. It also helps to share these commitments with others so that there is some external accountability so let me ask you this, reader, - "What have you done today that will help make you a better athlete/runner/person/whatever you want to be?"