Now that better weather is upon us, I am asked more and more, “I want to get in shape this summer, but I always give up. How do you stay motivated?” I have to admit, when I started getting in shape, what seemed like a good idea just never was enough, and I fell into many ruts myself. Articles would tell me to keep a calendar or schedule and make sure I had good music on my iPod. It didn’t take me long to realize that a piece of paper on the fridge that said “3 miles” on today’s date wasn’t enough, and “Crazy Train” coming up on my earbuds was only going to work once or twice.
Eventually, it became abundantly apparent I would need many ways to motivate myself and, really, a new way of thinking about training. So, here you go, some of the things I use to trick, fool, and force myself to get out and train.
Social Media: I am talking about is using it constructively. Join some local running, biking, hiking (whatever your passion) groups and talk about what you plan to do. You’ll find they are encouraging, and more times then not, you will find yourself invited to go out with them for some training. Amazingly, they will actually want to hear about your successes and failures, as you will soon find you will want to hear of theirs.
Strand Yourself: One of the best ways to get out and accomplish something is to leave yourself with no choice. Have your wife/husband/other drive you out to a distance and make your way back. When I started, I had my wife, Cortny, drive me to work. I would bring along a bag of workout clothes and tell her I would run home. Regardless of how I felt when it was time to head home, I had little choice. I either made the 7 mile run/walk home, or I had to make a phone call and verbally wuss-out to my wife. I never made that call. Not once! I always think of this as a good way to make your ego work for you.
Set Realistic and Fun Goals: When I am asked what I am doing for training today, I answer first with my true goal, then with my training goal. For instance, “I’m biking to Starved Rock today for a beer. It’ll be about 32 miles.” (By the way, Starved Rock is a state park about 32 miles round trip from my house, and it has a bar!) By doing this, you will quickly find out a couple things. First, that others give you a better reaction – “That sounds like fun!” – and second, that you will have a better feeling about it – “It will be fun!” I’m not focusing on the 32. I’m focusing on the destination, reward, and fun. This one is a big one for me. I never set out without a goal, even if the goal is minor like slapping the population sign of the next town over.
Set Numerous Goals: Let’s say you have the single goal of running a 5K. That’s not as helpful as setting up a string of goals (and make them fun like above). First you might have the goal of running to the local park (1 mile total), then have a goal of being able to run to the pizza place and meet your family for dinner (2 miles), and finally a goal of running to your friend’s house 3 miles way, just so you can walk in and say, “I ran here!”
Explore: I personally hate running the same course twice in a row or even twice in the same couple weeks. You are sabotaging yourself if you set out to do the same thing over and over. Seeing the same scenery over and over. Go a different way every time if you can. Drive to other towns to train. Look up routes on the internet. Ask about fun places to run, bike, hike, etc. Get excited about what you can and will see. It will make a big difference.
Take Advantage of All Weather (it’s fun!): When you were a kid you knew this. You just might have forgotten. Splashing in puddles is fun. Running in snow is fun. Hot days mean you can wear less clothes, and cold ones mean you get to wear that new coat you got. If you wait for the perfect day, it will come once a year. Once a year is not enough training time for anything. Enjoy every day for its challenges and excitement. Ironically, then when that one day does come, you will be ready to enjoy it even more.
Buy Some Stuff: I am a gear junky. I am addicted to the stuff. I love new shirts, new pants, new shoes, a new helmet, and so on. I admit it. It can have a huge effect on me. A new shirt can get me through many a run. Obviously, you can’t buy something every time you want to exercise, but you can buy something when you start to get sick of exercising. New shoes need to be broken in, new shirts tested for fit, etc.
ABOVE ALL, do not just settle on one way to motivate yourself. Find new ways to make your workouts fun. Find new reasons to get outside and move. On any given day you will need to be flexible, inventive, creative, and iron-willed. There will be days when you will fail, but each new day will offer you new chances to succeed. I like to mock Yoda (Star Wars reference) when he said, “Try not. Do or do not. There is no try.” As wise as he seemed to be, he was dead wrong. There is only try.