Getting Out The Door

by Patti and Warren Finke, Team Oregon
Sometimes the most difficult part of training, especially during the winter months or when you are trying to build up your mileage, is getting out the door to go run. This may be a day to day problem, a seasonal problem or even a long term problem associated with "burn out" or failure to meet running expectations. It happens to highly experienced competitive athletes as well as average runners. How can you create motivation to help you keep running? What tricks are there to getting out the door?

Where Does Motivation Come From?

Although external factors influence it, most motivation is internally generated. The level of motivation depends to a large degree on our own self confidence, or lack of it. It depends on what we perceive the ramifications of our actions might be. Motivation can be generated by either positive or negative thinking. You can do something because you enjoy it, or because you are afraid of what will happen it you don't do it. But ultimately it is you that create the motivation. Often you hear people talking about how others are applying stress, (putting pressure on them). Really, it is themselves who are creating the stress.

MOTIVATIONAL "TRICKS"

Most of us have little motivational "tricks" that work for us. These approaches use positive or sometimes negative incentives to motivate us. The best motivation comes from positive feelings about what we are doing. It is the motivation that keeps us in the sport for the long run.

Goal Setting

Goal setting and achieving is a key motivator. Achieving goals builds our self confidence and our motivation. Failing to meet goals destroys our self confidence and our motivation.

How do you achieve your goals? By setting them realistically and by setting lots of them. One of the biggest mistakes people make is setting a few unrealistic goals. Average runners want to run world class times. Aging runners want to continue to get personal bests. We can't all be world class runners, nor can we cheat the aging process. We have to become aware of who we are and we have to realize that it's only important that we excel within our own abilities. If we do that, we will be doing the BEST we can and we should be proud of it, first, second or just finished! Become aware of your abilities and set goals to improve them in small steps. Achieving a goal motivates you to set a new one. Tell your family and friends some of your goals and ask for their support to help you meet them. Doing so is a commitment to your goal.

To achieve your running goals, you must go out and train. Writing down a planned workout schedule is the first place to start. It is setting a bunch of short term achievable goals. You have then made a date with yourself to complete a series of workouts. Filling out the training diary and being able to check off or fill in the appropriate space often works as a reward. Seeing all those completed workouts certainly encourages you to keep on being able to fill the pages.

Social Motivation

Many of us enjoy being with friends or doing things with groups. Call or arrange with a friend to meet you to run. You will feel obligated not to disappoint them and you may actually enjoy running with someone. If this idea works for you, plan weekly training sessions with others such as attending group runs. You can even go to a race and run at training pace if being with others is important to you.

Addiction

Try to create a habit. Set aside a specific time to run and let everyone know that this is your time to run. If you're really having a hard time and can't tell if you're physically or really only mentally tired, try the 5 minute test. Tell yourself that you only need to run for 5 minutes. If you still feel terrible at the end of 5 minutes, quit and enjoy a rest day. Usually, since you're already out there and feeling better, you'll decide to complete the workout. As you run more, it becomes addictive and you feel deprived if you don't do it. Often the running becomes its own intrinsic reward.

Positive Affirmation

Give yourself rewards; have a beer or a cookie after running; plan a family activity after completing the week's schedule with their help. Buy yourself some new shoes or shorts for meeting your goal mileage base. Use whatever rewards appeal to you. Including your friends and family in the rewards also encourages them to be supportive of you and your goals. Use the "Premack Principle". This involves making an activity that is usually done contingent on an activity you want to do. If you usually read the newspaper when you get home, make reading the paper depend on going out for your run first.

Preventing Boredom

Incorporate variety, run a different course, try new shoes, call a new friend to run with you. Pick one day a week to run somewhere you have never run before. Try to incorporate your running into your lifestyle. Run to work, then you'll need to get home somehow - run. Try running as a means of transportation at other times. Take a bus or train somewhere and run back. Interest your family and friends in running so that you can run together and so they can understand your need to train.

Be creative and enjoy your running. We have seen many runners down through the years burn themselves out. Often they have been runners who focused on only one aspect of the sport, for example marathoning or ultramarathoning. Remember that running has many dimensions. Try something new. Try the track. Try trail or cross country running. Make running a multisport event.

But Listen to Your Body

Sometimes that burnt out feeling may be a precursor to sickness or injury. When it is difficult to get out the door because you feel sick or something hurts, listen to your body. Workout schedules are guidelines not requirements. It is always OK to skip a workout or take an easy day if your body or your mind needs the rest. You can train effectively only if you are healthy, so do all you can to stay that way.


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