I’ve been asked by my favourite brother-in-law (I’ve only got one) to write a post on motivation in an attempt to get him going after the New Year. I suppose it’s a good topic to discuss and this seems like the perfect time of year. Over the past 15 days I’ve been running in Dublin (Ireland) and London (UK). The most notable thing I’ve observed on these outings is the large number of people who are also exercising. It seems the new years resolutions have been a great success thus far, perhaps due to the mild weather. But fret not, the cold weather has just about arrived with minus temperatures and the threat of snow, I presume with this prospect that the number of early morning runners will fade somewhat.
Racing triathlons and various marathons over the past decade has been a real joy. I am not the sort of guy who needs a real motivator in the sense that most people do or at least my motivations aren’t that obvious. What I mean is I don’t have a daily creed that I rhyme off or a giant poster of a fallen idol (I’m thinking of Oprah’s guest) that I look to for inspiration. I do these events because I want to; I exercise everyday because I want to.
I’m the kind of person who looks at things quite mechanically, I like to know how things work and I’ll question most things until I do. I don’t entrust my well being into the hands of anybody but myself. I know and understand the physiological benefits of, both, exercise and a reasonably good diet, so motivation, in my case, for the most part is not required. Fitness is just something I do and I feel that if we could coach our children in their years of secondary (High) school towards this discipline then they could aspire to a healthier, fitter and therefore happier life.
Once I have decided on a particular race I begin my schedule (just like I did last November) with 3 weeks of training at 70% of my heart rate max, along with cleaning up my diet. Then I begin training proper (Paris marathon April 2013) which is all based around 3 specific sessions: a long run (controlled heart rate), a tempo run (5K, 10K time trial) and an interval session.
My motivation for doing these training sessions is the thought of finishing the race in my desired time. Once you’ve achieved this you are hooked. That feeling as you cross the finish line and look up at the clock and think, “I’ve done it” is topped by no other. This is what drives me, it’s the thought that a meticulously planned training regime has come together and now I’ve managed to push myself beyond where I’ve been before to reach a new high, a new reality, a new meaning of who I am!
On long training runs I think about family and friends, I visualise the days leading up to the race I am training, going through race preparation in my mind. I'm driven by that nervous feeling on race morning and the anticipation of the race start. I always visualise the last kilometer of the race, crossing the finish line and the craic (Irish terminology for fun, not hardcore drugs) we have with fellow racers after wards. I love the atmosphere behind the finish line, who wouldn't enjoy the company of a couple of hundred people high on their own achievement?
I watch YouTube videos of Chrissie Wellington and Chris "Macca" Mc Cormac racing in Ironman Hawaii. These two athletes are the stand out performers in my world and I've had the honour to train and race with Macca in Dubai a few years ago. I also have all the Ironman Hawaii DVD's which I watch if I'm losing sight of where I want to go.
The key recipe in all this is that you must want to achieve something before you start training. If you don’t have an objective to work towards you might as well not start. Once you decide on an event or a goal, not matter how short, you will instantly have something to measure yourself against. Then start with the 3 workouts described above. Each run will be motivated by the desire to out do the last, some weeks you will succeed and some weeks you wont but this is all part of the enjoyment. Watching your body respond and adjust to this challenge will demonstrate to you the benefits and once you begin to see and feel these small changes nothing will hold you back. All you need to do is actually want to achieve something. By wanting something I don’t mean just saying, “Yes! I’d like to run 5km in 25mins”. You have to want the challenge. You have to want the training and the task of implementing an action plan. You have to be prepared to make sacrifices and change some old negative habits because if you don’t, it won’t mean anything and you wont succeed.
Remember the old maxim: Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.
On cold wet Sunday mornings when I know I have to run for 2hrs 45mins, I get motivated by the fact that I can, by the thought of all the people who I believe can but don’t, and by the desire to achieve something which I haven’t achieved before. An end goal that says “look what I can do”, I quite often visualise the scene from “Cast Away”, the Tom Hanks movie, as he stands on the beach after creating a fire and he shouts “Look what I have created”.