We all run for different reasons, whether that be to keep active, improve performance, for mental health, or just for the sheer enjoyment of it. With any runner, some days it all goes to plan and running feels effortless and other days it can be a struggle, but when those days arrive, it is important to remember your ‘why’. It is this which helps get you through the challenging days, as even when your legs aren’t feeling it, your head or heart can push you on. Just keep reminding yourself, why do I do it?
Is it passion? For a lot of us, myself included, it is our love of running that gets us out of the door most days. Even when I’m not quite feeling it, as soon as I get going and my legs start spinning, I love every second. For those who don’t run, it is difficult to explain to someone how a single sport can produce so much passion, but it isn’t necessary simply the sport itself, but instead, what it represents. Yes, I love the act of running but I also love the way it makes me feel, the journey it has taken me on, the people it has lead me to meet, and the path that lies ahead of me. It is my passion for all of these things that adds up and contributes to the passion that gets me out of the door each morning.
For mental health? There is the saying, a healthy body equals a healthy mind, and I firmly believe this. I feel so much happier and more positive after I have exercised. I enjoy everything else I do more, and I feel a lot fresher and sharper in my mind. I have never gone on a run or done another form of exercise a regretted it. Whether it is pouring with rain or bright sunshine, the clarity I feel in my mind after I have got my training done is incomparable to anything else.
To keep fit? Our health is the most important thing we possess, so we need to look after it. Ultimately, a healthy body is one of the strongest weapons in life and exercising regularly is one of the easiest ways to make sure you keep fit. If you don’t enjoy exercising, keep reminding yourself of the benefit it will have. Not only will it keep your body in good check, but it will also make other tasks seem so much easier. Whether that is cleaning the house, walking up flights of stairs, or taking the dogs for a walk; all these tasks can become that little bit easier if you partake in regular exercise.
For longer term goals? Especially at the moment, when there is a distinct lack of races going on, it is my long-term goals that are helping to keep me motivated through the winter months. Without immediate goals to direct my focus, I find it important to look further ahead, and use this to keep me motivated on those gloomy days. Whether it is a goal 1 year away, or 10, thinking of those allows me to remember the importance of training now to my future.
Whatever your ‘why’, keep it in your mind at all times, as that is what will carry you through the tough days and make them all the more worth it when you come out the other side.
As we come up to almost 9 months since we first went into lockdown in March, it has been a long time since we were able to catch up with all our friends in person on a frequent basis. Im sure I do not speak for myself when I say there are people I haven’t been able to see since February, and it is so sad that it has got to this point. We were briefly able to catch up with some friends from a distance after lockdown 1.0, but with the arrival of lockdown 2.0, we find ourselves in the same position we were in at the start. However, just because we can’t see people in person, doesn’t mean we should stop talking to them- we shouldn’t. We need to talk to our friends more than we realise at the moment, for our mental health.
Talk to catch up
A lot of the time, we talk to friends simply to have a catch up. Although there hasn’t been much excitement in our lives (well mine anyway), time still passes, and there is still a lot to chat about. If you don’t keep in touch with friends, time passes by quickly, and before you realise it you’ve missed out on hearing about key things they have been through. Seeing as though coronavirus is all that anyone talks about at the moment, it is a refreshing distraction to phone a friend and talk about all sorts of random rubbish. When I catch up with some of my best friends, after a rant about corona, the majority of the time we end up talking absolute c**p, and that’s how I like it. It is the perfect chance to escape the current chaos of the world.
Whilst catching up with friends provides that much needed distraction, they are also there to help you through the harder times.
Talk about your worries.
Being at home with my family is great. I have always told my mum pretty much everything, but sometimes you need a different opinion, or you have a worry that you don’t feel comfortable discussing with family. This is where it is important to keep in touch with friends. Friends are always happy to listen to your troubles, and likewise, I want my friends to feel they can come to me with anything that is bothering them. Talking about what is troubling or stressing you can really help. It means somebody else can help you, or, it allows you to rationalise your thoughts and recognise they aren’t that bad. There’s the saying, ‘a problem shared is a problem halved,’ and I truly believe this. As soon as you talk, you will feel so much better, I promise. If it is a worry that is troubling you, by talking, you will likely realise that you aren’t alone in your thoughts. Chances are, whatever is stressing you out at the moment, is also affecting more people than you realise. Saying your worry allowed will help you realise this, and also help others who thought they were alone in their thinking too.
Ultimately, I believe, one of the best things you can do is TALK. Whether it’s to a family member, friend, or stranger, sometimes a little conversation can go a long way. If you are struggling mentally at these times, and don’t want to talk to someone you know, the Samaritans are always around to chat about anything that is upsetting you. Alternatively, if you want to drop me a message, I’m always happy to listen.
Something I have come to recognise more and more, is, I am someone who always looks ahead. I am a planner, an organiser, and I try to be a predictor, but no one can truly predict what is going to happen. Whilst sometimes it may help to think ahead, a lot of the time, it doesn’t. It only acts as another form of stress and anxiety. This is because I am always thinking ahead to what things may be like in an hour, a day, a month, or a year. Consequently, I spend a lot of the time thinking about the future, rather than being present in the moment and enjoying where I am at now. This is something I have been working on, because who really wants to be thinking about what’s going to happen next, rather than what is happening now. In all honesty, one of the only times I am COMPLETELY IN THE MOMENT, is when I am completing a tough session, because truly, there is nowhere else I can be, or want to be. Whilst beforehand, I may be thinking ahead, during, I’m very much present, and after, I feel so much happier in myself and do feel more present.
Be grateful for what I can do each day.
If lockdown has taught me one positive thing, it is the importance of enjoying every day for what it is. It has taught me to reflect on what I do within each day that I am grateful for. Having had a period of 6 months where I didn’t do a single run, followed by several months of running/walking, due to injury a couple of years ago, I am so grateful for all the training I can do now. Especially over lockdown, training truly is the main thing that keeps me positive and accountable every day.
Process before outcome.
It is very easy to get dragged into thinking about the outcome over the process and to place extra emphasis on the importance of the ‘end goal’. However, when you think about the grand scheme of things, we spend far more time in the process phase then we do in the outcome phase. As a result, if we spend all that time thinking about the end goal, we forget to enjoy each day of training, and thus, risk having wasted time. No one can get anywhere without undergoing the process of it. Outcome just doesn’t exist without process; therefore, the process is just as much something to enjoy as the outcome is. Thus, we should learn to enjoy the journey as a whole, no matter what stage of it we are at.
Find happiness in the little things.
Seeing as we can’t plan big things to look forward to and there are no races to focus on, it has confirmed the importance of finding happiness in the everyday. For me, this is predominantly training, writing and reading. Whilst I was initially frustrated at the lack of racing on the horizon, I have very quickly come to be happy with the training I am doing. I do get excited by being able to tick week after week off. It may sound sad to non-runners, but this is very satisfying. As important as training is, recovery is too, therefore, sitting down and reading a book or writing (working), acts as a source of happiness to me. The everyday makes me happy.
Enjoy the journey.
Something I don’t want to do, is look back on my life in 10 years+ time, and say I wish I enjoyed the journey more. Whilst getting to the end goal will be great, it is the journey itself that is the most important part of progressing. We spend the majority of our time on our journey, and only a small amount of time at the destination, so we should try to enjoy that moving stage as much as possible. This is something I am trying to do.
With the arrival of a second lockdown, races once again being cancelled, and any idea of when this may all end being unknown, it can be difficult to feel hungry and determined every day. Whilst no one is immune to feeling a lack of motivation, there are a few tips and tricks I employ to try and keep my motivation high when times are testing.
One of the most important things I find is to remind myself why I do it. I train like I do because I love to run and it makes me happy. When I feel my motivation to get out the door dwindle, I remind myself of this, because, inevitably, every time I get out the door and run, I feel 100 times better than I did before. Even if the session or run doesn’t go quite to plan, I still feel better for doing it then I would sat at home (which I would not enjoy and would never do instead of training!). I always remind myself that I am doing this because I love it, no one is forcing me to. As soon as I recognise that training is completely my own decision, my motivation rises as I know this is what I choose to do.
Now there are few short term goals to aim for, as races are absent, my motivation now comes from focusing on my long-term goals. Just because those immediate races are gone, doesn’t mean the purpose of training has disappeared. If anything, I feel more motivated than usual at times, because I realise I am working towards aims I have in the next 2-10 years, so it doesn’t matter if the odd session doesn’t quite go to plan! The hard work doesn’t stop week on week, but we are able to get a long period of consistent training in that we might not otherwise have had the chance to do.
As an organised individual with a love for plans and schedules, the inability to plan ahead due to coronavirus is a shock to the system. Therefore, whilst I can’t make long term plans, I can structure and plan each day, and training is something that plays well to this. Whilst some aspects of daily life may have been thrown off course, I try to structure each day and plan what I want to achieve. This allows me to feel as though I am achieving something each day. For example, having a structured training plan to follow and focus on means when I get to the end of each session or day, I feel I have accomplished something and moved forward, as I have been able to tick off that day’s training. Some people love randomness (I’m not one of those), but I feel, having a structure to each day (you can obviously allow for natural variation) means I don’t feel overwhelmed by the lack of control or progress of life at the moment.
If you are someone who likes to feel as though you are achieving something and moving forward, it can help to set little goals. This allows you to track your progress and feel as though you are still moving in the right direction, not simply reaching a stalemate. Whether they be small personal goals, or training specific goals, they can help reduce the overwhelming nature of this second lockdown and big period of training.
Another thing that can help, is to make yourself answerable. This can be done by letting someone else know what you are doing. If you have a coach, this is already sorted, but if you don’t, tell someone else what you are doing training wise. This will ensure that you do do it. If you have told them what you are planning on doing in advance, you want to be able to tell them you have done it, not say you decided to stay at home instead.
Whilst I find it helpful to find ways to keep my motivation high, it is also ok to accept that motivation won’t be super high all the time. This is only natural. Training, and life, has ups and downs, and how we feel mentally goes up and down as well. I am learning to accept this, because it can’t all be great all the time. Sometimes accepting that you don’t quite feel 100% is better than beating yourself up because of it. I am a naturally motivated person, but on those days when I don’t feel quite as headstrong, I acknowledge it, work as hard as I can, but try not to dwell on it too much.
Whilst some days it may be hard, always try to look for the positives, because there are some out there, no matter how hard it may seem to find them.
I love to run and I love to write, so I write about running!