What motivates you?

Months and months of nothing- that is what has happened here on the ole blog. Once in awhile I will pop in and give a little update, promising to be more active and regular with posts, only to do the exact opposite. I could continue to give my apologies and promise to do better, but will it happen? I don’t know. I really don’t.

Frankly that is how my physical activity has been this year- sporadic at best. I have searched for ways to maintain motivation. Those searches have been fruitless. The fact is I truly WANT to get out and ride. I want to run. I want to train and prepare for racing again. The motivation just doesn’t come.

That brings up the question: what is it that keeps us motivated? I’m not convinced I have the answer. I have some ideas, but they require a bit of back story.

After TABR16 I spent the majority of the remainder of the year recovering. The physical recovery was slower than I expected. My legs and lungs seemed to have nothing to give for a couple months. The mental recovery was longer and more difficult. What I found as I waded through the dark waters of post-race life was a giant hole. I fell in, sinking deeper as the days got shorter through the fall. By the first of the year, the issues had gone beyond what I felt I could deal with and I sought help with a therapist. I went in thinking that I had anger issues. I felt like I was lashing out at those closest to me. In just a couple sessions it was brought to my attention that the anger I was feeling was only a symptom. What I really was dealing with was depression. Slowly I worked through some things and by the time the local flowers were blooming, I felt like I had a better handle on things.

Through spring I had my sights set on a tour with my buddy Nathan. I didn’t ride much in preparation, but I was excited to get back out on the road. June 4th my wife dropped us off at the Amtrak station in St Louis. We took the train to Chicago, our bikes in the luggage hold, with the plan to ride to Memphis via St Louis over 6 days. That would put us on track to put down 100-130 miles each day.

The first 3 days were an absolute blast! We were fortunate enough to have tailwinds and cooler temps. We were on the road, doing as we pleased and loving every minute of it. The fourth day saw a bit of elevation gain, followed by a hot afternoon and a solid 130 miles. By the time we reached Cape Girardeau that evening, we were both toast. The accumulative effects of 4 days averaging 119 miles a day was weighting both of us down. When you add in the fact that the total mileage over those four days eclipsed my previous 6 months of riding, I was certainly pushing my limits. The next morning we slept a little later, hoping to get a little recovery. Day 5 had much higher temps (near 100F) and a solid 10MPH headwind. More heat and stronger winds were forecast for the following day. In the end, we decided to pull the plug on our trip in New Madrid, MO. Our wives were supposed to have met us that next day in Memphis to spend the weekend. Instead of continuing to torture ourselves, we got a hotel room and waited for our wives to pick us up on their way through. They did and we had a blast on Beale Street that weekend.

There were little to no regrets about stopping short. We did 561 miles in 5 days and had a fantastic time hanging out together and exploring Illinois and Missouri. That said, I found myself questioning my ability. Just a year before I rode 4238 miles in 24.7 days. In my efforts to recover from the race, I had slipped into inactivity and lost my mojo, so to speak.

I came back from that trip to a very busy season with work and lots of tasks to take care of around the house. Needless to say, I didn’t ride much over the remainder of June and July.

August brought thoughts of fall and the upcoming OT100 MTB race on 9-30 as well as the Wolf Creek 12HR MTB race on 10-7. Realizing that time was short and of the essence, I hopped back on the training wagon. I was riding, running, doing yoga and some body weight workouts. In just a week or two I started feeling fantastic! I was feeling more flexible and generally stronger.

On the 13th of August I went for a super easy evening run. Just a half mile from my house, my right knee gave way and searing pain ended my run. I spent two days unable to walk on it. I got used to RICE (rest-ice-compression-elevation). Oh, and plenty of Vitamin I. On the third day I was able to get around a bit, but still quite a lot of pain. Since then I have been resting- no running, riding or anything, other than an occasional super easy bike ride to the coffee shop. Slowly it is getting better, but I am going nuts waiting. I really just want to get back to training.

That gives you the back story, but the question remains: what is it that keeps us motivated?

As I look back on the last year or so I think for me the answer is to just do it- just get out there and get moving. Being in training has a snowball effect and the more I do, the more I want to do. If I stop for too long, the snowball melts and I have nothing with which to create momentum. I get lazy and everything seems to get in the way. My best bet is to stay moving. That is easy to say after I have started training, but difficult to tell myself when I’m ‘on a break’.

Some folks believe that the best motivation is a deadline. Sign up for a race and you will find the motivation to get going. Others enjoy the planning and prep cycle. Buy some maps and start gathering your kit. What do you think? Post a comment and give me your thoughts or suggestions. Maybe we can motivate each other!

2 Replies to “What motivates you?”

  1. The desire to be ready for difficult, rewarding things (climbing a tall mountain to see incredible vistas, hiking into the backcountry to places that are otherwise inaccessible) motivates me — I really like to step beyond the ordinary maintenance cycle of life. That said, it’s difficult to directly train for those things because the requirements are rather abstract within the context of my normal day — how does one test one’s ability to hike for 12 hours with 40 labs on his back at elevation within a 90-minute weekend training window in eastern Missouri? So I use races to serve as a proxy for that training because I’ve found that if I can run a couple of hours here (9-10 minute pace), I can hike as far as I may need to go for a 2-3 day window. When I’m training for a race, the fear of failure forces me to prioritize the exercise; when I don’t have a deadline with sunk costs that I’ll regret wasting, it’s very easy for life to just take over such that the business of my day will overwhelm exercise and I won’t be ready for anything.

  2. Motivation comes in many forms. There is external motivation from external forces and internal motivation known as self motivation. Both forms are hard to accomplish. Most leaders learn early on that the technique used to motivate an individual differs for each and every person you are trying to motivate. Yelling might be required to motivate one person while speaking softly about your disappointment in them is what someone else needs. The key is finding and knowing that person enough to use the right motivation. The same applies for self motivation. What self motivates one person might not work in another. Only that individual knows what will and won’t work. Or do they know? That’s the rub, and the crux of the issue you have brought up. I find that someone who has trouble with self motivation is not trying different approaches to find what works best for them. I’m one of those who people who use the deadline approach. But it’s something deeper than a deadline. It’s the money that will just be wasted if I don’t go do the race. I think of how hard I have to work for that money and the thought of just throwing it away and wasting it becuase I’m lazy just gets under my skin so bad it gets me out on the road training. Those who know me know I don’t have a problem spending money, but from the time I was child I learned from my parents that wasting anything was practically sin. You don’t waste your talents, time, money, you name it. Also remember that what motivates you can change over time. And your solution for self motivation might include external motivation at the same time.

    As far as the injuries go, welcome to getting old. Stuff just breaks sometimes even when you are doing the right things like not doing to much to soon, etc. Calculate in extra time for potential injuries during your training plans. Injury is actually a motivator for me to stick to my training plan so that I don’t end up getting injured by falling behind. But in the end your body and your genetics are not something you can change to much. You could be in the best shape of your life able to run a 5 minute mile or 100 miles in day and then due to your DNA, running that 101 mile causes your tendon to snap. Accept, move on, take the proper time to heal and try again.

    Habit also plays a key role in self motiviation. If you can motivate yourself long enough for it to become a habit then the sub conscience will take over and it will require less and less motivation to keep you going. It takes time for something to become a habit, and very little time to lose that habit. It might take motivating yourself to run 5 days a week for for 3 or 4 months before it becomes a habit and only 1 week of not running to start to lose he habit.

    Don’t fight your body and don’t fight your mind, truly listen to yourself, ask others for help and I’m confident you will find your root motivation and/or that key cornerstone habit which will lead you to the path of success you are looking for.

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