What Motivates You to Push Yourself?
posted on 4/17/14
Getting out the door on a regular basis is for many of us is the biggest challenge in running. However there is often room for improvement even for those who hit the roads and trails nearly every day. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends at least 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise, or a mix of moderate-intensity and vigorous-intensity. Vigorous-intensity means you're breathing too hard to talk for more than a few words at a time, you're sweating, and your heart rate is 70 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. A leisurely jog isn't always enough. However if you do not have much recent experience with vigorous exercise, it's highly recommended to get a check-up with your primary care physician before you start pushing yourself.
Putting in the required amount of effort requires enduring certain levels of discomfort that not everyone is used to dealing with. This is where motivation comes in. For many, competition is the perfect motivator. When I started running in high school and college, that was not a problem. I always had a competitive spirit, but was not very successful in most sports like basketball, football or tennis. But with running I felt like a Viking warrior, or a cheetah stalking prey. While I wasn't a good runner in the beginning, I was confident that if I pushed myself enough, I would improve. And I did.
But most people don't have a team to compete with or a coach to inspire them. This is where setting goals for yourself and registering for races can help immensely. Races are good for measuring your fitness, setting goals, inspiring competition, or even just enjoying the companionship and community of other people. Others just have a fierce desire to kick their training partners' (or everyone's) butts! The times I have been in the best shape were when I had a series of races which I prepared and peaked for. Even off-season, I can be motivated by analyzing past races and thinking of ways I could improve my performances, and envisioning myself reaching another level in the future.
Others don't enjoy racing, which is fine, as long as they can find other motivators. Learning to simply enjoy the feeling and accomplishment of a good effort, weight loss goals, being able to play with your kids, enjoying health into old age and setting workout goals or time trials are all common motivators. Joining a neighborhood running group can help you find others to run with at a faster pace than you usually would on your own. It can also be hard to get out and race after reaching a certain age where you are no longer able to set personal records. But just as races give age group awards, you can track your own age group PRs. I've known runners to actually look forward to turning 40 so they can tackle the new challenge of competing in the Masters category. This helped me to achieve some PRs that were faster than anything I ran in my 30s.
Please share with us what motivates you!
Tony has been a runner for over three decades, competing in cross country and track in high school and college, and road races for various clubs. He's served as team captain for several Corporate Challenge teams at YMCA of the USA, and has informally coached many friends over the years.
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