Thursday, August 28, 2014

Thoughts About Intrinsic Motivation and Running

As a running coach (click for more information) of both teenagers and adults, I often encounter
something that claims us all: motivation deficits. Whether you are the weekend warrior trying to improve upon your daily five miles or trying to complete your first marathon or hit a Boston Qualifying time, motivation can be an issue. There are days that a ten miler in 95 degrees seems daunting, something that tests not only the body but the inner workings of the soul. We want to be somewhere else, to do something else, and lack the drive and/or faith to maintain our self-discipline. The same can be said when you bring teenagers to school two hours early to get in a run before the sun comes up—they are sleepy, and while engaged with the team, they do not always have their motor turned on. Their goals are the farthest thing from their minds at such moments.

So what can we do about motivation? As much as I wish I could say that there is one answer, there is not. As I have discovered over the years, each and every person responds to different ideas and cues. Some people want to be yelled at for failures, others want to be lauded for the groundwork laid in those very efforts (check out the Talent Code if this topic interests you more), some need to be cheered for, others respond to indifference. Regardless of our ability to be coached or respond to coaching (our ability to be whispered to), most motivation remains intrinsic.The key for all coaches and mentors, as well as their disciples, is to tap into this well.

"Be unrelenting. If you don't believe, then who will?" ~ Kara Goucher

Intrinsic motivation is the key indicator and driver of success. We need to self-motivate.  To be good, one needs to push themselves. A writer must writer, a runner run, and they must find ways to complete these tasks when obstacles (intrinsic or extrinsic stand in the way). Thus, when it comes to finding that daily push, there are a few things one can focus on:

  1. Break each task down into segments that have achievable goals. Write 200 (or 2000) words a day to complete your novel. Break a five mile run into five pieces, so if you need to run it in 45 minutes, you have five goals there, each of nine minutes. Hit one, you feel better, hit another, confidence and motivation grows. One run turns into two, two a week, a week pushes you out.
  2. Instead of examining a marathon as 14-18 weeks of training, break it down into three phases. Each phase has weeks, each week days, each day has a goal. Meet your days and weeks, complete your phase, reach the endgame, the ultimate goal. This compartmentalization creates moments of success. Like the individual run mentioned above, you get to bask in your glory on a frequent basis. Likewise, in moments of failure, you have another, short term goal to latch onto as you drive towards the long term one. Thus, a novel comes chapter by chapter, page by page. Build a foundation and go with it.
  3. Share your goals and hold yourself responsible for them. Remember the P90x craze? One of the big things behind the success was that people shared their progress, plastering social media. When you fail to complete a workout detracts and it from your social stigma and your internal motivation grows through external shame. Running groups and writing circles will pull you through. People will comment on your progress, ask you questions, and seek to stand in your way--the latter often pissing you off and creating more drive.
  4. Consider a mentor or a coach—they can and will guide you through the process. Even a lot of coaches have mentors and coaches. Guidance and support build motivation.
  5. We all have bad days, days with less than ideal conditions or where we fail to reach our goals. Sometimes we don’t wake up in time, meet a deadline or goal, or race/workout the way we want to. Do not wallow in self-pity. Move on and make up for it. 
  6. Reward yourself. Take time to look at what you accomplished. When your legs ache and burn after a 40 mile week, think back to when you only could make it through 20 miles. Now celebrate and find a way to reward your efforts.  If it is something material great, a night on the town, or with a scheduled but needed day off. Whatever it is, be sure you take the time to do it.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Experimenting with Segmented Flash Fiction

Since I primarily write flash fiction, I typically focus on the genre itself when I reflect on writing. Flash fiction, which is of the single serving variety, aims to get to the point and do so fast. Your goal is to create a world or series of emotions or entire story arc in a loosely defined range of say 1-700 words, something that is a page or two at most. These works are attacked with a scalpel—unneeded language is excised, sentences are rewritten in the effort to be poetically potent. A writer can spend days trying to cut a few words, say the two or three needed to get under Nano Fiction’s 300 word count, without paring away meaning.

Lately, in an effort to refine my art, I’ve been writing segmented flash. That is, flash fiction that consists of multiple segments/parts of 50-100 words. Each segment is a story within itself, but together, they create the full art and desired effect. The mystery is protracted over the multiple sections but each is terse. My first successful foray came in the form of the rather odd piece of flash, Wintergreen Flakes (seen here in a 6 section format) that was featured in issue 5.4 of The Molotov Cocktail: A Projectile For Incendiary Flash Fiction (in a 5 section version).

Thus, as fellow writers, I urge you to give this effort a try. Aim for five sections of 100 words on the dot, eight to ten sections of 50. Either way, you will be forced to think, hone and isolate. The editing will draw out both your voice and your purpose, and in doing so, lead to a deeper, stronger bit of writing. As always, feel free to drop me a line and share, we can edit, and edit alike. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Nike Free Run 5.0: A Shoe Review though I run primarily in zero drop footwear, I do make an attempt to rotate shoes around and run in some different styles to rest certain parts of the body and spread stress around. With this fact in mind, I have used the Nike Free Running shoe for many years as a flexible, lightly padded alternative. It may not be a minimalist shoe per se, but it has positive attributes, and was in fact my first foray into the market of non-traditional running shoes.

While Nike has many different models to choose from, the Free Run 5.0 (and its cousin the Flynit) is the one you will find on the shelves at many of your stores, and since I have broken down my older models, I picked up a pair and worked them into my routine. Unfortunately, unlike some of the past models, this shoe lacks some of the features that made the Free Run desirable to me. 
First off the shoe is narrow, much narrower that one would expect, and I find that toe box has been cinched in as has the shoe on a whole. While older models were not Altra or Skora wide, they were accommodating to the foot, allowing the toes to spread out and function while in the shoe. This shoe is not as functional, the toes are a bit crammed and the toe piece has decorative features that remove breathability. With a wider foot, I find that my pinkie toe isn’t as engaged and I have a more angular landing pattern and thus altered pronation. Adding to the issue, the shoe narrows in the center and considerable stress was place on my outer metatarsal bone, causing some rubbing and aching. While this has abated over time with stretching, one doesn’t want to deal with such an issue in a properly sized shoe.

That said, the shoe is still hyper flexible. It allows your foot to move, and if you have narrow feet, the above issues are of no consequence. They have copied some other companies (like Skora) and created a rounded, more natural heel to create more natural, footlike stability, and the foam rubber on the outsole has a bit more durability to it. The new hexagonal approach to the bottom removes the wings that used to protrude out, giving the shoe an overall clean look while maintaining the shoe’s desired traits.


  1. Still a nice cross over shoe. Some wear this one for style, but if you are a shoe rotator or one who wears more minimalistic models, this is a great tweener shoe. Something for the training surfaces or distances that require a little more padding.
  2. Curved heel allows for natural landing.
  3. A wide variety styles and choices in a shoe that is easy to find without breaking the bank.


  1. As mentioned above, the toe box has been decimated not for function but style. This is a problem and makes the shoe eBay fodder for those with wide feet.
  2. The shoe is just narrow overall. All covered above of course.
  3. Not as breathable as one would like. My shoes were literally bricks of water after some runs. The sweat went in and stayed there.