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.

1 comment:

  1. Hey, wonderful blog. We run for fitness, for competition and for sanity. The motivation provides a reason to act in a certain way or it is the key indicator and driver of success. We need to self-motivate. To be good, one needs to push themselves. I love running. I am very much interested in the motive and inspirational stories of great runners. “” is an online blog which has provided me the right track for running.