This post was inspired by my Facebook page; I was reading through the comments and noticed some tell-tale signs of doubt creeping in…
‘I’ve just started running, lovin’ it and hope I can continue’
‘Running is just amazing-if only I can motivate myself to keep it going’
Many people want to get into running, but for whatever reason they can never string enough successes together to gain any momentum. And it’s easy to see why. When you’re lumbering along the road with leaden legs and heaving lungs and generally having a difficult time, you’re bound to question yourself, ‘Why on earth am I doing this?’
And it’s very, very easy to let things slide.
Or maybe you’re a serial slider?
‘I’ve tried so many times, BUT…’
‘I know I need to get out of the door, but I just can’t find the time…’
‘I start off bursting with enthusiasm… this time I’ll crack it …but I just can’t seem to keep motivated’
‘I can’t seem to keep it going. I manage to run for 2-3 weeks but it doesn’t seem to get any easier, so I stop…’
If any of this sounds familiar, then stay with me.
What would you say is the first thing you should do when starting a running plan? Buy some trainers? Get the gear? Set your goals? Carve out some time?
It’s none of that.
Four years ago when I was 52, a guy on a train said 3 little words which changed my life.
I was a wannabe runner back then, dipping in and out all month long. On Monday I’d drag myself out for a 20 minute run and come back glowing and fired with enthusiasm.
‘I love this! It’s brilliant. I’ll go again tomorrow…no, not tomorrow that’s overdoing it. I’ll go on Wednesday.
And – quite often – I would go again on Wednesday. Whether I was still on a roll by Friday was another matter.
My train buddy said, ‘If you really want to run regularly, you have some work to do first. You have to Find Your Why.’
The reason you go running – your WHY – is the single most crucial aspect of your running plan.
It’s what will get you out of bed for that early morning gym session, what makes you stick to your healthy eating plan and what sees you disappearing out of the door for your 40 minute run when it’s cold, wet and windy.
If your WHY isn’t compelling enough, it’s more than likely that you’ll stick to your resolve for two, three maybe even four weeks at a stretch and then life will get right in the way and you will gradually come to a stop. We’ve all done it.
Your WHY will keep you going on all those days you’re on the verge of giving up.
Here’s how it works.
Basically, when you decide on a running plan you’re aiming to form a new habit. Habits are routine behaviours you do on a regular basis and you need to repeat them frequently and for long enough in order to make them stick. This is where we often come unstuck. We don’t run often enough or for enough weeks to let our brains know this is something to take notice of.
The habit: I want to start a running programme.
First, you have to discover the reason why. Why do you want to start running? Why does it matter?
This is really important. Not the superficial ‘because I want to get fit’ or ‘because I want to lose weight’ but the real, digging deep reason why.
Your ability to stick to your guns and change your habits comes from deep inside. Once you’ve uncovered it, you’ll realise that your WHY fulfils a basic human need of some sort; to be admired, accepted, valued, loved, free. Things like that. All, ultimately, a desire to be happy.
Your WHY is powerful, because it is strongly linked to your emotions.
Now, take a sheet of paper and at the top, write down the habit you’d like to start.
For example: I want to be a runner.
Then keep writing ‘why’ and answer that question.
‘So many people seem to be getting into it and I fancy having a go.’
‘I want to meet more people.’
‘Well, life is pretty lonely and I’m desperate to make friends.’
The WHY here is the desire to make friends.
Discovering your WHY and constantly reminding yourself of it, will help you to doggedly stick to your plan through the inevitable tough times.
Let’s look at another really common one; changing unhealthy eating habits.
‘If only I could lose a couple of stones,’ my friend Sue often wails. ‘But I can’t seem to stick to a plan for long.’
I asked Sue…’Why do you want to lose weight?’
She looked at me as though I was mad.
‘Why? Well obviously because I want to be slimmer!’
‘Yes, but why do you want to be slimmer? Just go along with me on this!’
‘I want to look nice in clothes.’
‘Well… I guess to be more attractive… Yes. To be more attractive.’
She hesitated and gave it some thought before replying: ‘So I can feel more confident and meet someone.’
That is Sue’s WHY. I want to meet someone special… Ah ha! A WHY moment…
You too may have a goal of losing weight but what is the real motivation behind that? Look past the obvious, drill down and keep asking: ‘so what else will I get from this?’ until you can go no further. That is your WHY. Make sure you don’t forget it; write it down on post it notes and plaster them all over your house, your desk, your fridge.
Everyone has their own WHY. There is no wrong WHY, it just needs to have significant meaning to you.
You can’t take somebody else’s WHY and make it yours. If your family, friends or doctor think something should be important to you, that’s their WHY, not yours.
Once you dig deep and uncover your WHY it will fire you up and drive you.
You will find it easier to stick to your fitness plan.
Finding my WHY is one of the best things I’ve ever done for my health.
WHY did I want to run?
I had decided to take up running because my doctor recommended it to help hold back osteoporosis. After leaving the surgery I’d done some googling and learned that the current average life expectancy of a woman in the UK was around 81 years. With the average age of menopause being 51, that left a hell of a lot of years to enjoy. And I wanted to enjoy them in the best health I could.
I dug deeper.
Why, exactly did I want to run?
I wanted to run to keep as fit as I could as the menopause set in. I wanted to stave off osteoporosis… to stop me breaking bones later on… to stop me from falling over. I was frightened.
It was fear driving me. Fear of illness. Fear of the unknown. I wanted to run away from middle age.
For me, fear is a powerful motivator.
But there was something more that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Another reason lurking behind my newfound desire to run.
It was days before it came to the surface. I’d been reading up on races. I found the very idea of entering a 5 or 10K somewhere down the line very exciting. It gave me a thrill. It made me want to lace up my trainers and head out the door right away. Motivated! Bingo! Now all I had to work out was why I found the idea so motivating and I could use that as a great, big carrot.
For some reason I’d overlooked the obvious; that race results are split into age groups. Though I was astonished to discover that a veteran runner is ‘anyone over 35’ I decided to latch on to the happy fact that I could feasibly finish near the back of the pack yet still be well placed in my age group. I could never outrace a twenty, thirty or even forty year old but I was still in with a chance amongst my peers, with oldies like me. There would be bling. I was hooked. I wanted to win and I wanted medals. Glory.
I was ashamed. What a lightweight; so shallow. But there it is.
Fear and Frippery.