I am the queen of excuses.
Or at least, I can be. Or at least, my mind is!
Mainly, I am going to talk about running, as this is the thing I have to push myself most to do, and therefore feel extra rewarded when I do it.
If I am attending a yoga class, it’s all a pull for me; I don’t try to sabotage it for myself with thoughts of, “Oh, but I’m hungry,” or “Oh, but I need the toilet,” etc.
But with running, I need to give myself a little extra shove to get out the door—every, single time I run.
Muhammad Ali said he hated every minute of his training.
“I hated every minute of training, but I said, Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.”
That floored me. Every minute? That is some dedication.
Coming from a yoga background, it can feel counter-intuitive to push sometimes. The key to yoga (and success in any athletic discipline) is learning when to push, and when to stop.
Listen to what your body needs, to a point, but then inquire whether your body has a genuine reason for feeling that way.
“Am I so bone-tired I could sleep right here on the floor right now, or am I just tired because I need some energy-stirring movement? Have I got a little more in the tank?”
I’ve never regretted a single run. No matter how lost I got or how cold or miserable I was, I am always happy once I’m out.
I always benefit, it’s just a matter of making myself do it.
I have had to come up with some creative fool-proof means to get me out there. If one of these tactics fail, I have several back-ups. Obviously, I still sometimes miss runs, but I try to stick to three regular weekly ones.
If I miss them, I feel out of sorts, so keeping the regularity is important to me.
When I wake in the morning, I rarely feel like going for a run.
I used to try to quickly get my trainers on before my mind really noticed. My brain would try to convince me of a million worthy reasons as to why I should not run.
However, I knew that once my clothes and shoes were on, there would be no turning back, no matter how I felt. I took this to the extreme with my first marathon, running when I could barely walk, I became too focused on my planned schedule and not enough to my body at the time.
I paid the price. Now I have the opposite problem.
Back in the day, we needed to rest whenever we could, so the mind developed a, “Oh, but rest” mantra. Chasing down food and escaping from predators, our human lifestyles were naturally active, now, it is the opposite way round.
Some people, especially male athletes or military personnel, I’ve noticed, have a hard time resting (or not always pushing hard), but the rest of us can probably take on a little more. I read that when we think we’ve reached our limit, we are only actually at 60%.
I keep this in mind.
If we can do it, we should do it (at least sometimes), or we will lose it. We should not constantly push to our limit, after all, strength is built in the rest period, but once in a while it’s good to remember we are capable of so much more than the little mind would allow us to believe.
Here are eight things I tell myself when I don’t want to workout. The first four things are internal and the last four are practical steps I take to give me extra (and tangible) encouragement.
1. I can just run for less than I had planned, and turn round when I am tired.
I have never once done this.
The funny thing is, the runs where this is my beforehand plan, usually turn out to be the best, easiest and most enjoyable of all runs.
The mind wants to protect us from failure, it developed these habits to preserve us. We just need to know that what it says is not necessarily reflective of the deeper truth.
2. I think about how much better I will feel afterwards.
Or conversely, how awful, lazy and lethargic I will probably feel if I don’t. That if I miss this slot, I won’t go after work. It’s now or never.
There are always excuses not to work out, always valid ones, the key is making the reasons to go strong enough to get you out of bed, into your workout gear, then out the door—or on to the mat.
Those evil demons trying to get you to press snooze/have another coffee/do something else (anything else), will be long gone.
3. I think about times in my life when this would’ve been more difficult.
Times when I was a smoker; when I used to stay out until the sun came up; when I was overweight; when I was injured or when my twins were babies and I could barely get through the demands of the day, never mind exercise.
In the beginning, I found it impossible to work out at home, too many distractions and jobs needed doing, so I would run to a class, or run to a running track and practice yoga there. Fresh air was an extra blessing.
4. I think about my friends, some who are in a position where they really can’t run.
Maybe they have small children, are pregnant, are just struggling for time (really struggling), or just anyone I know who is struggling.
I run with them on my mind—for them, really.
5. I download some banging music.
Some people run or power walk to audio books. This is what Anthony Robbins recommends in his “Hour of Power” tutorials.
I used to be a Hard House DJ, but the demands of that lifestyle did not suit me, so I keep that part of me alive by getting mixes from friends, and running to them. Soundcloud has revolutionised my life. I get excited about a new mix I hear sometimes and start to imagine running to it when I first hear it. It really makes me look forward to my next run, more than anything else.
It is a time I can listen to my music uninterrupted and alone. It also helps to silence negative thoughts, luckily my music tends to involve lyrics such as, “I’m the one and only dominator,” which helps. Ha.
A good tip a Yoga teacher shared with me,
“Put on some favorite music at home, start dancing, loosen up, then find your way into a yoga pose, maybe downdog, just one. Then you may find your way into another.”
This eased me into many a practice that I otherwise felt reluctant to do.
6. I follow people on social media who run more than me, farther than me or who have more excuses than me, yet still get up/out and do it.
Just a little scan down my Facebook feed (I try to tailor mine so I mainly follow runners who inspire me), I will see someone who went out for an ultra-run when I went to bed, someone who went out for a run three days ago and is still at it, someone who has ran a marathon or more everyday for 50+ days and I think:
“Hmm, I think I can manage an hour at the track after all!”
Like point five, social media and SoundCloud did not exist when I first started running.
I used to run to the same old MP3s over and over again, now I have a different mix every time I run alone. I am spoiled for choice. I’d like to think Facebook especially has been responsible for making more runs happen than not (but let’s not crunch the numbers on that one).
If it wasn’t for Facebook, I wouldn’t have the running friends or know about a lot of the events that I do. It’s a great tool to find other runners, groups or just to get encouragement and motivation.
Just remember, the goal is to actually run, try to keep the ratio of running to tweeting about running even, that’s a reminder to myself.
7. Run with a friend.
Don’t think about time, make it relaxed.
Champion ultra-runner, Scott Jurek, recommends running with a companion at least once a week. I run with a group once a week, who are faster than me so I don’t have much conversation, on my own once, and with friends who are slower than me, so that we can enjoy conversation, take it easy and have a laugh.
8. Have a goal or enter an event.
Maybe stick this goal on the fridge and bathroom mirror.
Have a range of runs, a range of workouts and different tactics to get out there, in there (if it’s the gym) or on there (if it’s a yoga mat).
If you are training for an event, you have to get out and run when you don’t feel like it. If you are running for fun, the luxury of picking and choosing according to how you feel can be afforded.
But when you have a goal, if it’s raining, you go anyway; if you are sore, you go anyway; if you haven’t had enough sleep, guess what? Yep, you’re going anyway.
The amazing thing is, our bodies adjust rapidly and gets used to whatever routine it is doing on a weekly basis. You will miss it if you skip it and feel put-out as a consequence, so you won’t want to do this when it gets to be a habit.
Getting to that point can be the tricky part.
The mind will try to play tricks, that is it’s job. Just remember:
“The comfort zone is a ‘false summit’ in the pursuit of happiness, true happiness lies beyond comfort.”
Author: Hannah-Marie Martin
Apprentice Editor: Brandie Smith/Editor: Travis May