Anatomy of a Run – motivation, habit, discipline and TRICKS

We recently had a great discussion about balance in life over in the sub 30 club. The Question of the Day was about balancing different parts of life and whether we can use some of the motivation we might feel about running to get other things done, but that fed into a more general conversation about the relative merits of motivation, habit, and discipline in getting out the door to run (or to do housework, which I think none of us is managing). Getting out the door is an issue I largely don’t struggle with because I function mostly based on habit, but I also don’t lack motivation. That means, luckily, I don’t need a lot of discipline, which I think is the resource here that tends to be most limited. Gretchen Rubin’s book Better Than Before has some good things to say on this topic.

Of course, stating publicly yesterday that I generally get out the door to run successfully with habit and a bit of motivation, cue ironic music, meant that when I woke up this morning, my habits had been disrupted and my motivation had largely flown the coop. I ran anyway, but it wasn’t just discipline; I also used TRICKS. So, here is how today’s run went down.

5:30am – alarm #1 goes off: Woke up, kind of tired, pretty sore. It’s been a long week. I’ve had some extra responsibilities at work, my mom had knee replacement surgery, Rose took an awful tumble down the stairs and our travel plans for the weekend were temporarily in jeopardy. I was up late working and my quads hurt from lifting and then biking yesterday. So, motivation pretty much at zero. Because I got to bed late last night, I didn’t lay out my running clothes, which is a key part of getting ready fast. Working late also meant I snacked like a fiend so the daily weigh-in didn’t really boost my spirits either. Blech. Even habit breaking down. Cue discipline, the most limited resource.

5:40am – alarm #2 goes off: Downstairs, coffee, yogurt, checking in with the EMC (Early Morning Crew on Sub 30). Motivation still in the toilet, but I have at least revived habit. Ninety-five times out of a hundred, habit will save the day. In addition to the EMC, I have a little online group I check in with most mornings and today, North Shore Strider was there and also struggling. We kicked each other’s butts a little bit and commiserated a little bit and got our asses heading towards our respective treadmills.

6:00am – alarm #3 goes off: Start what I affectionately call the million year warm-up. It actually takes about 25-30 minutes and if I don’t start now, I won’t be done with the run on time to be sure Aidan catches the bus.

6:30am – alarm #4 goes off: My butt needs to be on the treadmill NOW or Aidan’s timely departure might not happen….

So, I made it this morning! Here are the tricks I used along the way.

Trick #1: Four alarms. Not even kidding about this. I knew this morning would be hard so I segmented the time to be sure I got through each stage of the morning’s preparations accordingly. This feels idiotic, but it works, so who cares?

Trick #2: Virtual support team. The EMC will do this for anyone, but teaming up with folks in real life or on line is a great way to accomplish workouts on days you aren’t feeling it. Usually this is habit for me, but today, texting with North Shore Strider gave me the shove I needed to get going.

Trick #3: Extra treats. The million year warm-up enables me to run with this lame foot. I often just get this done while chatting with Aidan, but today I put on a running podcast to give myself an extra boost. Do what you need to do.

Trick #4: Special music. I am not going to confess how often I have listened to Hamilton while working out in the last six months. Let’s just say, a lot. Enough that, though I still love that music, it can’t really count as “special” any more. On tough days like today, I find myself reverting to the playlist I made for the Vermont City marathon last May. I knew that day was going to be hard, so I picked some music I thought would be motivating. This is how that playlist starts and it’s impossible not to run to these songs:

A Beautiful Day – India Arie
[Gorgeous song reminds me of my kids’ dance recital and to enjoy the journey.]

Work This Body – Walk the Moon
[It ain’t a matter of “if” honey, it’s just a matter of “when” – I need to hear that a lot these days.]

It’s Raining Men – The Weather Girls
[Makes me smile and reminds me of my mother, who I imagine would love this song. I have no idea if she’s ever heard it, but I think of her every time it comes on. She’s good at being tough and she’s even better at laughing.]

So how was the run? My foot didn’t hurt, which was excellent. I did not get any less tired, less sore, or more inspired, but I got it DONE, which is sometimes the point.



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