Thursday, February 7, 2013

Is your story worth telling? How I stay motivated

My cell phone buzzes - the dreaded alarm. I squint and look at the screen. It's 5:40am. It's dark. It's cold. It's snowy/icy/rainy. There's 45 minutes worth of swim drills and 50m intervals waiting for me a mile down the road at the pool. And I have a decision to make. Do I roll over, pull the covers back over me, and hit the snooze button? Or, do I get out of bed, rub my eyes, grab my swim bag, and make the quick 5 minute drive from our apartment building to the pool - in the dark - to start my day the best way I know how?

These are the little battles we fight with ourselves everyday. The inner struggles we go through on a daily basis that ultimately come together to make us who we are.

As the temperatures hover around or below freezing (I'm thinking of you Twin Cities and Chicago), snow covers the ground outside, and day light is hard to come by, working out seems to be the last thing we all want to do. (Doesn't a warm cup of coffee or hot chocolate on the couch sound so much better?) So how can we get motivated, and stay motivated? How can we overcome that urge to roll over and hit the snooze button in the morning?


I've been asked these questions a number of times - "how do you wake up that early and workout everyday?" (Not to mention the second workout that usually happens in the evening as well.) "How do you motivate yourself?" My wife would like me to think it's simply because I'm a morning person, but, I think there's a lot more to this answer than what's on the surface.

Back during my soccer years I developed the habit of writing down inspiring quotes I heard from different places - articles, songs, movies, video clips. I even went so far as to write a bunch of them on small pieces of paper and tape them on my bedroom wall. Anytime I sat at my desk or laid in bed, there they were, the inspiring words of inspiring people - the likes of Michael Jordan, Vince Lombardi, Lou Holtz, and Jim Valvano. Some way, my hope was that their words would transcend the paper (or screen or speaker), and into my own consciousness - my story would pick up where there's left off.

And that's exactly how I think about my life's journey. It's a story. My story. Parts of my story are inspired by different things, and by different people - like those quotes on the wall. It's something I still do today. Not necessarily putting quotes on the wall (YouTube has certainly made things easier to tap into content), but letting others' inspiration become my own inspiration; letting their story motivate me to tell my own.

And that's how I look at it.We all have one opportunity to write our tail, and just as I've learned from the stories and experiences of my heroes, I hope one day for my story to do the same. Sure we may get a few different shots at accomplishing a particular goal (whether it's to run a 5k or a marathon, or travel to every continent), but we only have one chance to live our dreams. I've often times found myself feeling the most alive, the most inspired, when I'm out on a long run, the rain's coming down, there isn't anyone else on the road, and it's just me and me. There's really something spiritual about it - truly feeling the earth's elements, entering into a state of pure self-reflection, and often saying aloud to myself, "I feel alive today."

There's a guy by the name of Joel Runyon who runs an excellent blog called the "Blog of Impossible Things," and talks a lot about embracing life by pushing ourselves to do things we never thought we could - in essence, writing a truly epic life story. He had a fantastic, yet simple blog post recently that really made me connect the dots.

He describes a conversation he had with a client of his:
Michael: I want to run, but it’s freaking raining out….what do I do?
Me: Run
Michael: It’s pouring…like…literally downpour.
Me: Well did you want to run?
Michael: Ya, but only because it was convenient for me…I get it.
Me: You asked
5 minutes later Joel got this message via Twitter:
"Doing sprints in a downpour. I have a love/hate relationship with @ "
 Later, Joel posted this tweet:
"Some people look for excuses to give up. Some look for excuses to keep going. #bigdifference"
For me, it's all about finding excuses to keep going; to keep seeking out all life has to offer; to write a story that's worth telling.


I've mentioned in previous posts how big a role the mental game is in endurance sports like triathlon and marathon running, and how training style and intensity plays a huge role. Well, this is all part of the mental game. Like those days when you don't feel like training, there are inevitably times during a race when you want to call it quits. I'm not saying to disregard recovery or taking a day off is a bad thing. Over-training is a real and serious issue that taxes things like your adrenal glands and nervous system, and is hard to overcome. But, I am talking about our individual resolve - to persevere when things are tough and learn new things about ourselves. 

There is a saying in endurance sports training to never have bad days. We're able to grow and improve - physically, mentally, and spiritually - when we're consistent; no bad days. I think it's only when we embrace every day - EVERY, SINGLE, DAY - and feel a sense of gratitude for the things in our lives can we truly tell a great story - a story worth telling.

So, ask the question - what lights the fire of resolve inside you to achieve the things you want to do? Are you looking for excuses to give up or excuses to keep going?

We all have the potential to tell a great story. In the end, the question simply becomes...whose the main character? 

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