Stuff I Like:

I just got back from a run tonight that was frustrating. I wasn’t frustrated with my performance, but with my lack of direction. About 20 minutes into the run I realized that I was turned around and at that point I knew that I wasn’t sure how far my run was going to end up being. That’s about when I almost stopped running just to walk the rest of the way. I did walk for about 4-5 minutes, but got moving again when I realized that my body had the capacity to keep going, but my mind wanted to give up because of the frustration.

You see, I like to know how far my runs are going to be before I go. The tool that I like to use is It’s basically a Google Maps mash-up that lets you plot the route your are going to run/walk based on all the turns you’re going to take. Basically it’s the modern day version of driving around the neighborhood with your car to see how many miles a route is.

The cool part about the service, other than it being free, is that it uses the hybrid view, which lets you see both street names and landmarks. I’ve really enjoyed using it to make up new runs for me to go on. It’s kept me from getting bored with the same old run every day.

Oh, and when I got home, after I cleaned up, I logged back on to see how far I ended up running. It was 3.25 miles, which was .25 further than I planned to go, but not an excessive distance.

Motivation: Finding the desire to workout when I really don’t want to do it.

It happens to almost all of us. We’re going about our everyday lives with not a care in the world, but it all changes. What prompts it, though, is different: hitting a milestone year of life, taking a good long look in the mirror and not liking what we’re seeing, getting winded from a short walk up a hill, or a number of other reasons. What I’m talking about is the workout bug striking.

That’s right. Many of us decide that it’s time to get in shape. So we join a gym, start running, sign up for a sports league, or just start eating right. I’ve done it before and the motivation lasts for about 10 days and then, POOF, it’s gone. Whatever reason or motivation that started the workout bug has passed and I go back to my old habits.

That hasn’t happened to me this time. I’ve been working out consistently (strength training 3x a week and running 3-4x a week) for over six weeks now. On top of that I am still motivated to keep going. That’s not to say that I actually want to work out or run every time I do it. I just got back from a three mile run tonight that I was coming up with every excuse I could possibly think of as to why I didn’t need to go. But I went anyway.

Looking back over the past six weeks I’ve thought of a few things that I’ve done differently this time around that have kept me going.

  1. I set goals that were big enough to be audacious, but within reason so they seemed reachable. The first thing I decided was that I needed specific, measurable goals that I could aim for to keep me going when the “you should quit” birds start singing in my ears. The first one was to run a half marathon in under two hours and fifteen minutes. That seemed HUGE when I got started but still within reason to keep me from quitting. I also decided that I should get my weight down to under 200 pounds by the time I run the half marathon (December 14). I was 220 when I got started and I’m already halfway there. I have a feeling the next ten pounds will be harder to lose than the first, though, which will make me want to try even harder.
  2. I got a workout buddy that was in a similar fitness level. This one was huge too. I asked a friend of mine from church if he wanted to workout at the gym with me. I’ve done this before, but the person I chose, who happened to be the preacher, was so far above me in the physical fitness arena that it just wasn’t fun. I slowed him down and he pushed me too hard. The friend I’m working out with now and I do just about the same weight on all the exercises we do, so it’s not a competition and I don’t feel embarrased to go to the gym with him. The other thing that it’s done is held me accountable. We typically workout at 6:30 am, which I would NEVER do on my own. I can, however, get up out of bed because I know if I don’t I will be letting someone else down, not just myself.
  3. I had a daughter. I don’t really recommend having a child simply to get motivated to workout, but it really does change things. I realize that she will be depending on me to be part of her life for a LONG time and I want to be able to enjoy EVERY last possible activity. Being in better shape will make those experiences much more memorable and enjoyable.
  4. I started listening to music while I ran. This may not work for everyone, but it has helped me. I didn’t do it the first week or so that I was running, but I have for the past month. The way it has helped me has been two-fold. First, music has a physiological affect on us. Certain songs will give a boost of adrenaline and studies have shown that music played at a higher tempo (120-140bpm) cause us to run along with that same beat. Many of the songs that I hear give me an extra jolt of adrenaline exactly when I need it. The other thing it has done is drowned out the sound of me huffing and puffing. Again, you might not be distracted by this, but it really discouraged me when I would get winded so early in my runs. I would typically stop running and just walk for a while. Now I keep going even though I’m tired.
  5. I tracked my progress religiously. This really helped me a lot the other day. I got done with a run and I really wasn’t happy with my time. When I went to write it down and compare it with a similar run from a few weeks ago I saw that I actually ran at a faster pace! This made me EXTREMELY happy. It’s hard to trust your feelings in regards to your progress, but when you can see the objective numbers it can be encouraging or it can show you that you’ve had false confidence in your progress, which could serve as a motivator too.

Those are some of the things I’ve done. Do you have any tips on staying motivated to workout?

See also:
Minimalist Fitness: How to Get In Lean Shape With Little or No Equipment
Fitness is a Journey. Bring a Map.

Running my first half-marathon

About a month ago, a friend of mine casually asked me if I wanted to run a half-marathon in December. My initial reaction was “no thanks,” but I didn’t rule it out completely. That question hung around in my head for the next day, so I decided to get up off the couch the next night and go running, just to see what kind of shape I was in. That first night was tough. I was huffing and puffing about two minutes into the run and when I got home I was drenched in sweat.

Fast forward a month later. Now I can very easily run one mile and a decent pace. In fact, that distance seems very short to me today. My average run is currently over two miles long. I’ve also ran a five, four, and multiple three mile runs, too. It’s really pretty neat to see so much progess in such a little time.

Because of this progress I went ahead and registered for the White Rock Half Marathon here in Dallas on December 14, which gives me plenty of time to train and get in good enough shape that I can aim for a good time. I also have a hole lot more energy in general and I’m sleeping better at night, too. It’s been a great month.

If you’re thinking about getting back into running and are like I was (not in good shape), I’ve learned a few lessons that you might find helpful.

1. Run slower than you think you should.
That first night that I went out to run the biggest mistake I made was running WAY TOO FAST. I’ve been used to playing sports where running fast in short bursts is the norm. But distance running is different, especially when you’re a novice like me. If you run too fast, too early you’ll wear yourself out to the point that you won’t be able to run fast, if at all, at the end of your run. For me I had to be satisfied with not having good times in running, since I was not in great shape. The faster times will come later, but when you’re getting started you just need to work your heart and lungs out and later you’ll be able to pick up the pace.

2. Get a good pair of running shoes.
One of the things that has kept me running this go around has been the fact that I actually bought a decent pair of shoes that are specifically running shoes. In the other times that I’ve ran I’ve just slapped on my everyday cross-trainers, but my feet and shins would always be so sore after a run or two that I would quit. I’ve been able to keep at it with my feet and legs feeling great afterward primarily because of the shoes that I wear.

3. Stretch before and after your runs.
Even though my shoes have helped with my legs feeling good after my runs, the day after the run for the first few times I went my calves and hamstrings would be sore. I didn’t figure it out at first, but then I realized that I was stiffening up after the run. Once I started stretching when I got home this went away. Don’t skip this part or you’ll regret it the next day.

4. Register for a race at a distance that seems VERY LONG.
While I have a lot of confidence in my ability to run distances now, there were plenty of times in the first two weeks that I did not feel like I could make it very far. The only thing that really kept me going was knowing the 13.1 miles is a lot farther than what I was running that day. I knew that the more I ran early on the better I would be when race day rolls around. Having the race looming over my head has also given me enough motivation to go out and run on the days that I really don’t feel like running. Whatever distance seems long, whether it’s a 5-K, 10-K, half marathon, or longer, sign up for a long run and you’ll find the motivation to get out there and train.

So there you have it. Those are the things I’ve learned so far. I’ll update my progress as it gets closer to race day.