Motivation comes in many different packages…
In summer 1983, a young man moved to my town. Let’s call him Jack. Like most kids moving to a new town, Jack made new friends. Being tall, blonde, and athletic, this wasn’t hard for Jack.
Problem was, unbeknownst to me, Jack became good “friends” with my girlfriend. I was soon history. News traveled much slower back then in the landline phone days, but eventually word travelled back to me about a new kid in town who had contributed to my demise.
School soon started back, and there they were, roaming the halls together, Jack, the football player, and my ex, the cheerleader. They made a cute couple to everyone but me. One day, I heard a rumor that Jack was going to try out for basketball, too. Word on the street was he was pretty good. Might even vie for a starting spot. Well, guess who’s territory that was? That’s right. Mine.
To say I was looking forward to tryouts was an understatement. I had a new motivation and focus. Poor guy showed up but never had a chance. There may have been more flagrant fouling than usual, but that could just be called aggressive defense. I don’t remember for sure, and YouTube didn’t exist, so there’s no evidence. Jack did make the team, but he didn’t take my starting spot.
So, that was my motivation all those years ago – girls, jealousy, pride, revenge. Looks like there should be a sermon in there somewhere.
Twenty-something years past my basketball days, the motivation to take on a new sport presented itself. In December 2008, the most “wonderful time of the year” was not so great. The U.S. economy was in ruins, and my employer was feeling the effects. Our plant manager stood in front of the employees right before the Christmas break and gave the grim business update. He implied there would be layoffs soon after Christmas. Facing the prospect of losing my job after the holiday, I went home and dug out the old treadmill. My new motivation was stress relief.
After a few weeks of walking and running on the treadmill, I was feeling better. There was a layoff, but I was one of the fortunate ones who kept their jobs. I don’t remember if I knew I needed a new motivation, but I soon made a decision that would help drive me for several years to come: I entered my first road race, scheduled for the end of February.
As a new runner, I should have entered a 5K just two months after beginning, but I entered a 10K. It wasn’t a conscious decision of 5K versus 10K. The now-defunct Lexington Race Against Hunger 10K was close to my home, and I happened to see it advertised. I also had no clue yet of where to find other race signups.
So, the LRAH 2009 it was, and with a race registration, I had my new incentive to keep training. I was also beginning to have have an idea of my abilities and how to pace for several miles. So, I also decided I wanted to beat an hour in that first race. This was not wise for a beginner, either, but turns out it’s how my mind works.
On Saturday, February 28, 2009, the day before my 41st birthday, I showed up to run my first race, nervous and not sure I should even be there. Now, I have several vivid memories from that day. First, it rained during the race. It never occurred to me that people would run in the rain. But we did. At least it was fairly warm for February. Second, as we passed the mile-five marker, I was really struggling. After all, this was one of the few times I had ever run this far. It was at this point several young high school girls passed me, and left me in the dust, quite the humbling moment. Finally, as I crossed the finish line in a surprising 53:29, I had a huge feeling of accomplishment. Not only had a completed a 10K, I had beaten my goal by over six minutes. I was hooked.
“Once something is a passion, the motivation is there.” Michael Schumacher
So that’s how I fell in love with running and pursuing physical fitness. What about you? Do you need something to push you over the edge toward finally starting or restarting a fitness journey? Here are some other motivations I can think of. Maybe these will help:
Want to do an Ironman by age 50? What about doing a 100-mile bicycle ride. Bucket list items can be an effective way to start your fitness journey. Set a big goal and work toward it. A word of warning on this one: it’s a good idea to have spouse buy-in on these big goals.
I have mixed feelings on this one. I’ve known people who lost a bunch of weight as they worked their way into shape for marathons and Ironman events, and I’ve known others who put in the work and didn’t see any weight loss. So, I’d say don’t make this your main motivation. If weight loss happens in a healthy way, be thankful.
Be a Better Parent
You may think that I consider making it to the Boston Marathon the best thing to come from my running. Well, I don’t. This is: a few months after I started running, my 10 year-old son started going on runs with me. Not too long after my first race, I entered him in a local 5K, hoping he’d win a medal and be energized to keep it up. That strategy worked! This led to high school cross country and now collegiate triathlon.
These days, many elementary and middle schools have after school programs such as Run Hard and Girls on the Run that promote running. These programs usually need volunteers and have a program-ending 5K where the parent needs to run with the child. You might as well show your child you can put in the work, too!
Most people need accountability partners. If running or going to the gym with a group of friends is what you need to keep you moving, then by all means, be social. Just be sure to do some work and not spend the entire time socializing!
There are many other motivations. If you’ve started a fitness journey, what have been your motivations? Leave me a reply in the comments! Thanks!