Something that I really find fascinating about running is how it is both the most social thing I have in my life and also where I find my solace. Something that I really find awful about depression is that it causes you to cut out the things and people in your life that make you happiest – and it starts at the top. I know that things are sliding for me when a) my entire family is home and I just want to be by myself and lying down (for the record – this does not include afternoon naps after hard workouts OR aftetr a shitty sleep) and b) my motivation to run starts to decrease and I start missing workouts.
I enjoy the time to myself that running allows me, especially my long runs of 2 hours or more. I like how I feel while running and the feeling of accomplishment I have after every single run. That’s why it is SO very annoying when that little voice in the back of my starts saying things like “You don’t need to run today” or “It’s not like you’re actually going to win anything, so what’s the point?”
In my recent experience, I have found that making myself more accountable has really helped me to stay on the right track. I figured it may be useful to share some of the ways I maintain my accountability to help with those low motivation days. It isn’t an exhaustive list by any means, nor would all of these things work for everyone, but I thought they may be useful for someone, so why not?
1) Share your goals with people you trust. This isn’t about broadcasting how amazing you are or trying to impress people. It’s about sharing aspirations with people that you know are going to support you. You know that these people will be by your side figuratively and literally whether you achieve the goal or just fall short. You can really deflate yourself telling everyone and their dog what you’re trying to do and then not doing it.
2) Find like-minded people. Two of the best ways to do this are to become involved in a local running group and by becoming involved in the online running community. If there isn’t a local running group where you live, consider starting one – you might be surprised at how many people show interest. The online community has been an excellent resource for me. If I’m dragging my heels or just being lazy, I can post about it and within minutes I have people from all over the world encouraging me and telling me I can get out and get my run in – very powerful stuff!
3) Run with other people, even just occasionally. Generally speaking, I prefer to run on my own. I can adjust my pace to where I want it, I can hum or sing to myself and I can clear my head. Lately, I have been making more of a point of trying to run at least once a week with other people. For one thing, it makes sure that I am not pulling a complete social withdrawal which is very important for my mental health. Secondly, if I know I am supposed to meet a person or people at a specific place and time, I’m going to be there. Being able to chat about running, family and life in general while getting a few miles in is a nice change and it also means that I won’t overdo it. Many runners have a tendency to push themselves too hard and I’m no exception. Running at a pace where I can hold a (logical) conversation is a useful thing to do from time to time.
4) Set specific goals and have a plan. If I don’t have a specific race or time goal in mind, it gets much harder to push myself and much easier to skip workouts. Whether you’re trying to lose weight, set a new PR or trying exercise for X number of hours weekly, establishing what you want to achieve helps you to stay focused. I have also really enjoyed having a knowledgeable coach design a schedule for me. Knowing that someone has put time and effort into helping my training has really been helpful in making sure I’m putting the work in as well.
5) Rely on what you KNOW to be true. As I mentioned at the outset, EVERY time I run, I feel better. Even knowing that this is the truth without exception, I find that I need to remind myself of that fact from time to time. I may not be able to quiet the doubting voice all of the time, but I’m getting very good at disagreeing with it and ignoring it. I have often heard that you never regret the runs you take, just the ones you miss. In finding my life balance, I definitely agree with that statement.
What gets you out the door or keeps you going? Let me know, I’d love to get your take on accountability and motivation. Comment here and feel free to share this post with anyone you think may find it useful or interesting!