I have recently decided to refresh my feet (and fitness) and take up some running again, and I’m battling with the question of “Do I track my runs?” vs “Do I say I don’t give a crap how far/fast I run, and instead focus on just enjoying being outside”?
As someone who generally needs a kick up the bum to get just about anything done, being an active tracker could be a helpful boost – joining things like Strava, Garmin Connect, MapMyRun etc. can be a hugely motivating tool – particularly if you thrive off of some competition and racing efforts; you can readily see a person’s best per/km pace, best 5km/marathon/mile etc, and so it can be easy to motivate yourself to “race” against your athletic idols or friends.
On the flip side, if you are someone who is perhaps a little embarrassed about your current state of fitness (myself included) it can be a little daunting to advertise to your friends/the world about your attempts to get active. I recently had this moment when my brother in law found me on Strava and followed me, prompting me to message him and make him swear not to laugh at my feeble exercise attempts (which of course he never would, I was just a tad embarrassed about my infrequency and fitness levels).
When I messaged him to ask that, my brother in law, who only started running in late 2015, and has gone on to complete full marathons, qualify for Comrades, and has literally changed his life in the last 18 months; said very kindly and frankly; “The thing to remember is that at any speed you are lapping the guy sitting on the couch”, and the phrase has always struck a great chord with me. I am almost certainly never going to be the fastest, or the best long-distance runner, but I am still doing the best that I can, at this moment.
It can be a bit intimidating to be seen as consciously making an effort to better yourself, as it seems like much of our surrounding society is full of people and products that want you to “succeed”…. but only temporarily. If we change ourselves for the better, we sometimes unintentionally cause other people to reevaluate where they are in their life; whether it is at work, fitness, health, finances, personal achievements; just about anything you can think of. As a result, you will often come across people who say “taking one day off won’t hurt you”, or “it’s a birthday, surely you can have a piece of cake?” There are always going to be people who try to deviate you from your path or your plan; it’s not that they are all trying to be unsupportive or unhelpful; sometimes it’s just that we as a species are conditioned to enjoy comfort, and to try to offer it to those around us. Your grandmother, who might think you slimming down is due to stress, could bake you cakes and tell you you’re getting too thin. Your friend at the office, who misses your presence at Friday Happy Hour, which you’ve swapped in favor of an evening run, might try to encourage you to take a break from your exercise routine so that you hang out with your friends instead. These things are not malicious; they are expressed out of concern or affection for you, and it is important to recognize them for what they are.
There will be people who do intentionally try to sabotage your efforts, and those saboteurs are not always other people; for many of us, we are the biggest culprit when it comes to making excuses for ourselves, or sabotaging our own efforts (We’re all the same, don’t worry). When encountering a saboteur, whether inside your own head, or in a friend, spouse or associate, it is important to remember WHY you are on your current path; the reason WHY you are making these positive changes in your life – THAT is your motivation and it will keep you focused.
If you clean up your diet and exercise habits ‘just’ so you can look good in a swimsuit, the chances are, your efforts will fail. You need to really think about a strong, emotional reason why you want to make these positive changes. Do you want to feel confident in how you look, feel strong and more attractive to your partner? Do you want to set a good example for your children? Improve your health to get away from disease, so that you can watch your family grow?
That reason that pulls on your heartstrings, the one that sets your soul on fire; THAT is the fuel that is going to keep your motivation burning when faced with temptation, saboteurs, or deviations from your plan.
Take ten minutes today to think about where you are and where you want to be. In fitness, your job, cooking skills, anything at all. Write down the reasons WHY you want to improve in these areas, or why you want to achieve your specific goal. Be as detailed as you can; no one is going to read this except you. Write down all the reasons why, and then read them every day. Believe in yourself daily, and imagine yourself achieving your goal, and watch your life change.
So in my case, I have decided to use my fitness tracker more regularly and with greater attention. I have noted the benchmark where I am starting, and my goal is to beat myself. I am my own challenge. With myself as my cheerleader (and possibly my brother in law as well), I know that I will get where I want to be.
I encourage you to do the same; set a goal, and then be your own cheerleader. Be the almost-embarrassing, soccer-mum, cheering-and-dancing kind of cheerleader. Be proud of where you’ve come from, and be confident in where you’re going, because whether you succeed or not is all up to you and the way you think.