What do you do when you have zero motivation to do anything? The logical part of your brain knows that you must get seriously training, eat better and learn how to meditate. The logical part of your brain knows that comparing yourself with other people who are younger, fitter, stronger and seem to have endless hours to commit to exercise, is a futile process.
Unfortunately, my brain is not wholly logical. Under stressful times, it tells me that I don’t want healthy, well prepared salads, I want whatever falls out of the fridge that is easy and takes about 3 seconds to prepare. It says, fuck herbal tea and happy thoughts, have a glass of wine. After a restless night’s sleep, it desperately clings to the last dregs of shut eye and rebels against an early morning rendezvous with Kevin the kettlebell. And my illogical mind can spend hours panicking about how fecking brilliant my team mates are in comparison to me. In short, I am a mess.
Don’t get me wrong, there are good days. My exercise week was not too bad last week; I lifted some seriously heavy weights and that felt amazing. I put a good bit of pressure of my shoulder the next day and that felt pretty good too. On Saturday morning, I forced myself out of bed, laced up the trainers and went for a parkrun: my first run since May last year. For those of you unfamiliar, parkruns are free, timed, weekly 5k runs, happening pretty much everywhere all over the world. You get to compare your times week by week and it’s a good way of seeing your progression. They are run by volunteers and even that is fun; watching the serious runners whizz by when you are marshalling is a real buzz, seeing proper athletes within touching distance. And in encouraging the slower ones at the back to just keep going, parkrun is genuinely a great thing, both in terms of community spirit, and for running in beautiful locations. If you like running that is.
I hate it. Alright, maybe I don’t quite hate it. I have experienced the runner’s high a few times, mainly at the end of a 10k after a good bit of training. However, most of the time I find running too much effort, although I do enjoy the speedy adrenaline burst of short sprinting. It’s good to know that you could run if someone was chasing you, but that’s about as far as it goes. The Spartan Race is 13k in total, so I do need to practice, even if I know that we won’t have to run any more than a few kilometres at a time before some horrible obstacle appears. The parkrun is perfect for that, especially as the route in Pollok Park (my nearest) is fairly undulating with rough terrain underfoot. My PB is 28 mins; on Saturday I managed 30:47. Not great, but not terrible, given that I walked up most of the hills (blush).
The best thing about it was that I went at all. It was my birthday last week, and I had a couple of nights of drinking, both on a school night. By the time Saturday rolled around, I would have felt properly justified in staying in bed for as long as my early waking child would allow, then decamping to the sofa, wrapped in a duvet, playing snakes and ladders with copious amounts of tea. I had all the excuses ready. Instead I went running through sheer force of will. This time, the logical part of my brain won. And even though it was mostly unpleasant, I am glad that I went. Because when times are tough, we need to know that we can override the part of us that just want to give up.
If I was a scientist or a psychologist, I could give you a sophisticated understanding of mind over matter. All I know is that it is one mantra I firmly believe in. There are numerous contraindications: the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak is undeniably true, but if it was truer than mind over matter, then none of us would get out of bed in the morning and we might spend our lives hooked up to a chocolate and opium drip. Or maybe that’s just me.
Maybe, like me, you are a serial prevaricator. There are some people that, knowing their report/assignment/workplan/whatever is due in a week’s time, do the work straight away, then move happily onto the next task. If like me, you have to juggle numerous things in work and life, then you are more likely to decide what must be done right now and what can be put off and done at the last minute. This is not necessarily an effective strategy but it works up to a point. The Spartan Race is not until July, five months from now, which in theory puts it into the ‘do later’ category. Unfortunately this theory does not apply to things where you need to be physically fit, especially when the rest of the team are already streets ahead in their fitness. These things do not happen overnight.
As a wise man might say, fuckity fuck. This is where the mental strength comes in. My strategy is along the lines of this: accept that life is a chaotic mess and do the best you can until nearer the time, because who knows, maybe things will get better before then. Don’t beat yourself up for not spending ten hours a week in the gym. Then, like a student doing last minute cramming for an exam, spend the last couple of months training like a muthafucka. And draw on all the mental reserves I have built up in 43 years of life to get me through. Because all those experiences of highs, lows, joy and pain has got to count for something. In fact I already know it does.
Yesterday, I felt happy after spending the morning helping to pack up the gym for its new home; a few hours spent humfphing stuff, feeling strong and useful, followed by a decent walk. Today, it takes one thing and I’ve got the blues again. Tomorrow will be another fresh day; that’s the way it goes. Every day has a different challenge. All I can do is show up to it with strength and a willingness to learn and move on. The same philosophy will get me through the race, as it does in life.
Until next time,