Thursday, February 13, 2014

Getting into the Habit

There's really one overriding factor in running, and probably most individual sports; motivation. I've just finished reading the Mike Tyson autobiography. It more than any other book shows me that whatever talent you have, whatever riches you win, the only factor that will make you a great, potentially the best ever in the sport, is your personal motivation. Tyson had ability, but his motivation waned when 'other' factors intervened.

Everything else is complementary; talent, grit, determination, skill. You can have all in abundance, but lack motivation and they can add up to nought. Of course without 'talent' you wouldn't scale the heights in any sport, but even with it, it's never enough.

I was chewing on this as I managed not to get out of bed yesterday morning and run. Why not? I was awake, I had time before work, my body wasn't sore, yet I didn't go run. Sure I did later in the day, but if circumstances had conspired, it would have been a run free day.

Running mostly alone puts all the emphasis on self motivation, and negates peer pressure which might have helped yesterday morning. Most of the time it means I run more than I would do in groups, but on these occasions it makes me skip runs I'd otherwise complete. I wonder how many great athletes didn't realize their potential because of a lack of motivation to train? I still love the Daley Thompson Christmas day story. He did his normal morning session as Christmas Day fell on a training day. Went home, showered, put his feet up and started to enjoy relaxing on Christmas day. Then he started wondering what Juergen Hingsen his great rival would be doing. Knowing the German's great work ethic, he couldn't get away from the fact he would also have been training, so he went out again for session number two. At last satisfied he'd pushed to the limit, he showered again and tucked into some turkey and trimmings. After a few hours of feasting and rest, he still couldn't get the German out of his mind. Would he train TWICE on Christmas Day? Maybe. So out went Daley for a third time. This time he knew he had the edge, because nobody would train three times on Christmas day. That's motivation.

A 10 minute daily run took 60 days to become a habit...
I'm reading a book at the moment about habits (Making Habits, Breaking Habits by Jeremy Dean) and how long they take to form and also to break. Simple habits such as drinking a glass of water in the morning took as little as 20 days to became 'automatic'. The bad news is that doing as little as 50 sit ups a day or going for a 10 minutes run took in excess of 84 days to become a habit!! The good news is that the main gains are early. So the first few days have the most effect on habit forming. More repetitions early mean quicker habit forming and longer sustainability. Some habits took up to 254 days to become automatic in other studies!

Getting injured (strangely rather than being sick) has always been a bad habit breaker for me. Day 1 and 2 of no running are hard. Day 3 onwards when I've noticed my eating patterns have changed automatically, I haven't put on any weight AND I have all this extra time become easier and after a week I'm often left wondering why I devoted so much time to running! That has changed since my volume has moved down from 100 to 60 miles a week. 100 miles a week was 2 runs a day and 2-3 hours, 60 miles as little as an hour a day 6 days a week and 3 hours 1 day a week. I miss that post long run or race feeling, but the memory fades quickly. Regrettably.

Snowlandia didn't stop Portland runners
I guess that's why the lone runner probably has to be mentally stronger than those who run in groups and have that incentive. In the summer the motivation is often to see the sunrise or sunset from above Portland. In the winter it's much more difficult. But again being outside, seeing my breath in the cold air or splashing through the muddy trails act as motivators. I also use the Daley Thompson 'surely no one else is training' persuader, especially when the weather is bleak like the last few days in 'Snowlandia' here. But the one downside of being in an area and environment of hard core ultra trail runners is that you are NEVER the only one to run in crap weather!

This weekend is the Hagg Lake Mud 50k and my Cape Town 2 Oceans Ultra qualifier I hope. Unlike last year I think it will live up to the Mud tag. Maybe good training if Oceans has another year like this.....

2 Oceans ultra marathon - the mud year

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