This morning I was chatting to my neighbour about school and kids and homework and all the usual stuff that you talk about at school drop off. I was mostly talking about how I don’t structure homework into our lives because I don’t really believe in it, and my ultimate goal for my girls is that they develop their own internal motivation. They might never find what they are looking for if I am always pushing them one way, or worse I might ruin something they could actually love by applying pressure they don’t need.
Running is the same in a lot of ways. You only need motivation when you don’t love it enough. You only feel like you are in a slump when that joy you once had starts to feel a lot like a chore.
So the question is not: how do I get my motivation back? The question is: how do I find joy and love and meaning?
You don’t need motivation for things that you love. You don’t have to talk yourself into it, or bribe yourself to do it, because it is the reward. But finding that joy when it goes AWOL can be hard and scary and you can start to feel even a little lost with it.
Sometimes it might be that you’ve forgotten why you started in the first place. Somewhere along the line you might have gotten sucked into paces and times when really in the beginning all you cared about was time to yourself in the fresh air. And you have to remind yourself that even if you never improved, you would still be here.
Sometimes it might be that you are doing what you think you *should* be doing, not what you want to be doing. Not everyone wants to run marathons or half marathons, even though sometimes it feels like that’s exactly what everyone is doing. You might really love 5km as a distance. It might not ever get the kind of glory that surrounds the marathon or ultra trail events but maybe it’s your jam. The joy in a distance you love can’t be substituted for someone else’s high opinion.
Sometimes it just might mean that you need a few people to share the journey with. It’s hard to feel that anything is meaningful in a vacuum. The best part of a running community is that when you achieve something, everyone else knows how hard that you worked. It’s not an arbitrary number. It’s 12 weeks of training. It’s early mornings. And it’s willingness to suffer for your joy a bit. And it’s not the time that the community celebrates, it’s the process – which is absolutely universal.
Sometimes you’ve just allowed yourself to talk to yourself in a way that you thought you’d grown out of. You’ve managed to convince yourself that you aren’t good enough or worthwhile enough. And instead of each run that you do celebrating what your body can do, it starts to feel like each run confirms how far gone you are. But you aren’t. Start with finding small things to celebrate about yourself and about your running and let the rest go.
You don’t need motivation, you just need joy. Go and find it wherever it might be.