Recently, my brother and I completed a 20 mile race in the heart of the English countryside in Bramley in between Reading and Basingstoke.
We finished the race well ahead of our required training schedule suggested time and were delighted with the result.
I posted the result on Facebook and shared some photos of my brother and I in our matching running vests and was amazed at so many people commenting and emailing me about how they want to get running longer distances and how they lack motivation. I promised I’d write and share my own motivation strategy.
On a basic level, when training on my own, there are a lot of things I do that keep me spurred on at the time, including varying my routes, running with motivating music on my ipod, having a goal (such as a 10k, half marathon or marathon race) to work towards, and how I feel in my own skin enjoying the health benefits of being trim and in shape. Though running with others and having people to run with is one of the greatest ways to keep driven and be held accountable, it is not always possible to run with others, and so we need to motivate ourselves a great deal.
However, this is not the stuff that people usually want to hear from me. They want some psychological process and so I am going to share the thing I use the most for keeping me driven and motivated, involving mental rehearsal and imagination.
For most people, the main reason to mentally rehearse, is to prepare yourself, using your imagination in a way that ensures you behave, react and respond to a certain situation in the future. However, I also find recalling and remembering the mental rehearsal when I am training or ruinning in an event, spurs me on even more when my legs are crying out for me to stop!
This kind of motivational process, when done with vigour and in a convincing manner, should stimulate you and inspire you and propel you forward with real energy towards your desired outcome.
it is that inspiration and motivation that helps drive you through the dark, lonely, winter mornings and evenings of running by yourself, in my own scenario anyhow.
Many people struggle to get out of bed early, or to get out running after a day at work and we often end up experiencing some conflict, as Aristotle stated:
“Appetites run counter to one another, which happens when a principle of reason and desire are contrary and is possible only in beings with a sense of time, for while mind bids us hold back because of what is future, desire is influenced by what is just at hand: a pleasant object which is just at hand presents itself as both pleasant and good, without condition in either case, because want of foresight into what is farther away in time.”
So as you enjoy the sleepy, warm comfort, snuggled up in a bed in the morning with your loved one, it is that instant pleasure and comfort which can seem irresistible and instead of looking at the chance to go out, run and be healthy, fit and free, you consider the prospect of running to be cold, dark, and unpleasant. The longer term end result is not compelling enough when compared to the comfort and joy of the moment.
One way that an NLP training from Robert Dilts that I enjoyed a number of years ago helped me to establish a way through these kinds of conflicts, was to use the “as if” frame. Something I have written about in great depth here and something I teach on many of my trainings.
The “as if” frame helps us to make longer term outcomes and benefits more compelling and to enable us to ‘experience’ the way things will be once we have achieved that outcome, and overcome the short term pleasure gained from not doing that thing (e.g. getting out on those first runs when you are lacking initial fitness and the gains seem minimal).
The aim is that we create a sense of expectation within ourselves and can then start to get driven and motivated.
Our own sense of motivation is often driven by our values; things that are important to us. I mean, anyone thinking of going out running is doing so because at some level they think it is important in some way – maybe to lose weight, get in to shape, be able to run for the bus, play with the kids without getting pooped, or even run a big race of some kind and achieve something you consider important.
To work out your own values if you are unsure about why you are considering doing anything that you want to be more motivated to do, ask yourself what motivates you. What is it that inspires you, or drives you, or makes you want to go and do this thing?
You might want to experience success, whatever way you interpret that. You might want the praise and recognition that comes from doing it. You might be seeking love and acceptance or you may just want the satisfaction of setting an outcome and achieving it – in the example of running (though can be applied to most other aspects of life) this may be having a thinner body, helping a worthy cause by running an event for charity, being able to tick off a big life goal or just feeling fitter in general.
These are all examples of “values” that form the basis of people’s motivation for doing something.
The key then is that if we connect our future plans and desired outcomes to these values, those outcomes subsequently become even more compelling and we become more inspired to strive towards them. The simple sentence that Robert Dilts showed us on our training that I still use today was as follows:
_____________ (My goal) will help me to better achieve ___________ (My value/s) because _________ (The connection between them)
There are many ways our own internal portrayal of our desired outcomes influence us. So when we imagine (as per my previous example scenario) that if we go out running it will be cold, painful, dark, unenjoyable and we talk to ourselves in a defeating, gloomy manner, then it just is not going to happen, is it?
Do have a good think about how you think when considering taking the actions needed to achieve that desired outcome. Because it affects your motivation.
When I see the London marathon on TV, what makes me want to be there running it with those other thousands of individuals is not just my own personal values and desires as we previously discussed… The way the TV broadcasts it heightens my motivation – they use music that gets me stirred, they use full colour, show the sights, deliver inspirational tales of individuals running the race against all odds, the words used by runners, the tone used by the commentators and so much more all come together to build an amazing condition inside your head that has you watching it feeling incredibly inspired and driven.
Why not use that for our own advantage too? Inside our own heads? Behave like the TV broadcaster!
You can do so with this very basic motivation process that I use, that I learned in the NLP training all those years ago, and despite being simple, you can adapt it to really get yourself driven:
Step One: Imagine that you have already achieved that desired outcome. the outcome that matches your values. Imagine that youa re getting great pleasure and satisfaction from doing this. behave “as if” it is happening and mentally rehearse the scenario, be in that scenario performing well and being happy as a result.
See what you see, hear what you hear and enjoy the wonderful feelings of it.
Step Two: Be the inspiring TV broadcaster in your own head now, adjust the scene in whatever way you can to get you really driven. Add music, sounds of loved ones cheering you and congratulating you, imagine what you’ll be saying to yourself, add colours and wonderful things that make this internal representation even more motivating and compelling.
Use inspiring language to encourage yourself, use a tonality that you would use if encouraging any other loved one. Use whatever you need to make this as moving and inspiring as you possibly can.
Step Three: Now start to associate those thoughts and feelings with achieving your outcome and also start to think of all those actions you need to take in order to achieve it – so you associate the journey (the training) with all those great feelings. make the training as pleasurable as the outcome!
Imagine all those times when you’ll be going out, you are encouraging yourself, enjoying the process and so on.
Step Four: Do this repeatedly whenever you have some spare time and get it lodged in your mind.
Step Five: Use the feelings, the imagery and the experience of this process each time you then need it. Let it help you get out of bed, let it help you reach for your running shoes, let it help you spur yourself on to run that extra mile and push yourself healthily throughout the journey.
This is looking at the outcome, of course, we all need to learn the right behaviours and actions that we need to take in order to make things easier and healthy for us too. So do make sure you get the right information and training schedules if you do want to run marathons, for example.
This process here today is just designed to get you continually motivated, and is what I use to help me tick off each new marathon event and accompanying training schedule each year. I hope you (runners in particular) find it useful.