This is not a post about New Year’s resolutions. I am over the idea that I can resolve to do something that I don’t actually want to do. Any “will power” that I can muster toward a task I’m not into is short-lived at best. Resolution is garbage. Motivation is everything. In many ways, I think resolution puts the cart before the horse. If you’re not motivated to do something, you won’t.
So where does motivation comes from? My wife and I, she teaches spin and group fitness, had a long, rambling talk about it the other day while strolling in the woods with the dog. Here are the basic ingredients we came up with, though not all of them are necessary all the time: 1) Accountability to someone other than yourself, like a training partner, group, or coach. 2) Faith that the outcome will be more positive than the pain of the action. 3) Positive reinforcement along the way, i.e. recognition from someone else and/or quantifiable date to suggest progress. 4) A lofty goal., and 5) Outside inspiration.
Taking these in order then, I can tell you that (1) I exercise most consistently at a bootcamp I’m part of in my neighborhood, where the social dynamic pulls me back twice a week, come rain or shine. I am not naturally an exerciser simply for the sake of fitness, but the group trumps the monotony of banging out push ups and doing sprints. It’s real. I don’t even ride as regularly and consistently as I show up for that group.
Getting out bed is the really the measure of my success, so (2) the realization that I always feel better after exercising than I do before is key to being able to continue getting out of bed. As the alarm sounds I do a panicked rationalization about whether I’m going out to ride/run/workout, and it (almost) always ends with me going, because of my faith in the positive outcome.
I have a joke with my friend Kimberly. When I see her, I say, “Pssst…hey…you’re doing really great,” and we laugh. But seriously, having a coach, partner, or mentor to appreciate your effort is highly motivating. Data can work in the same way, but personally, data doesn’t do much for me. I prefer the glowing praise of an actual human, even if it’s not 100% sincere. I can live with that.
You’ve heard of racing to train? Lofty goals (4), events you need to train for, lead to training, because you don’t want to embarrass yourself, OR maybe you even want to do well. This last year I said yes to a few big rides and a trail run, and those things got me out doing more.
Finally, there’s (5) outside inspiration. For months I was watching skate videos. Then I switched to hiking and climbing. Now I’m into ultra-marathoning. It doesn’t matter that I’ll never run an ultra. The people who do are kinda bad ass, and they make me want to do more of the stuff I do. Ultimately, that’s all I want, to do more stuff.
This week’s Group Ride asks, what do you want to do? What are you lofty goals? Who encourages you? What are you watching? How do you keep the stoke alive? RKP is a cycling blog, and riding is obviously central to what we do, but in my opinion motivation is priceless and you have to follow it wherever it take you. So what motivates you?