Why motivation sucks (and how to get your arse out the door)

Why motivation sucks

Why motivation sucks – this is one I’ve been thinking about for a while. If I waited for the motivation genie to strike, I’d rarely get out the door to go for a run.

I don’t know about you but ‘motivating’ quotes like

‘Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations’

‘Pain is temporary, greatness is forever’

‘Dream it. Believe it. Achieve it.’

kind of make me gag a little. My visceral response is ‘bollocks’. Dreaming of being a supermodel (NOT something I dream about) or being a famous fiction author (if only I liked writing fiction enough) or running a sub-4 marathon (very unlikely but would be frigging awesome) will not get me there. Instead, I think about what’s important to me, whether or not it’s achievable, and whether or not I’m willing to do the work to get there.

Yes, I’m a cynic at heart and have learned to embrace it. Motivation lasts for moments, sometimes a little longer, but there are limits. And quite often I’m not motivated to go for a run but I do anyway.

Here’s a little story…


The Run Home

I left work one evening to wind and sleet. I had planned a run of 4 miles or so home but now I wasn’t so sure. Running kit on, backpack sorted. Standing at the entrance to my building I thought ‘Do I really want to do this? How frigging crazy am I?’

There’s a bus stop right outside the door. I knew if I didn’t run, that would be it for the day. Did I really want to be freezing and hit by sleet?

I continued to question myself as I turned left towards home rather than right towards the bus stop. I started to run, passing another bus stop, and another, each bus offering a chance of cosy warmth.

After 5 minutes, I’d warmed up a little, but the wind was biting. I turned the corner onto a long road I need to run down to get home. The wind almost knocked me back, the sleet horizontal, pinging off my face. I couldn’t open my eyes wide as my eyeballs were getting struck. My face felt like a pin cushion – if you’ve run in sleet you’ll know what I mean.Image result for fogged up bus windows

I gritted my teeth and ran. I ran past a crowded bus. The windows had misted over from the pack of bodies inside. A man wiped the window clear and he saw me and from the expression on his face, he clearly thought I was crazy.

I looked at him looking at me. My gritted teeth turned into a smile and I laughed out loud and continued laughing the rest of the way home. Maybe this was insanity, but of the best kind.

At the end of that run, not only did I feel refreshed (once I’d gotten my circulation back), but I felt pretty kick arse.

Returning to work the next day, on hearing I had run home, a colleague told me how motivated and disciplined I am to be running in weather like this. But he was wrong and I learned an important lesson – we need that motivation genie less than we think.


How much motivation do we really need?

The only motivation I needed was taking that first few steps into the wind and sleet and turn left instead of right. I was already kitted out. All it took was walking out the front door and into the night. From there, there was no motivation or determination or discipline needed.

Thinking about it now, motivation was needed for less than a minute. On either side of that minute was a goal, routine, habit, and a training plan.


Image result for motivation

Needing to get your arse out the door? The decision is already made

I can predict when I most at risk of saying ‘This is bollocks and there’s something on Netflix I’d prefer to spend my time watching’ or ‘just need to check Twitter to see what’s going on’. I know though this is always the worst time to give up. This is perhaps when I need motivation for a moment or so.

So if you’re waiting for the motivation genie to strike and it’s not working, what can you do?

Have a goal

Your goal could be anything from run a mile, complete a Parkrun without walking to run a sub 4 marathon. Goals are important because they set a direction and provide a focus.

Write it down. You know what works for you. I tend to have a mix of vague and specific goals – from run a few marathons to get to the race injury free to I’d like to complete it in x time.

Now it’s up to you if you share that goal. While some folks love the ‘accountability’, it doesn’t work for me. I may share my broad goal i.e. get to the London Marathon injury free and complete it, but I don’t share the specifics. There’s some good info out there about why telling everyone your specific goals may have the opposite effect you intended. I love this TED talk by Derek Sivers.



Once I know my goal, then comes the plan.


Have a plan

Ah, I love a good plan. I use excel spreadsheets. Works for me. The main thing is it’s written down. I also record what I actually did. Often the two sheets don’t match up, but you know what, life sometimes gets in the way. I don’t give myself gold stars for a week I manage the miles, or beat myself up if I don’t. I figure life’s too short. And you know what? I want to enjoy this running lark and being hard myself isn’t going to help.

I’ll be doing a post on how I cobble together a plan in the coming weeks.


The benefit

The wonder of having a plan is once I’ve put it together, I don’t have to think about it. No decisions are required about distance needed, what days I run etc.

Most of us need to make hundreds of decisions everyday – from what we eat to what we wear to whether we respond to those hundreds of emails or get the important stuff done. We probably make 100 decisions before we head out the front door. It’s tiring, it’s exasperating. There’s something lovely about doing something without having to think about it.

So make a plan (some tips here). Keep it simple. Little motivation needed, no decisions required, so time to get your arse out the door!


Happy running all!

4 thoughts on “Why motivation sucks (and how to get your arse out the door)

  1. I love this—it’s exactly how I feel about running. You do what you decide to do, and you can make those decisions way ahead of time, rather than wait and hope you feel up for it in the moment. Also checked out your training plan tips post too; really helpful, thank you.
    The one area I really struggle with is strength training, which tips me off to the realisation that I find it easier to stick to a plan when it’s full of something I enjoy (ie running) and harder to stick to when it tells me to do something I find boring (ie strength training)! So then your thoughts about having goals really help: I consider the reality that my body isn’t strong enough to run a marathon if I haven’t done any core work, and *because I really want to run a marathon*, I make myself do the non-running boring stuff that goes alongside it.

    1. Thanks so much Is, I really appreciate your comments. And yes, it’s the boring stuff that it so hard to do – 5 miles seems much easier than 10 mins of core and stretching! But, the benefits are real – I’ve had no injuries this year that have required more than a couple of days off. This has been critical given I’ve slipped discs twice and have had ongoing issues in the same area – it’s the boring stuff that keeps me injury free. I wish you the best with your training.

    1. How exciting – you’re at the start of this! And running is fabulous and weird – if folks had told me when I started that in 4 or 5 years I’d do a couple of marathons and a 50k, oh, how I would have laughed! For me, the main thing is to enjoy the whole process, not just the goal. And running has changed me in many other ways – again I would have laughed if someone had told me I’d be perfectly comfortable being on public transport in my running kit! And I’ve met so many fab people along the way.
      Happy running Helen and let me know how you get on!

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