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10 Ways to Just Do It


Success! After nearly a month’s worth of lazing around thinking about running, worrying about running, and reading about running, I actually went out running!  How do you inspire, cajole, guilt-trip or fear-monger the motivation required to get out and start a training program? My motivation sucks so bad that it takes a good sprinkling of techniques to get me going when the going’s bad. These are some of my favorites.

1. Have a reasonable plan.

It’s difficult to stay focused without a plan, but nothing will make you drop your plan faster than biting off more than you can chew. The beauty of an online tool like Runner’s World SmartCoach is that it creates a plan tailored to your current fitness level (as long as your honest). You can now download SmartCoach as a free iPhone app, too.

If you’re starting from scratch, and your torture of choice is running, I highly recommend a Couch to 5K program. I’ve used the Cool Running version many times. It’s so popular it has its own fan site with translations, forums, links, Smartphone apps, MP3s and more, all tailored to making your Couch to 5K experience a blast. Other popular training plans for distances from 5Ks to marathons can be found on Hal Higdon’s and Jeff Galloway’s sites.

2. Enlist a friend. (Or the Internet.)

I never ran more consistently after college than I did with my running buddy from work. A running buddy can make all the difference. They know exactly what you’re going through when you hit a low spot in your training; they expect you to show up on the days you’re due to train together; and they’ll keep an eye out for fun events you can do together. You can compare weekly mileage and swap recipes. You don’t necessarily have to be at the same fitness level, either. Me and my running buddy were like a manatee and a hummingbird, but she never left her pale, bloated partner behind. Talk a friend into running a race with you, then train together. Join a local running club. If you still can’t find a flesh-and-blood buddy, join a social fitness site like SparkPeople or DailyMile. I’ve gotten incredible encouragement from my friends on both sites. Of course, ignoring them is as easy as turning off your computer, but that doesn’t mean they’re not trying.

Speaking of computers, you know what the final straw was that got me out running yesterday? Feeling like a douchebag for launching a so-called healthy living blog without having worked out once since it launched. Fear of becoming a total poser in front of the whole internet is incredibly motivating.

3. Have a reason, and preferably a date.

It’s admirable, albeit puritanical, to work out for the sake of working out. Rather than making exercise the goal, make it the means to an end. There are tons of fun and wacky fitness events out there. Pick one and sign up! In the realm of running alone, you have Bay to Breakers, the Warrior Dash, moonlight runs, nudist runs, burro racing, and relay races like the Reno-Tahoe Odyssey (my all-time favorite fitness event) and Hood to Coast.

If you won’t do it for yourself, do it for someone else. Support breast cancer research at one of many Race for the Cure events across the United States, or raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society while training through the Team In Training program. You can also pick your own nonprofit and raise funds through sites like Crowdrise. Jim raised $755 for the Tahoe Rim Trail Association through his solo fastpacking attempt on the Tahoe Rim Trail.

And if events simply aren’t your thing, at the very least, try multitasking. Run to the gym, bike to work, walk to the grocery store, roller blade to the quickie mart. It’s more convenient in some areas than others, but if you’re dedicated and creative, you can make it happen at least some of the time.

4. Try a new route.

Routine is awesome, but sometimes it gets incredibly boring. If the idea of going for a walk around your block sounds more inane than the latest episode of Caprica, try somewhere new. You might be surprised at what you find in your neighborhood. For example, in my corner of Reno, I can choose trails that go through swamps, suburbs, around small lakes, or up rocky lookout points. And I live in the middle of the freaking desert!

Full moon over the sloughs about a mile away from my house.

A small lake between my house and my office.


In fact, if you’re really that bored, you could try the “dreadmill” (hey, at least you can watch Law and Order: SVU under the air conditioning vent while exercising), a group weights or cardio class, or yoga.

5. Listen to something different.

Yesterday I tried something new that I totally didn’t think would work: Listening to podcasts. I can’t remember what running blog tipped me onto Endurance Planet, but they’ve got a spectacular weekly podcast called Marathon and Beyond Monday. (You can subscribe via iTunes.) It was hard to feel sorry for myself while listening to Gordy Ainsleigh, on the first-ever Western States 100, rescuing a drowning horse from the bottom of the canyon after running 40 miles through the Sierra Nevada.

If you’re sick of music and think podcasts and audiobooks are lame, you could always run with unprotected ears. Leave the headphones at home and meditate to the sound of your feet. You might find yourself noticing some really wonderful things that you would have missed otherwise.

6. Let the sidewalk inspire you.

don’t feel like running today. hopefully the drive home will motivate me — i always get motivated when i see others out jogging!

I always notice runners and cyclists, but  before Ashley at (never home)maker tweeted this afternoon, I hadn’t thought about taking that one step farther and using these fleeting glimpses of other athletes as a motivational tool. On my drive home, I saw quite a few people in my neighborhood going at a good clip. Some people make it look so effortless! Then, of course, there’s the totally hot MILFs* pushing double jogging strollers like nobody’s business. I got passed by a few of those — going uphill, over rocks and crevices, in the dark — at my last 10K, actually. If you must use negative reinforcement, then let the MILFs be your guide. What’s your excuse?

*Mothers Into Living Fit. What did you think it stood for? 😉

7. Remind yourself of the benefits

We covered one aspect of this in Monday’s post on exercise and depression. Think about your favorite reason to run. Really visualize it. Heart health, mood booster, endorphin high, those love handles you want to get rid of, that fatty pastry you want to eat at Starbucks after you shower off for the day, another chance to wear those running shorts that make your ass look fantastic — even just that post-workout glow you get when you’re ruddy faced, out of breath, and so damn proud that a) you did it, and b) you’re done and can forget about the whole damn thing until tomorrow.

8. Dwell on how annoyed you’ll be for skipping it

While I generally discourage frequent use of guilt in motivating yourself and others, desperate times call for desperate measures. Mentally flagellate yourself with the image of you, later this evening, sitting wrist-deep in nachos, the other hand clicking frantically away at Starcraft II, having skipped your 30-minute exercise in favor of an epic 4-hour gaming session that may end in tears of regret anyway.

Then imagine how much less guilty you’ll feel about your nacho-and-Starcraft spree if you don’t skip your run! Win!

9. Include something novel

Occasionally, a small change can offer a motivation boost that, while short, is enough to get you out of your funk. A new t-shirt to wear or new iPhone app to try out are good candidates. If you’re a bit of a geek, turn it into an experiment by trying a new pre-run smoothie or post-run stretching sequence. Wear crazy colored socks, put your hair in pigtails, say “Bonjour!” to walkers and runners you pass. Bring a camera phone and document your run at mile intervals. Get a flashlight and try running under the full moon (if you’re in a safe neighborhood, of course). Listening to a podcast instead of music was my novelty for the day. I think I might get a lot of mileage out of that one!

10. Just Do It

As a solo technique, telling myself to “Just Do It” isn’t compelling enough to get me out the door. But in addition to one or more of the above, it can be that important final straw that makes it actually happen.

One of my worst habits is telling myself, or others, that “I’ll try.” This is when I unabashedly invoke Yoda. Either you do it, or you don’t. There’s no such thing as trying. Even if you get out there and have to quit early due to something unexpected — blisters, headache, your lunch burrito making its way back up — you were still out there, making it happen.

So with all the reasons you have for getting out there and doing it, why not do it? What’s your best reason not to? Pro Tip: “I don’t wanna” doesn’t count.

When was the last time you Just Did It? What did you do? When are you planning on Just Doing It next?

4 thoughts on “10 Ways to Just Do It

  1. Right now I’m feeling very motivated since I’m recovering from one hip surgery and preparing for another; exercise is key for both. But before my left hip was replaced, I was in a LOT of pain. Deep, chronic pain that sapped my energy, mood and will to exercise. I was also told I will never be able to run again; if the pain didn’t cause depression, being denied the one “sport” I truly enjoy was a real downer.

    But I am trying to start anew. Having a new 6-week recovery period coming up is motivational; if I don’t exercise, I won’t regain my mobility.

    The tough time will be when I finally get a day job and have all the home responsibilities and then a huge suck of time (albeit with monetary security which is always nice)…. I can see myself coming home from work, taking a little nap, then launching into dinner prep, then dinner consumption, then some TV, some computer time and maybe some crafting…. hard to squish in exercise. It’s a problem I’ll deal with when /if I face it.

    In the meantime, I need to rehab my left leg and prepare my right for bionicization….

    1. Natasha, that’s rough, but I’m glad that your doctors found a treatment for your chronic pain. I love your determination. With that never-give-up attitude, I’m sure your recovery will go quickly, even if it isn’t easy.

      As far as squeezing in evening exercise, I’m an evening exerciser too, which gets interesting when I’m on deadline and stay at the office until all hours! It’s easier in the summer because of longer daylight, but sometimes you have to get up early anyway. That’s when exercise as multi-tasking comes in handy. You’ll figure it out, you’re not only a bionic woman… you’re a strong one!

  2. 11. Read Elaine’s health blog. It didn’t work for me today unfortunately (a call from my son’s school, telling me my little boy was crying in pain with an earache scuttled my day’s fitness plans) but I’m convinced I’ll jump on your bandwagon soon 😉

    1. I got earaches all the time as a kid — NO FUN! Take care of that kid, and try again tomorrow. I’m supposed to run 5 miles tomorrow (eep!)… let’s see how we do!

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