Thursday, January 22, 2009


There seems to be something going around this week that has to do with lack of motivation. If you have felt unmotivated know that you are not alone – there are many others just like you around the world that are feeling the same way.

It’s a hard time of year. January starts with a whizz bang of excitement, new directions and golden opportunity. The year is wide open. Pen in our hands we are busy scribbling down the 100 things we will accomplish this year and we attack them with fervent excitement. We are hungry. We are ready. We are ready to be born again.

Know what I mean?

And then – oh crap – winter settles in. It’s dark, cold and snuggling up on the coach while watching trashing reality tv and eating junk food sometimes wins. And the goals – you mean there is hard work involved? Sacrifice? Getting up for masters at 5:30 am? Screw it. The goals – yeah, they can wait. Until it’s nice outside or until I feel like it. Goals schmoals, I’ll just wait a few months and set them again.

But here’s the thing – now’s the time. I’ve said it before but the winter doesn’t wait. The time is now to be doing your thing. You’ve got a big goal that you want to hit later this year? Get your ass in gear and commit to it now. Harsh? Yes. True? Yes. The athletes that are achieving their goals are out there and committing to it this early in the year. They trust and know that it takes long-term commitment and dedication. Now is the time.

So – where do you find the motivation?

Motivation is a tricky thing. It comes and goes. When we need it most, there are a dozen reasons why we are distracted or it's not there. It changes day to day. And it is totally individual. What motivates my husband most definitely does not motivate me. His goal is to get on a race course and devour people. Literally sh*t himself trying. Me? My best achievement is bettering my expectations of myself. I could care less where everyone else is at.

Each of us is motivated by entirely different things.

Cracking your own motivation code can be a very valuable thing. If you can find out what drives you, what inspires you, then you have a better chance of reaching your goals this year. Because hear me out – anyone can write a goal. That’s the easy part. But to actually do the work and get that goal to jump off the paper to turn into real life?

Well, that is a special thing.

A thing that requires oodles of motivation because reaching your goal is guaranteed to be: hard, requiring sacrifice, at times boring, sometimes containing drills, running really slow to keep your heart rate down, following a plan, resisting the urge to do what you want when you want just because. In other words, working towards a goal takes a lot of work! It’s never easy nor fast. If it was, you wouldn’t need goals in the first place because you’d always get what you wanted right away!

Therefore: I declare this is the perfect time to find your motivation. We are in the ass of winter right now. Not even half way through. It’s dark, cold and there has been snow on the ground for weeks. The wind blows. The cars are covered in salt that keeps brushing up against your nice black work clothes. Yeah, I know how it goes. It’s winter and you’re in the doldrums.

Pull yourself out of winter’s ass, here's a plan.

This past weekend I sat down to find my motivation. I grabbed a giant stack of magazines, a new pair of scissors (any teacher out there knows the pleasure of a new pair of scissors all for yourself) and a glue stick. I was in kindergarten again. It was time to make a collage.

My task was to go through the magazines and cut out anything that motivated me. Anything that would inspire me or remind me of my goals. Because I need some inspiration. I’m happy to be training and I’m healthy. But it’s been under 20 degrees for at least 3 weeks. I’m inside all of the time. I’ve been looking at the same off white basement carpeting and tan walls. I have not ran outside in three weeks. I am not kidding. I have been on my treadmill 4 times a week with a fan on my left side and a track light burning a hole in my head all while staring at the same thing:

It’s really not a great view. Nor is the view very motivating.

(As a side note, I take no responsibility for that Race In Progress sign. It was illegally taken from a race course in Missouri in September 2007 by way of my husband and a certain smiley blond from Kansas who insisted that because I was the girl on the sign, I deserved the sign. I disagreed but clearly lost out and now the sign is posted in my basement.)

So I needed a new view, one that was a little more motivating. Enter: my motivation board.

Flipping through magazines, flipping through magazines…it was fun, a complete diversion from the daily tasks that I do and along the way an interesting thing happened. You realize quickly what magazines are trying to say to you when you flip through them looking for pictures and phrases. Here is what I found:

Women’s Health is obsessed with trying to make me lose weight or look better
Cooking Light is sort of ok but then on the next page makes me feel fat and bad for liking ice cream

Bicycling is trying to convince me that speed or power is just another expensive tool away
Runner’s World gets the idea that reaching your goal will hurt and hurt bad
Running Times is cool if you’re in high school
Mountain Bike uh, that one went straight to the recycling bin
Clean Eating wants to get me to eat better and lose weight
Rachel Ray speaks her own language of acronyms and kitschy kitsch

Anyways...I read through a lot of magazines, but it was both Body & Soul, Yoga Journal and Experience magazines that spoke the most to me. There is a lot of filler in other magazines but these two were filled with words that made me think, words to inspire, words to cut out because they said “me”.

Once finished, I had a giant pile of clippings. I looked through them and collectively they said what I wanted to say. And it was motivating. So I set about to put them together like a puzzle. It was hard to figure out a way to make everything fit together but in the end it worked. All in all, it took me a few hours. Seriously? Who knew that cutting and pasting would be so time-consuming but it was one of those projects I just lost myself in. And when I was all done Chris looked at it like that is what you’ve been doing for hours on a Saturday? Yes. Do you know how hard it is to cut and paste! Especially with sticky hands!!

It was worth it because I look at it now and it is motivating. So today before my (once again treadmill) run, I posted the board and….I changed the view.

This one was much better.

60 minutes tempo never felt easier and all the motivation when my mind wandered or the treadmill wouldn't relent - it was right in my face. I kept finding words and relating them to my goal. It kept me focused and busy. And damn I got off that treadmill feeling pumped!

Not all of us will be motivated by words – maybe it’s pictures or something more tangible. Whatever it is, put it together and keep it nearby. The ass of winter is cold and it can chill your motivation on the darkest days. Find something that pulls you through. Maybe it's writing down your goal time on a notecard, a picture of your "A" race, a word that you want to "become" this season. A picture of your rival. Whatever it is, begin it and find your motivation.

Stick with it - work towards your goals. Now is the time. Get yourself out there, carry a card in your pocket or a picture in your gym bag. Fill a notebook with quotes or start clipping up your magazines. Get in touch with your inner child with scissors and a glue stick. Do whatever it takes.

And then keep doing it. Start now and keep at it.

You’ll get there.


rr said...

Fine Fine FINE I'll go swimming.

But I'm totally playing the magazine game with the kids this weekend. I don't have a tready (don't hate me because I live in the tropics - I also don't have a real city) to hang it in front of, but it could stand to go on the fridge, if you know what I mean.

Women's Health is bunk.

Kim said...

I like it, I freakin love it.. and I too am stuck in winters ass. It's cold, I just had four teeth removed and I am having a heck of a time just finding a place to swim. Darn it, I need motivation, I need to overcome challenges, and this post really did give it some perspective. Thanks Liz, you really have a way of puttint it into words and making it tangiable. Glad you found your glue stick..from 3rd grade, or did you buy a new one??

Jen said...

Great post Liz. Oh, and next time my kids need help with homework I'll send them your way...You are a master with the scissors and glue stick :)

Jennifer Harrison said...

Good post! This is a big issue right now, of course. When I was re-grouping in the sunshine in Tucson, I realized (had an AH HA moment) that we get tired, burnt out b/c we don't change our scenary - whether in our basement OR going someplace warm. I came back - FIRED UP - I feel super this week - and even have been back to trekking thru the snow/ice/cold all week.

This is also good b/c as a coach, we try hard to motivate athletes AND we do every day...but so much of it has to come from within....and we can not really rely on others to motivate us in and day out.

In my basement, I have my 3 MAIN goals for 2009. I have my 3 "A" races on the same board. I have a picture of some of my competition and I have quotes from my coaches/mentors...and people that believe in me. Sounds corny, but it works for me. because, at the end of motivating everyone else all day, I have to also get up at 5am to train and swim at 8pm....when I would MUCH rather CSI Miami.

thanks for this....glad you did that project, that is SO you!

D said...

I hate being in ass. I mean, uh... what?

E.L.F. said...

D - that is a hilarious comment. I read it first and thought it said "I hate being an ass...." Anyways, yeah I hate being stuck in winter too!!

Christian Waterstraat said...

So now I have to stare at a collage of word clippings from women's magazines when I run on the treadmill? How about I stick up a collage of women found in magazines? Namely, centerfolds.

rr said...

I just want to know who Jen has pictures of posted on her wall.

E.L.F. said...

To husband - "hush". Love, wife.

Molly said...

Great post as always! I have my top goals for the year printed out and sitting on top of my desk. Right next to that is the "140.6" bumper sticker a friend sent me for Christmas - it stays on my desk, where I see it every day when I wake up, until the goal is accomplished.

I hope camp in a couple weeks helps mix up the scenery for you a bit!

Jennifer Harrison said...

If I told you I'd have to kill you. Only Jerome knows.... When friends come over, I take them down. 35-39 age group, my friend.... You are too young.... :). Oh, and they are naked.

teamjon said...

Just remember, I do what you WON'T do now, so that I CAN do what you can't later

BreeWee said...

That is the coolest motivational poster ever posted on your blog... A+ all the way!

ADC said...

Great post. I may have to get to some cutting and pasting this weekend.

Andrea said...

There are not enough magazines in the world to make my basement/garage/dungeon more motivating or appealing.

Thank goodness for gyms, spin class (located in the warehouse basement of a popcorn company) and Bree's blog. Her photos keep me warm and hopeful.

D said...

Ok, I'll say something more than just my distaste for ass. Err... what?

I actually bought a white board (well, actually work bought it for me hehe) a few weeks ago so I could put it up at home and write some stuff to get me going. I haven't taken it home yet. It leaves work with me today and becomes my job this weekend.

Eileen Swanson said...

Right on....MOTIVATION is KEY!! Great work with the magazine clippings ;-) AND I love your hubbies comment, too funny ;-) HAHA!