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Running Goals and Motivation

Posted Jul 11 2014 9:13am

Running has been going really well lately. I wake up every morning around 5:30 without an alarm because I’m excited to run. Not that I’ve never felt like that before, but it’s different when I’m on the island. I legitimately love running and I can’t put that into words. I don’t care about time, distance, pace, etc. I just put on my sneakers and go. I don’t wear a watch, I don’t plan a route, and I don’t rush. I am usually pounding the pavement by 6 and I don’t have to leave for work until 8:42. Plenty of time for my 4-6 mile runs.

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Despite being someone who loves success, I’m not a very goal-oriented person. I used to be, but it wasn’t working for me. Setting goals didn’t motivate me. The more goals I set for myself, particularly with swimming, the more I was setting myself up for failure. I would inevitably put so much pressure on myself that I would crash and burn when the time came to achieve those goals. It happened often enough that by the time I got to my last swim meet of my career, I was smart enough to tell my coach that I had no goals. I was just going to swim for fun. And it worked. I swam a lot of personal bests without the added stress of trying to break a record or make nationals. Obviously I quit shortly after that so I never did achieve those dreams, but I was a happier person for it.

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I started falling into the same trap with running when I started running track and cross country for school. I surprised myself my first year on the team running a 19:45 at my first 5k and suddenly envisioned myself breaking records and winning conferences. Unfortunately, history repeated itself and I ended up putting so much pressure on myself that I never came close to those times again. Running stopped being fun because I had such lofty goals that my only focus was making sure I achieved them. Obviously, I didn’t, because when something isn’t fun anymore, it is harder to do well.

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Right now, I have no goal races in mind. I have no goals in mind. I have no desire to put myself on a “training plan” (which for me would consist of 3 easy runs, a long run, and a tempo run). I have races on the horizon but I’m not shooting for any PRs. I’m just running because I love the sport. That’s it. I’m not even sure I’m going to be able to do some of the races I had planned this fall. I am still running Charles Street 12 in a few weeks and I’m hopefully still doing Zooma and the Newport Half, but I’m not setting any time goals for any of them. If I’m feeling good that day, I’ll see where my legs take me.

I’m really glad I’m not running the half marathon this weekend. I wasn’t ready for it. Yes, it’s a race I’ve always wanted to do and I’ll try to do it next summer, but for the first time since before I took running seriously, I’m honestly and truly just running for the sake of it. To explore my island. To clear my mind. To wake up in the morning. To prevent myself from feeling antsy all day in the lifeguard chair at work. I’m running to run. Because it makes me happy. Plain and simple.

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No watch. Just a Road ID tan

Does that mean I’ll never try to PR again? Absolutely not. I actually think the way I’m running now will help me do that. I’m certainly not in PR shape right now considering a 6.5 mile run feels long to me at the moment, but as I grow more comfortable with longer distances again, I think making sure it stays carefree will be my secret weapon. It will keep me injury free (the minute I start thinking about training for something I get hurt) and it will allow me to continue to have running as something sacred.

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I love running and the only way I see that changing is if I put too many expectations on myself. I don’t wake up in the morning dreading a run. I wake up literally bouncing off the walls with excitement. The only times I’ve ever dreaded a run are when I’ve had a plan that makes me feel like I’m doing it because I have to.

Running should be fun. Running is fun. And if keeping it that way means not having goals in mind, I’ll gladly take that option over falling out of love with the sport.

Do you ever dread exercise?

Are you a goal-setter?

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