Exercise is good for us. Not only does it burn off calories so we can continue to eat chocolate to our hearts’ content without turning into fat lumps of lard, it also releases endorphins that are physiologically proven to make us feel happier. So, seeing as exercise has so many benefits, why oh why (oh WHY) is it so difficult to find the motivation to get off our lazy behinds and do it?
Given my current (pitiful) state of reticence to go out for a run, new readers of this blog might be surprised to learn that less than two weeks ago I completed a half marathon (in a very respectable one hour fifty six minutes, I might add). In the ten weeks leading up to the race I managed to (virtually) stick to a training plan consisting of four weekly runs. And you know what? It felt good. Not always in the moments before or immediately after the runs, of course, but overall. I felt fit, healthy and energised. Now I feel fat, unhealthy and utterly lacking in the joie de vivre that an active lifestyle induces.
The problem, to my mind, is no longer having a goal. When you have an event to train for it’s harder to let yourself off the hook where training sessions are concerned. Sure, you can miss one here and there without too much drama, but if you miss too many you know you’re just making it harder for yourself on the day of the race. And so you train – come rain or shine, whether you are tired or not. You do it because you have that finish line in mind at all times, and because, well, you’d ideally like to not collapse and suffer cardiac arrest half way through (not a good look for the official photos).
It’s fair enough to have a few days’ rest after an event, but it’s vital to get back on that horse before the motivation ups and leaves for good. In my case I’ve left my trusty steed a bit too long – taking a full week off after the race and only getting out twice at the beginning of last week for short runs – and the bloody thing’s bolted. But the situation is not beyond redemption. As I write this I am gearing up for a thirty minute run around Clapham Common to get the blood pumping again, and a return to running club mid-week is also on the cards (group motivation being a great way to re-discover the benefits of regular exercise).
And then there’s next year’s London Marathon. I have to admit when I crossed the finish line two weeks ago I swore to myself I wouldn’t even consider doing it, but no sooner had I recovered than I felt the stirrings of enthusiasm for another, bigger challenge (and let’s face it, the London Marathon’s about the biggest challenge there is). The ballot results are out in a couple of weeks and all of a sudden I find myself crossing everything in the hope I’ll bag one of the few hallowed non-charity spots. If not, I can fight for one of the two spaces my charity has paid for, though this does come with the added pressure of a fundraising target (all in good cause…).
Challenges are good because they push us to the limits of endurance and give us goals to focus on. Without them we weak-willed humankind are prone to drifting on a sea of lost intent. So it’s with this in mind I don my running gear and venture out. Wish me luck…