The Amateur Athlete

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Running is a very personal activity, and therefore it is often lonely. This loneliness requires runners to be able to motivate themselves. Unfortunately, most people misunderstand motivation. They wait until they are motivated to do something, and this often results in procrastination. If you wait until you feel motivated before you start exercising, you may have to wait forever.

 Motivation works like this:

A small action creates motivation which produces more action.

Promise yourself small rewards for sticking to your routine. A runner I know puts 1 dollar in a jar after every run, and occasionally rewards herself by buying something with the money. Set a performance goal and reward for attaining that goal, and focus on that during the run. Running a certain distance and finishing a specific distance in a specific time are examples of performance goals. I use a token system to motivate myself to run, and give myself extra tokens for beating my P.B. and average. After I acquire a certain number of tokens I reward myself by buying something that I want. Other types of reward systems:

Race Rewards

Registering for a race months ahead of time guarantees your entry, avoids late fees, and, most important, commits you to the training because you don’t want to lose that race fee. This early investment in a race supplies motivation because it’s a concrete step.

 Gear Guilt

You can’t let a new pair of running shoes gather dust! Laying out cash for a new running jacket, compression socks, or that sweet GPS watch can perk up your training because you’ll want to get your money’s worth. Purchasing high-quality shoes and gear tends to make you feel more self-confident and more committed to your training.

 Bet to Lose

Having a financial incentive to lose weight could make you five times more likely to succeed, according to a study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association in 2008. When you lose the weight, you win the money–a classic win/win. Nobody likes dieting, but everyone likes games.

Even better: Reward yourself immediately.Right after your run, treat yourself to something you genuinely enjoy—a hot shower, a massage, even a small piece of dark chocolate—so your brain associates exercise with an immediate reward.

 A note of caution: Be wary of compensatory eating after running. That is, thinking “That was tough, I deserve some (high-calorie) food and drink!” Unfortunately, compensatory eating is common in the running community. “I just ran a 10K so I deserve a beer”, which turns into many beers and more bad food decisions. Giving in to this hedonic urge can negate the positive effects of the run.


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