There are some days when we just don’t feel like running. Sometimes these days turn into weeks, months, or even years. If this is the case, you might be lucky enough to find your way on to the Biggest Loser. But for those of us whose lack of motivation isn’t drastic enough to cause us to gain 200 extra pounds, but too severe to keep up our own fitness goals and stay in shape, we must find alternate strategies for dealing with the situation. Sometimes my answer is to blog about it, but usually that turns into complaining, and I’m working on complaining less (this is fairly easy to do on the internet, I’m having a bit of a harder time not complaining in real life, but like I said – I’m working on it). So what is there left to do when we can’t get ourselves to run, complaining about it is no longer an acceptable outlet of frustration, but we need to do something to feel better about things? It turns out that the answer to this problem is very simple: make other people run instead of you.
Once you’ve decided that you want to tell other people to go run, and have them actually listen to you, you have to find the right setting for this. Don’t just to work one day and scream and everyone to start running, you will only lose friends. Start with something easier – go to a gym, or a local running group, and tell everyone there to run. There’s a good chance that they will have been planning on doing it anyway, but now you feel like they’re doing it because you told them to. This sense of power to motivate and/or manipulate others will offset your negative feelings about not being able to get yourself to run. My chosen group to achieve this feeling has been a middle school cross-country team.
It sounds as though this would be the easiest group to get to run. By signing up for cross-country, you would assume the kids are planning on running. Then there’s the fact that these are kids, most of whom are very used to having to do what they’re told, and for the most part believe that they don’t have another choice (although some of them are painfully aware that they do have other choices, and realize that they can pretty much do whatever they want). Given these facts, it’s true – usually it is easy to get these kids to run, but it’s not always as straightforward as you would hope.
At cross-country practice, the place where I get to tell them to run, we always start with a couple of warm-up laps, do some dynamic stretching, and then lay out the workout for the day. All of this requires a little bit of instruction (the telling-them-to-run part), which is supposed to be the fun I’m-the-boss moment for a coach, but instead it mostly feels a lot like herding cows. Or sheep. I’m not really sure, I’ve never actually herded any animals at all, but the analogy feels appropriate: you can tell them what to do, and in no way does it look like anybody is paying attention at all, but when you say “GO!” it gradually starts to happen. The kids who actually love running take off, although sometimes they do it while they throw things at each other (I just let this happen… I’m a coach, not a baby-sitter), followed by the kids who think they might like running but aren’t ever sure until it’s happening, until finally the ones who are primarily motivated by peer pressure take off so they aren’t left too far behind. Then there’s this magical moment where every kid is running, and you know that it’s because you told them to! This lasts about two minutes, until some of the peer-pressured kids feel like nobody’s watching them anymore, and start walking. Then you get to yell at them to start running again!
While these kids are great when it comes to getting people to run, I do have to be careful. If I make them run too much, they might get tired of it and decide not to come back to cross-country, which is the only place I’m really entitled to tell them to run. The goal is to get them to enjoy running, so I can continue telling them to run for the rest of their lives. If it’s not actually fun for them, this will never happen, and I might have to actually keep running on my own, in order to receive running-based satisfaction.
I suppose the ideal scenario would be for me to actually draw motivation from these hard-working kids running around all day while I stand there and watch them, I’ve just been really tired lately. My mom insists that I need to take more iron supplements, but what does she know? I guess I’ll try it her way, but I’m curious how other people get themselves to run when you really don’t feel like it. I know all my readers are hiding all kinds of tricks from me. In the meantime I plan on becoming one of those coaches who tells their athletes to do incredible things, while they stand on the sidelines and grow a beer belly. Which means I’ll have to increase my beer intake as well.
PS. I know I’ve been bad about pictures lately, so here’s a super adorable one of Pascal when he was a baby. You can even see a little bit of my knees.
It was 1944, and we were almost to Berlin. Of our original company, only Colleen and I had survived from Alsace. Shivering in the blasted-out foxholes with artillery devastating the line forty yards ahead, we didn’t hear the rifle brigade charge. They were on us, with sulfur and gunshots, blurred motions and panic, deafened shouting and screams. Two minutes later it was over, my leg sliced to the bone, Colleen lying in the mud, red fatigues showing through red fingers.
I held her until the battle was over, another painful victory for the books. She told me of running and her team, and she cried when I told her she’d run again. I promised her I’d go on, for her.
She was taken out on a stretcher, head wrapped in clean white cotton, her hand held out to me. She choked out the last words I heard her speak: “Run a marathon for me.”
Sunday, Colleen, I make good on that promise.
I met a random Argentine woman today who claimed to have run the Portland Marathon. It was weird so I thought I should mention it.