Name Your Beast and Do Your Best
Did you give it your “all” today?
If you’re like me, you might not go “all out” without a goal to crush, a project to complete, or a beast to vanquish.
Since I completed my biggest fitness challenge, Ironman Wisconsin, I’ve become more relaxed in my pursuit of athletic goals. I didn’t plan a race calendar this year and tend to engage fitness challenges as they come, often without planning.
This informal approach to racing may create problems for athletes that require more structure for motivation – but let me let you in on a little secret.
Please allow me to share my strategy for motivation – it can be applied to fitness pursuits or any other goal.
Whether I’m cycling, running, or just swimming a few laps on a recovery day, I find my motivation by creating momentary challenges. Creating sudden inspiration helps add quality and combats training monotony.
Here are a few of my favorite ways to add Momentary Motivation to workouts:
- Ditch the pool and head to a safe open water option for a workout.
- Jump in with a swim team at your recreation center, and ask (respectfully) if you can participate in a portion of their workout.
- Pick another swimmer to “race” against during your pool workout.
- Find an uninterrupted one mile stretch and perform 5 x 1 hard mile repeats with a mile rest between repetitions.
- Find a suitably challenging hill and perform hill repeats.
- Try 1/4 mile sprints, starting at a standstill and increasing your speed over the entire distance, noting your top speed at the finish.
- Choose a distance or time interval to hammer out a stiffer pace.
- Drop back from your running group (or site another runner) and chase them down.
- Ditch paved surfaces and head to a trail for off-road running.
And remember, chance (and Momentary Motivation) favors the prepared athlete. I’m always ready for impromptu challenges, because I travel with a bag containing enough gear to allow running and swimming wherever I go.
Name Your Beast
Just because you don’t have a race on your calendar doesn’t mean you shouldn’t challenge yourself on a regular basis.
Compete with yourself and create a goal on the fly within every workout, every day at work, even in social occasions. Ignore the context and create your own motivation. Just because your rivals and a race t-shirt aren’t in the picture is no reason to coast.
All you have to do is pick your venue, and name your “beast”.
My Two Favorite “Beasts” From 2013
1. “Hiking” The Manitou Incline
Early one January morning, on a business trip to Colorado Springs, I woke up and Googled some ideas for trail running. I was treated with search results that led me to the Manitou Incline. A quick car trip in the early morning darkness resulted, and I found myself in Manitou Springs, at the foot of a formidable challenge.
The Incline is truly a beast. This “hiking trail” is mile long stairway comprised of railroad ties, pipes, and rocks that boasts a 2,000 foot elevation gain that leaves you gulping for air, with only the thud of your heart to propel you further along into the thinning atmosphere.
I had hoped to make it to the top in less than 20 minutes, but that time flew past.
Olympic short track skating champion Apolo Ohno on the Manitou Incline:
It’s the one workout where people truly have to face something that is unbeatable. It is you against yourself. – via New York Times
Ohno’s quote has come to embody the basis of my Momentary Motivation, using the most classic conflict of “man vs himself” to inspire spontaneous challenges.
The next time you’re in the Denver area – hit The Incline and let me know how it goes.
2. Crossing The Wisconsin River on October 19th.
On a recent family trip, Stacey and I took Ginger and River to the Wisconsin Dells for activities customary to the area (indoor water parks, hamburgers, etc).
I woke up, strapped on my running shoes, and headed out in the early morning light for a run around Lake Delton. Halfway into my run, I began to notice warning signs about the Wisconsin Ducks, the amphibious tour vehicles that have hauled thrilled passengers along the Wisconsin River and proximate woodland trails for over 65 years.
I soon saw the banks of the Wisconsin River, and went down to the Newport Park boat launch to take a look at the dark, slow-moving water.
To the entertainment of the boaters and anglers around me (and myself mostly), I removed my shoes and soon found myself swimming across the river to the opposing bank, audibly gasping as the cold water began to provide a thorough chilling.
I exited to the sandy river bank and looked back across the river (and the upstream location where I believed my shoes were waiting for me), grew even colder and jumped back in to continue my journey.
I returned to the boat landing, donned my shoes, completed my run, and returned to the hotel to recount my story and receive a good scolding from Stacey.
Robin – So What?
Creating motivation from less obvious situations can be very inspirational. Finding a new trail, a new turn, a Stairway To Heaven in Manitou Springs, or even an unlikely plunge into an unknown river can provide a great way to reconnect with the spirit of adventure that first led you to discover sports and fitness.
Get out there. Name your beast – and do your best.
Care to share your unlikely inspiration? Seen any beasts? I’d love to hear about it.