LGN 60: Motivation

Inside: Am I not well-rounded?; Workout headaches; Learning from the mistakes of others, hopefully; What motivates you?; Goals

It’s all relative

This one time, I was renting a room in a house in Sunnyvale.  Intern livin’.  The owner of the house went out of town for a long while so I was looking after the pets.  Well, the cat took off out the pet door and was gone for days.  I called one of the owner’s friends, Nancy, and she came over to help me look since she was familiar with the place and the cat.  She said that sometimes the cat would go into the neighbor’s yard, which was on the other side of a 6′ wooden fence and the neighbor wasn’t home.

We got a can of tuna, and a pet carrier.  Nancy went to the side of the house to pick up the big ladder.  It was too heavy for her.  She was fit but petite.  Somewhere in my mind I was thinking, “Wow.  That ladder isn’t really that heavy.  You can’t lift that?”

That must be the way runners look at me.  “It hasn’t even been two miles!  He’s walking already?”

Or how the kettlebell people must feel when they see me training with kettlebells.  (“You can’t lift that 124 times in ten minutes?  Psssh.  You call yourself a man?”)  That time Justin had me jerking the 16kgs for two minutes?  Embarrassing.  They’re doing that mess for ten minutes at a time.  That was a long time ago, though.  I wonder what I could do now.

I saw two women hold a plank for 3 minutes last week during Finishers.  How the hell!

I asked Matt the other day where he keeps all of his super strength.  ‘Cause you know.  Matt looks fit as hell but not necessarily as mutant strong as he is.

He pointed to his brainium and said, “In here.”


The Post Finisher Headache

Anyone else ever get the post-finisher headache?  I got a doozy the other week.  Holy crap.  There was some band-around-the-waist sprinting while Justin acted as ballast.  I think it was a suicide of some sort while also ferrying medicine balls to people holding a wall squat.  It was one of those 100% everything at the same time Finishers.  Felt like there was not enough oxygen in the world and my hamstrings have never burned like that.  Ever.  I spent some time on the floor recovering.  By the time I got to my car I caught one of those headaches that makes your eyes want to cross.

What’s up with that?


My lower legs are crappy.  I went for a walk with a friend after work and it ended up being 11 miles.  A loop from Ballston to the Lincoln Memorial and back.  My feet were killing me, of course.  But my lower legs between the ankles and calves were twitchy as hell.  Not crampy, just twitchy.

It dawned on me.  I’m supposed to be doing workouts on my off days.  Like walking briskly or jogging followed by sprints.  I have to remind myself every few weeks or months that training in the gym is NOT the goal.  Training is the prep for other activities.

My discipline falters.  Hurricane Sandy was not a good thing for my food discipline muscles.  Yeh.  I overheard this exchange outside the apartment window the other day:

“Billy, I said stop! Right now! Do not take another step!  You don’t walk in front of Mom.”

[The sound of little feet running on the sidewalk.]

“I said stop!  Right now.  Get back here.  Do not take another step!  Billy!”

[The sound of little feet running on the sidewalk.]

I said stop!  Billy!  Where am I?”

Billy says, “Back there.”

“And where are you?”

A momentary pause and then he said, “Running from you.”

That’s how the internal conversation between my intentions and my actions can be.  I always dust myself off and get back on the wagon but still.


I’ve been writing this blog entry for weeks a few jotted notes at a time.  I’ve got four or five entries laying around that I haven’t been as motivated to finish or post, though.  They’re not ready or coherent enough.  But today, JK asked a question about motivation.  The responses were fascinating. Good stuff.  External vs. internal.

What motivates you?

Are you more likely to stick to something if you get a tangible reward at the end?    Or does your inner drive thrust you forward toward your goals?

It’s helpful to have people give you the straight dope.  Everyone, at some point, needs to be told to suck it up and get on with it.  Just do it.  Stop pontificating, calculating and analyzing and do something.  Step away from the comfort zone that all that rationalizing provides.  Stop hiding behind your brain and act.

Y’know?  All of us having something like that.  And someone who cares about you finally says, “You know what?  I love you but…  I mean, I love you and…”

Whatever it is.  That tough love is a good kick in the butt.  It’s sill not the answer, though.  It’s part of a solution.

This is often on my mind

My dad smoked — cigarettes and pipes — and drank for decades.  He got throat cancer.  Alcohol and tobacco are two major contributors to getting throat cancer.  He went through radiation and chemo treatments.  They pulled out all of his teeth.  His taste buds were burned away and he couldn’t taste food for at least a year.  They removed muscle tissue from his neck.  He eventually recovered.  Scarred and weakened a bit, but he pulled through.

Despite all of that and many tough conversations, he still smoked and he still drank.

Every once in a while he’d develop a polyp in his throat. Biopsies and such.  He was working on improving himself in just about every way.  Eating well, taking supplements, walking a lot, taking classes.  But he still smoked.  He still drank.  He was in pain a lot of the time.  Intense pain.  Then he took a strong painkiller, was found unresponsive, eventually regained consciousness but never his mental faculties, and after a few months of suffering died in a hospice two days after being removed from all of the machines.

One of the nurses said that having your lungs suctioned felt like being stabbed through the chest.  They had to suction his lungs just about every hour.  In the hospice away from all the machines he looked so peaceful and rested.

I don’t mean to be maudlin but this is part of what motivates me.  It’s never far from the surface.  When I’m in the gym or gearing up  for a hike or mountain bike ride my family is on my mind.    If you’ve lost family and friends you know what I mean.  It’s not something you’d talk about a lot but it’s kind of right there.

Like, I’ve got to get this long trajectory right.  Y’know?  For me.  For them.

Each generation of my family has worked all of their lives to provide for the family so that the next generation can have opportunities.  Each generation lives a little longer, does a little better and now my generation is actively thinking about health (half way through our lives, give or take a decade).  The next generation won’t think that personal training is weird.  They’re already hip to the idea of 5Ks and mud runs.

The food thing?  Well.  That’s another thing entirely.  I think there’s time, though.


Still, those things come and go.  External rewards only get you so far.  Internal forces — like learning from the mistakes of others or wanting to be worthy mate bait (I just made that up) — tend to wax and wane.  The suffering and loss of loved ones won’t necessarily stop me from drinking a mocha latte when I shouldn’t.  In fact, seeing and being with ailing loved ones can be a stressor.  I mean, you know.  “F’ it.  I’m gettin’ ribs on the way home.”

Everybody’s different.  Going cold turkey won’t work for most people.  I know people who got off hard drugs cold turkey.  Cigarettes, too.  Just a handful, though.  After a few ramp ups usually.  I know people who had to step down.  Some people won’t make much progress without a strong support system.  Some people — it’s enough for them to just make a decision, point themselves in the right direction and go.  Some people are total screw ups until, like, they get married and have kids and that transforms their priorities, discipline, and sense of purpose.

External motivation.  Internal motivation.  Goals.


I think having a goal gives feet to your motivation.  Last Winter when Justin told me that Tough Mudder would be a good goal … he was right.  I trained differently.  My mindset was different.  He was kicking my ass and it payed off.  (Unfortunately, I’m not one of those people who can not run at all but still complete a half marathon.)  Having that as a goal with a hard deadline made a difference.

And giving Justin your goal to program for is like … uh.  Man, I can’t think of a simile.  Like giving Legolas a bow and arrow and an Uruk-hai in the distance.

Wow.  Aw, that was nerdy.

Competitions, events, sports.  There are plenty of events where you have all the fun of the activity without the pressure of competing.  Some people thrive on competition.  Not really my thing.

I kind of want to play coed soccer but I’m really not very good at all and tend to damage myself.  Couch to 5K might be in order.  Or 10K.  A crampless Warrior Dash?

My longitudinal goal is to keep training.  I realized just how cumulative fitness really is.  The time you put into it matters.  I’ve only been training for over a year and a half.  I’m still a babe in the woods.  Some of y’all have been active/athletes for years, decades or all of your lives.  That’s awesome.

What are some of your fitness goals?

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