Monday, 6 April 2015

Finding Inspiration and Joy in the Achievements of Others

I've been tackling some big challenges recently and at times I've struggled to find motivation and even joy in it. I don't think this is uncommon among people who train and run regularly. It reminds me of when I was studying Literature at school and University; we dissected what we read to such an extent that it completely took the joy out of reading for me for quite some time. Why did the author choose that particular word? Maybe it wasn't a conscious decision. Maybe just because it rhymed. Who knows? I don't care anymore!

I've found my running to be similar. Given enough 2 hour "sweet spot" sessions, enough heart rate zone runs and analysing your progress each week can sometimes result in a "why am I doing this?" or "I don't care any more" moment.

But for all these moments there are also things that happen that remind me exactly why I'm doing this and why I enjoy it (usually). Going out for a few run-as-you-feel miles without the Garmin, with something other than the running playlist or with no sounds at all or doing an event purely for fun are my usual go to's but marshaling at events and speaking to people at the gym has been an unexpected source of inspiration lately.

On marshal duties at the mount/dismount line at a duathlon the other week I was suitably impressed with the front of the pack but was more impressed with those who had turned up with mountain bikes, those who were visibly nervous or pushing themselves and those with I-don't-care smiles at the back of the pack. One chap asked if the Guiness Book of World Records had called for him yet, believing himself to be the last in the race. He wasn't, quite. There was one lady behind him who overtook him on the bike section. He then overtook her on the second run, dived over the line, made a point of finding out her name and then going back to cheer her in. Despite being the last to finish she had knocked almost half an hour off of her previous attempt. I was full of admiration for them both.

On another occasion I was in the gym doing one of those 2 hours sessions I mentioned. I was feeling pretty queasy as it was a bit too close to my last meal. A gentleman got on the treadmill next to me and started walking, looking over at my display periodically. Eventually we got talking. He'd suffered a heart attack and was making significant lifestyle changes, attending classes twice a week, and walking at least a kilometer on the treadmill or swimming on the other days. It may not sound like a lot to some but it was a big deal to him. He'd lost 3 stone already and was building up slowly as best he could. He made those last queasy 30 minutes of my run go much quicker and I was determined not to give up. We were both pushing ourselves. So what if he was walking and I was running. I was so impressed. I'm not sure I could make such huge lifestyle changes stick all at once.

I'm inspired and impressed with my RunFitters every time they report a new PB. When a PT client tells me that they've had a great session and can feel an improvement I'm delighted for them too. My cousin bought a cross trainer recently and when I visited his wife used it for 15 minutes while dinner was cooking. All these little things are significant to someone else and to see other people achieve and get joy from being active helps me to hang on to the joy in my own routine.

Because if there's not an element of joy in there somewhere, what's the point?


  1. Great post. It's too easy to lose the joy of what we're doing, to get too bogged down in the stats, to make something into a chore when its supposed to be fun. I passed a man 'power walking' theo ther day, on getting chatting to him it turns out he was just 1 month out from a hip replacement and was already back up to walking 5 miles a day. I felt humbled.

    1. That's a great story! It's easy to forget that really, we are the lucky ones.