5 Motivators After My Mental Meltdown

by Carilyn on October 1, 2012

Since Friday’s post, I’ve been going through messages, talking to friends, and reading a lot to find how other people stay – or get – motivated.  Some of the suggestions I got were very thoughtful and “normal”, and some were quirky and made me laugh.  I’m pretty much willing to try anything, so I appreciate every suggestion I was given (okay, maybe not the one that involved going skydiving to “get over” my fear of heights on the trails – as if 🙂 ).

Here are 5 things I tried out this weekend:

1.  Read about successful athletes. How do they stay motivated? How do they train? How do they race? Armed with this advice, I downloaded Chrissie Wellington’s “Life Without Limits” and Christopher McCormack’s “I’m Here To Win”. Now, I know these are both triathlon books, and since I can’t ride a bike without crashing into things, like parked cars, fire hydrants and small animals, there is very little chance that I will ever be a triathlete. But, I chose these books because I find enough overlap between ultrarunning and triathloning (is that a word?) that I can relate and get inspired by the athletes’ stories without any of the prejudices I have when I read an ultrarunner’s book. I know, that sounds weird, but the ultrarunning community is so small that we all know each other a little too well. It’s hard to read a book by someone with whom I race regularly, without being overly critical (like: there is no way you really ran 22 hours without water in the desert with a baby grand piano on your back). I don’t know enough about the triathletes, or their sport, to spend any time questioning what is being written. Being an outsider to the sport just allows me to read, and be inspired – exactly what I needed.

2.  Change up my training. This was great advice. I tend to get in a routine, and then stick to it out of laziness and simplicity. Many of you suggested going to the track, joining a class at the gym, or trying a new running group. All of these are great suggestions. I especially liked the one about taking up golf to have a “relaxing” hobby. It tells me that I’ve been able to fool y’all into thinking that I can be trusted to engage in a four hour activity with a metal weapon in my hand.

3.  Pick some new goals. I have to admit that I have definitely been weighed down (and frankly, bored) by the goals I have chased for the last 6 years. I think it is time to shake it up a bit (which causes this white-picket-fence gal some consternation) and look into some new and exciting goals for the future. I don’t want to say anything just yet, because I’m still mulling it all over, but I think sharks will be involved. And maybe a Yeti.

4.  Focus on a different aspect of my training. Most of my training is just that – putting in the miles, getting it done. Other than visualization, I don’t spend much time on my mental training. After reading the two triathlon books, I think it’s time I start to focus more on my mental training. I wonder if that can be done from my couch with a couple of cupcakes? (I’m seeing myself running faster and stronger…mmmm, yum, this chocolate cupcake tastes goood!…). Okay, maybe that kind of mental training won’t work, but I will come up with something. I really do think it is important.

5.  Face the pain. This is tough for me. I like to just pretend the pain doesn’t exist until…BAM! it hits me square in the noggin at mile 70. The problem with this practice is that it’s getting harder and harder to trick myself. I’ve done enough of these races to know it’s coming, and that it’s going to hurt. A lot. So, I’m going to start facing my pain head on – no more tricking (or at least not as much). I started this weekend by forcing myself to resume my time trials. I used to to do these regularly, but have gotten lazy (and honestly, afraid of the inevitable pain). Surprisingly, I was only 6 minutes off my PR from a year ago. That made me happy – and a little more motivated.

I loved all the suggestions, and just having some new ideas to think about really gave me a boost. Thank you to everyone who was willing to indulge my pity party last week and then comment, e-mail, tweet and call me with ideas. Y’all are the best!

Happy Running!



Kate October 1, 2012 at 11:16 am

I tend to be really hesitant to make myself hurt (as opposed to hurting myself, which I seem to do quite frequently!), and then when I CAN push myself I’m sometimes excited by the results. I know for me, personally, pushing myself more often (or getting out of my comfort zone) would be valuable.

And then section on mental training made me nod my head. I was just (complaining) noticing this weekend how much mental toughness I’ve lost from last year. Of course, the only way to get tougher is to do tougher things and push through them. 🙁 Like…eat a bigger cupcake? 🙂

Kirstin C (@ultrarunnergirl) October 1, 2012 at 11:16 am

Ha ha, golf as a relaxing hobby! That makes the skydiving suggestion seem like a reasonable one …

Thanks for sharing your motivation struggles. I can always use new motivation tricks!

Tim October 1, 2012 at 11:35 am

Great Post, and awesome Ideas on how to get re-motivated. I was wondering if you could elaborate more on #5 and more specifically on the time trials. Are you going and running race distances during training at race pace to see how you stack up to prior PRs ?


pensive pumpkin October 1, 2012 at 12:27 pm

Golf is not relaxing for Type A people, FYI. Golf is torture, and people get really pissy when you hit them with your club. Why is it called a club if not for hitting people? Also, the first time I ever drove a golf cart I drove it into a tree. Second time? Into a water hazard. Not my sport.

Face the pain=The Princess Bride. “Life is Pain, Your Highness.” I often think late in a Half “Oh, my sweet Westley, what have I done?” Love that film.

Carilyn October 1, 2012 at 12:38 pm

I know, Kate! It’s amazing how quickly we can “lose” some of that mental toughness, huh? Kinda like my tummy muscles 🙂 But I’m working on them both!

Carilyn October 1, 2012 at 12:40 pm

I totally agree, Kirstin – there is no way I should ever be playing golf. Definitely a dangerous idea 🙂

Carilyn October 1, 2012 at 12:41 pm

Hi Tim! I like to do long runs on a looped course so that I can time it and see my progress up through race day. I also like to throw in a few “training” marathons because they force me to move faster than I would when alone. I don’t taper for any of this because part of it is to see how I am responding to the fatigue.

Carilyn October 1, 2012 at 12:44 pm

Too funny, PP! I’m not sure us lawyers should EVER be allowed to play a sport that uses a weapon as a main component 🙂

As for the Princess Bride, I still spend way too much of my time walking around saying, “My name is Enigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” My kids flinch every time I come from around a corner, fearful that I will draw my imaginary sword and sputter at them with my Spanish accent 🙂

Marcia October 1, 2012 at 6:56 pm

All great avenues to pursue! I’ve been so crappy about goal setting. Golf….not sure where my clubs even are at this point. It’s been eons.

Char October 2, 2012 at 2:49 pm

I knew that there was a reason I felt drawn to you. Apart from the running (where our training sessions could be almost be identical except for the fact that I run 1/4 of what you do) and the cupcakes (I make them. You eat them), we are both cycling gumbies. I too hurt small animals when I ride and in the interest of the health of all things furry, my husband has given away my bike. Last time I rode I actually ran over a white poodle.

I think that changing it up is the best thing you can do at the moment. Your body and mind have been through a lot in the last 6 months and could do with a break. Changing it up is like a mental holiday.

Carilyn October 3, 2012 at 8:17 am

Yes, Char, we are definitely connected – even across the Pacific! 🙂 Now, if I could only figure out a way for your cupcakes to magically appear on this side of the ocean!

Carilyn October 3, 2012 at 8:18 am

Thanks, Marcia! Yes, goals are tough for me – either too many, or none 🙂

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