3 Lessons in Motivation.

May 21, 2021
Kemi Nekvapil holding a book

If you have been following my latest ultramarathon training on Instagram, you will know that I have struggled with my training for my next 50km event.

About a month ago, I had a 4.5 hour training session in my schedule, which my coach had sent me 2 weeks prior, as my training programs are 14 day blocks. The level of resistance that built up in me in the 13 days before that run was like nothing I have ever experienced before.

I run long distances because I enjoy being out in nature, moving my body and challenging my mindset, and fast-tracking my personal growth; many reasons that align with my core values. Of course, there are some training days when I feel a little blah, but most of the time I feel grateful that I get to be out in nature, moving my body and freeing my mind.

I finally made it out of the door for this 4.5 hour run and I gained many insights about my mindset; why it was so hard, and what I learnt about myself during this training block.

One of the main reasons I struggled with my training is that I have been training for this event for 16 months!

Here are three lessons I have learnt; I hope you find them useful:

1. Commit again and again and again.
Usually I train for a maximum of 12 weeks for a specific event. There is always maintaining my fitness in between events, but deep focus is roughly for 12 weeks only.

To train for 16 months, because events were cancelled, rescheduled and then cancelled again, messes with the depth of motivation any mere mortal can sustain.

On a short run one day, when I was not feeling it at all, I asked myself, “Do you still want to do this race?” I explored the inner and outer motivations. I knew I could change my mind if I wanted to; it’s my hobby, I get to decide. I thought about it for about 3 minutes and chose to recommit, because I had maintained my fitness, the race was on the same country as the farm, and I love race days. A couple of weeks later, when the family were asleep and it was freezing outside, I asked myself the same question again, and once again I chose to recommit.

Lesson: There are many areas in our lives where we need to recommit many times over. Recommitting to being a good enough leader, a good enough partner, a good enough parent. Some goals are big enough that recommitting often is the best way to honour the goal and honour the reason we created them in the first place.

2. Old stories
I have shared many times that I am an introvert. I recharge away from people. I want and need a lot of time alone, and it is one of the most freeing realisations I have had about myself in the last 7 years. A few years ago, on the recommendation of my running coach at the time, I joined a running group. The trainer was fantastic, and the group was lovely, but as we were running around a track, a fellow runner struck up a conversation with me. I was very polite and engaged with her, but after about 2 minutes, all I could think was, “Why are you still talking to me? Please stop talking to me, I’m running.” From that day, I decided “I’m a solo runner”.

When I was lacking motivation for this recent training block, a trail-sister (fellow female endurance runner) asked me if I wanted to run with her and a group of friends. My immediate thought was no, because I didn’t know her friends and they might be talkers!!! I also knew that if I committed to a group run, it might be just the motivation I needed. The next day, we all met and about 5 minutes into the run, one of her friends and I bonded over flowers and farming! I had to leave them after 90 minutes, (they had another 3 hours to go), but as I left them, I realised that maybe I wasn’t over endurance running after all, I just needed company. After lockdown, when running solo was the only option, solo running became mentally hard. That day, after exchanging energy, sweat, race goals and training memories, I felt more excited about the adventures of trail running than I had for a long time.

I will, of course, still run solo; I love it, but I also look forward to many more group runs.

Lesson: We all create stories about who we are, and what we will and what we won’t do. It is important to constantly reassess these stories, to check if they still serve us.

3. Rewards and Punishment
I am a pursuer of the carrot! There is a school of thought that says we are either motivated through reward (a carrot) or punishment (the whip). We move toward rewards or away from punishment. Neither is better than the other, but they are powerful self-knowledge and motivation tools.

Once I had decided to recommit to my training, the little rewards along the way were what allowed me to ‘get the job done’ on the harder days. Sometimes that’s all it is. What do I need to get this done? Not to have orgasmic fun, but to ‘just get it done’.

I have always focused on how I will feel once I have finished a run. It’s what gets me up, even when I don’t want to. The feeling after the accomplishment is my carrot.

Another motivation is that my weekly run days are Tuesdays and Thursdays, the same as my coaching days (this is no accident), so on those days, I run to be a better coach for my clients.

Sometimes I run for the hot Epsom salt bath at the end, or the mega refuel meal, or the nap, or the deep pride that comes from doing a hard thing.

Lesson: Learn what motivates you. Do you move toward rewards or away from punishment? Know thyself and act accordingly. Put in place what you need so that you have the tools to motivate yourself.

Motivation comes and goes, especially if a goal stretches out over a long period of time.

Checking in to see if the goal is still important, recommitting as many times as needed, exploring your stories about who you are and what you need along the way, and knowing whether you are a pursuer of the carrot or a fleer of the whip; these are all tools to keep you on track when it matters.

My race is next week. Who knows how I’ll go. The journey has been a revelation and sometimes it isn’t the outcome but the journey that gives us exactly what we need.

Wishing you a weekend of new takes on old things.

Kemi xxx

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