Friday, August 10, 2007

Finding my inner defiance

It is my first day off from exercise in more than two weeks, and I might do something after the game tonight, but I thought this was a good opportunity to philosophize (thanks Bill and Ted). Jason over at Jason's Running Diary, posted recently on motivation. I think this is a good time to revisit the subject and get some thoughts out there on the subject. I believe we all find different ways to stay motivated to get out there and run (or do other things as the situation arises, such as my recent turn to swimming due to injury). I think that the biggest obstacle that has to be overcome is ourselves. People as a general rule try to seek comfort, the path of least resistance as it were.

  1. mmmm, this tastes good ... it is only a pint of ice cream
  2. I need the sleep, why get out an run ... two or twelve more times through the snooze won't hurt.
  3. I really am too busy right now (fill in obligation here ________ {family, friends, watching the latest episode of "X", going to this movie, trying that restaurant}

As someone who found himself with about a 100 pounds to lose at one point. I am all too familiar with the effects of self delusion and the lies we tell ourselves. The truth is something all together different. Vanilla at Half Fast found the motivation to get up at 5:00 am and get out and run, something he abhors (getting up early not running). Amy at Runners Lounge has zeroed in on something with her inquiry into our foes when we run. This post is my answer to that question. What keeps us from achieving, mostly human nature. How do we get past that? Excellent question, here is my own answer.

How do we defy our nature to take the path of least resistance and seek comfort over pain? Well I have a lot of experience in giving in to this nature or I would not have gotten as far out of shape as I did. My favorite lie was that I had too much work to do to exercise. Where if I had simply done the exercise I would have had more energy to dedicate to work. Now I draw on what worked for me in the past. I think the desire to defy overcomes the desire to pursue the path of least resistance. You can couch this in different terms if you like. But the concept is simply that we have a nature to seek what is easiest. To overcome this first as Amy pointed out we have to recognize what our obstacles really are. Of course these obstacles are overcome within our own abilities and merits and these vary from person to person. When I weighed 290 my ability to run was not nearly as good as it is today at 258 and I am sure that my ability to run will be even better at 235 and so on. When I started my noble experiment/ grand endeavor of running I truly hated it, a lot. I still did it because I knew that I must to reach my goals. Now I love to run so getting motivation to get out there isn't the issue any longer, now I fight something else.

So where do we find the motivation to do what is necessary after we do what is required? We dig for it. Inside us there is a hard center, an inner defiance, that if we can cultivate will help us to push beyond where we thought we could go. I have found with exercise that this expands as my abilities grow. When I started I needed to dig down for motivation to just get out the door and walk/ run a mile or so. But when I run I get tired, but this is where it begins ... the debate that goes on, whether I think it is going on or not. Do I slow down/ stop when I get tired? Because of course I get tired because running for long distances is hard. I used to get tired at 1/2 mile now it is 3 miles at a moderate pace. Do I give in? It would be easy to do so, I mean just slow down the only person you are responsible to is yourself right? No, this is really where the rubber meets the road. This where I dig, I don't give in I look for what is extra not just in terms of energy, but heart. Going beyond what I think I would normally be capable of. I know I can because I have done it time and again. We all have. Approach the hill, it looks so tall how in the world am I going to make it up. I start and begin to tire on middle stretch, no I will not slow down, mentally I won't accept the physical desire to back off and I push up the rest of the hill. It may cause me to be winded at the top but I push through the pain to find the elation in success on the other side.

As I become I better runner, I find I am more capable of pulling on my inner defiance through difficult situations. My ability to recover from the defiance of my body's reluctance to perform has also gotten better. When I first started I would pay for my failure to listen to my body's desire to take the path of least resistance. Sometimes it would blow an entire run. I looked at this as a flaw in my personality. I don't do that now. I see that this inner defiance is necessary to get better. The don't quit attitude or unwillingness to accept defeat has helped me to progress. Without pushing how would I ever get better? I wouldn't. I would have stagnated at 15:00 miles into perpetuity, but I have progressed because I wouldn't quit. The desire to move away from adversity is normal but recognizing it is the first step in overcoming it. This is true for anything. If everything were easy then there would be no need to talk about motivation or overcoming motivation lapses. We would get out there and do what we needed to do and no one would say a word because it would be easy. But it isn't easy, sometimes it is down right hard. We talk about it because we are struggling with motivation and adversity. Success comes with the downing of our own natural tendency to seek comfort. To shirk comfort for an ordeal is not natural but we do it everyday we run and don't give up. When I ran the Broad Street Run I passed a guy hobbling to the finish line, it looked like he sprained an ankle on the course (I could feel for him because I did the same 2 days before the race) but with the pain fresh in his ankle he kept on going. It would have been easy to quit and no one would have faulted him but he didn't he kept going. His body said stop but he didn't he kept on.

I believe the desire to get out and start is part of the same thing that we dig into to keep going when we get tired. This is different from injury - pain from injury is distinct and we all know the difference. But we as runners, athletes, can dig into our core and pull out something extra from our desire/ motivation/ inner defiance. It is waiting to be tapped into. I really started learning about this (and as a result myself) many years ago when testing for an upper belt test in Massachusetts. The school I went to made you really push yourself in the upper belt tests requiring tests of multiple hours. You just won't pass if you didn't push yourself to your breaking point and beyond. You learn a lot about desire during these tests. How bad do you want it? that is the question. As a result you learn to dig deep and find your the character your mom always knew you had. When I was a Scout in the Army we trained not to let down our team, so you dig to keep up your end of the bargain, no one wants to be the weak link. In many ways it is harder to do this outside of this environment. But you don't have to practice martial arts or join the Army to find this, I find it in running as I have said. The refusal to quit, we all have it. Sometimes we falter, the path of comfort is welcoming after all, there is nothing wrong with failing on occasion we are human after all. But keep vigilant against too much temptation for comfort, it really is not our friend.

So I see that I am my own biggest obstacle to my success, (I am my own foe) if I can quiet my own fears and pains I will succeed at the great running experiment, if I can dig beyond the fatigue and find my heart I will make it. If I give in to the path of comfort I will fail. I see the obstacle so I believe I will succeed.


Amy said...

Rob -- you gave me goose bumps. You know that is not easy in this heat. Inner defiance. I really like that - well said.

Steven Covey has a great line that is something like, you are made not by what you say yes to, but what you say no to. That has always stuck with me because it is easy to give in, and say yes to the easy things. It is when you stop and think about the things you are skipping, or avoiding that really determines your priorities and the life you are living.

Great post!

Vanilla said...

Great post. If I were listening to you in an auditorium I'd be standing and applauding - no doubt with everyone else in the room.

Truly inspirational stuff.

Rob said...

Thanks much for the feedback.

Laura said...


hugs to you from NH, Laura