Standing on the start line at an obstacle race, it’s easy to find motivation. You see it in the eyes of the person next to you. You hear it in the shouts and cheers. You feel it amid the smoke and chants and near-tangible nervous energy of beginning a new adventure.
At the finish, it’s not too hard to find inspiration either: Exuberant jumps through fire, teams holding hands, quickened sprints, purposeful walks, sometimes even slow, silent limps (or crawls)!
After an obstacle event, I am always filled with excitement and new goals. I will run “this” many miles each day! I will only eat “these” kinds of foods! I will add “this” new addition to my training! And then….
Well… reality hits.
Instead of being at a race filled with pumping music and surrounded by other inspiring and motivating people, I am at my messy house, calling the winterizing sprinkler man while blending breakfast smoothies and trying to tie my four year-old’s shoes. And where did that clean shirt and To-Do list go?
If it is so easy to find motivation and inspiration at an obstacle race, why then, is it so HARD to find it the remaining days, hours and minutes?
Perhaps, I am thinking lately, it comes from focusing on the wrong members of the “tion” family. Yes, inspiration and motivation are nice, but they are a bit like that fun aunt who always brings you candy, or the cousin who always knows the best games to play. Perhaps, I am thinking, what is REALLY needed is the strong and silent Grandpa of the group: DETERMINATION.
The difference between determination, versus inspiration or motivation, is in the subtleties.
Inspiration is defined as “the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something.”
Motivation is “the desire to do; interest or drive.”
Both of these are catalysts – the push.
But do what? For how long? For what end?
That’s where you must have determination, “firmness of purpose; resolve.”
Wanting versus having, wishing versus doing, Determination is the difference.
Lately, finding my determination has been especially challenging because I’m recovering from a leg injury. Instead of being able to run trails -- what I love to do! -- I have had to choose between hand bikes or arm swimming or sitting and lifting weights -- all things I usually dread. Honestly, I am never motivated or inspired to use a hand bike. It’s been determination that makes me do it anyway.
There are many types of goals, but when it comes to fitness, below are just a few things that seem to help in staying determined:
Set little goals and dream big, but don’t hide your intentions under a pillow.
Sometimes I feel like I should do certain things. For instance, I really should workout today. I really should eat this salad instead of fried pickles and red vines….However, when I try to go through the motions without thinking about why I am doing these things, I tend to fail. For instance, if my long term goal is to “run the Ultra Beast next year.” I might set a middle-range goal, “ I will lose 10 pounds so I can run faster!” and then many, many short term, sometimes very short term, goals, “I will eat a healthy breakfast this week,” or, “I will eat a healthy breakfast today.” A critical part of this plan has been writing down the goals and making them visible. Last year, I created a “Dream Board” filled with all my long-term goals in many areas of my life and put it by my bed, so I would go to sleep and wake up remembering my purpose. Perhaps even more important than creating that board though, was sharing what was on there with others. For me, that was really hard! It can sometimes feel too personal or seem embarrassing but sharing your goals with others does many important things that help with determination, including increasing accountability and allowing other people to support you.
Create a routine and be realistic.
A year after having my two daughters 18 months apart, I found myself depressed and not liking what I saw in the mirror. I would tell myself, I want to get in shape and I’ll go to the gym every day! Then the next day, I would wake up tired and grab something unhealthy to eat. Before you knew it, I was depressed and still looking the same. The difference came when I started small. I signed up for a boot camp that met twice a week and sat down with my husband to figure out how we could make time for me to get there. It wasn’t every day. It was just two times a week for an hour, and I stuck with it. Once it became a routine, I was able to add new things.
Take it slow and take rest days.
Oh social media, how I love and loathe you! When it comes to fitness goals, social media, such as Facebook, can be an awesome thing. You’ll find support groups and inspirational pages and motivational stories….What you won’t usually find though is the whole story. You’ll see the before and after pictures, you’ll read about the crazy tire flipping Workout of the Day, but you’ll miss hearing about everything in between. Whatever your plan is to meet your fitness goals, do NOT feel guilty about going slow and planning rest days. As a matter of fact, rest days should be the days you plan most carefully. Resting is when your body heals and rebuilds stronger and better. Further, if you see rest days as part of the plan, not a deviation from it, you are more likely to stick to your entire routine.
Avoid comparisons. Set goals only based on what YOU want and need.
The most common “determination killer” is comparing your path to others. Comparison wilts determination like water on tissue paper. Your goals should be based on you and no one else. For instance, in the past I have made the mistake of setting a goal to be faster than XYZ Person. I learned this was a mistake pretty quickly because then I “needed” that person to help meet my goals! Not only that, but in trying to “beat” someone else, I felt really alone. When I switched that goal to something personal, such as beating my own best time in a race, I had something measurable that was completely up to me. I also had something positive to focus on that could be shared and supported by others. If your goals are based on other people, it may actually be motivating and even inspiring for a while, but it will be hard to measure and maintain over time.
There's a fire burning inside you and it's fueled by your determination. Motivation and Inspiration can help keep the sparks aflame, but without a commitment and a firmness of purpose, nothing is possible. Today is as good a day as any. Set your goal. Stick to the routine and BE DETERMINED. Along the way you may even inspire and motivate others to do the same.
Inspiration Sparks Determination.
Here are just a few of the athletes who have inspired members of our VPX Team Xtreme:
Brandon Seale “Joe Decker, I spent 14 hours in his world and it was hell but I will say that there is a method to his madness. He is bar none the best coach out there, as far as Death race and endurance events. He really put things in perspective for me and gave me faith in myself to really go above and beyond. Before then everyone in my life told me I was doing too much and to slow down, but he gave me the confidence to take that leap of faith in certain athletic events that I never thought I could do.”
John Taylor “Skateboarding Pioneer/Legend Danny Way is my hero!… All he has ever done is epic!”
Paul Buijs “Kevin Donoghue and Robert Coble - because one is shorter and the other is older and both kick my ass leaving me with no excuse but to train harder.”
Jason Henline “Arnold Schwartzeneger. Not so much for what he does now, but because of how much he has achieved in his life and how much he continues to do. He never accepts ‘no’ or ‘can't’ and I have become more and more like him mentally even though it will probably be a longgggg time before I could be like him physically.”
Eddie Yanick “Dean Karnazes (because) his ability to seemingly run forever is breathtaking...and he does other sports as well, so he does not look like the typical ultra runner.”
Johnson Cruz “I don't have any(one) special in my mind because I try to pick it up the good thing(s) that work for me, and there are so many people that inspire me to train. For example, Bruce Lee was skinny but incredible strong. Kilian (Jornet), the best ultra runner, is able to run fast and (have) agility in the mountain. Kenyan runners are fast, efficient (and have) endurance. I love to see the strong man doing crazy things. There are a lot of people that inspired me to train harder and it's why I don't get surprised about anything. For me, nothing it's impossible.”
Brian Lynch “Anyone I see at the gym, on a run, or at a race who is doing something that I cannot.”
This is a guest post by Leslie St. Louis, a competitive obstacle racer, mountain-loving trail runner and newfound CrossFitter, who is currently taking a hiatus from elementary school teaching to raise her two young, mud-seeking princesses in Morrison, Colorado. She is proud to be a part of VPX Team Xtreme, as well as a member of the Spartan Pro Team and All Pro CrossFit Community. She is also the founder of the website and Facebook page “Colorado Obstacle Racers”.