Goals Just Want to Have Fun (Ouch. That hurt me, too.)

Not to toot my own horn, but I’m pretty excellent at squeezing in five to six workouts a week when I have a real, tangible goal on the radar.

  • Training for a marathon? I’ll pop out of bed before the sun every workday for an easy three to thirteen miles.
  • Looking to lose a few pounds? I’ll recruit a friend and pulse away at Pop Physique, sore quads be damned.
  • Trying to tone my wedding arms? I’ll hit the gym for BodyPump twice a week for the better part of a year so that I can “shout” my way all the way to the dancefloor showing off more skin than I’d usually dare to bare.
“A little bit softer now” does NOT apply to these Michelle Obama arms. Boom.

If there’s a finish line on the horizon, my objective-oriented mind doesn’t have any problem putting in the work. Sure, I might prefer to sleep in or have an extra glass of wine the night before a scheduled workout, but I’m achievement-driven and can generally push any nay-saying to the back of my brain while I focus on my just-within-reach goal instead.

Once that goal’s over, though, all bets are off. In other words, without a goal on my radar, I get so lazy you wouldn’t believe it.

“Fetch? No thanks.”

Seriously, folks. Even though November started strong — I raced a half marathon, I finished a 10 pack of Pop Physique classes, I took BodyPump at my mom’s sweet Maryland YMCA — in the weeks since the wedding, my discipline has fallen off more rapidly than Congress’ approval rating. I’ve signed up for and canceled more gym classes than I’d care to admit, hit snooze instead of logging my morning miles, and the only significant walking I’ve done is back and forth to the waffle station four times at our annual Mohonk Mountain House brunch.

Now I know from experience one way to get myself out of this lethargic rut is to simply pick a new goal — sign up for a new distance, perhaps, or find a triathlon to force me out of my comfort zone. But the truth is I SHOULDN’T need a goal like speed or weight loss to pressure me to workout. Exercise brings with it a vast number of other amazing benefits, and they should be reason enough to work up a sweat even when there’s nothing tangible on my horizon pulling to toward a finish line.

For example:

  • Sleep: Exercise improves quality of sleep and helps people feel less exhausted during daytime hours.
  • Digestion: Exercise keeps everything moving and helps reduce the cramping and bloating that our processed diet inevitably brings.
  • Disease: Exercise reduces the duration and severity of colds, and longer term has major impacts on things like dementia and heart disease.
  • Stress: Exercise keeps me from getting overwhelmed at yelling at my husband, even when he’s clearly yelling at me.
OK, fine, this is clearly also Shout.

I’m trying to remember that even when I’m not working toward a goal, exercise is a worthy endeavor, and keeping that in mind helped motivate me to pull myself out of a warm bed at 6 a.m. to run six foggy miles this morning. Hopefully I’ll be able to keep up that motivation during the holiday season.

(And if that doesn’t work, knowing I’ll be in a bikini on an Australian beach in two weeks’ time ought to do it! Warning: said flight takes us via Hawaii, where there is a goldendoodle waiting to make up for a years’ worth of missing photo shoots. Prepare yourselves.)

How do you keep motivated when there isn’t an immediate goal on your horizon?


Faking It

I self-identify as a lot of things, but my level of actual participation in some categories would suggest my membership is tenuous as best. Case in point:

  • I call myself an “avid reader,” but the last book I read before this past weekend was teen filth Divergent.
  • I call myself an “active blogger,” but you know as well as I do that these pages have been quiet for weeks.
  • I call myself a “healthy eater,” but I’ve spent three of the last four weekends dining below the Mason Dixon line. On a completely unrelated note, I also call myself in need of more work clothes with an elastic waistband.
This are the kinds of classy establishments I ate at in the former Confederate states.
This are the kinds of classy establishments I ate at in the former Confederate states.

But one self-classification in particular has grown increasingly shaky: my claim that I’m a runner.

Now don’t get me wrong: I in no way believe distance or speed or competition are mandatory for calling oneself a runner. From Olympic elites to Central Park joggers to everything in between, all you need to call yourself a runner is a pro-running attitude.

Unfortunately, it’s that runner’s mentality specifically that I’m severely lacking. Don’t believe me? My running log since the marathon has fallen faster than Chris Christie’s approval rating.

running graph

There are plenty of reasons my running may have lost momentum these last few months. My spring half marathon was canceled. I’ve been working my way up the East Coast wedding circuit. I’m in the process of moving from one fifth floor walk-up to another. It’s getting hot.

But I know deep down inside the real reason I’ve been pushing workouts to the backburner is that July means for me the onset of fall marathon training, and I’m just not mentally there yet. The prospect of running up to 40 miles a week — when I’m currently lucky to squeeze in 6 — is more than a little daunting for this out-of-shape athlete. Sure, logically it makes sense to build a base now so the first few weeks of training don’t hit me like a brick, but I’m not always a logical being, and ignoring the looming deadline seems like a much safer prospect indeed. I’m nothing if not an ostrich playing in the sand.

Of course, that was also my mindset last summer, and I paid brutally come marathon morning.

When it comes down to it, I guess it’s time I stop lollygagging and get out there. In truth, life is full of things we don’t want to do but do anyways, from small talking at cocktail parties to putting on pants, and maybe running is just going to have to be one of those things for a while. I assume once I get stronger and faster again, I’ll get out of my rut and pride myself in my runner classification once more, but until then, perhaps I just have to fake it.

Much like Keira’s weak attempt at a fake smile when I told her we’d be having company on board the boat this weekend in Baltimore.

You must be joking.
“You must be joking.”

At least our guest did not notice the death stares.

"Can bull terriers swim?"
“Can bull terriers swim? I’m just asking. No particular reason.”

How do you motivate yourself to run when you simply, stubbornly, childishly just don’t wanna?