On Motivation

I think it’s time I admitted to myself (and to others, since this is a public medium, after all) that I’ve been going through a fairly low-grade (in comparison to what I’ve been through in the past, anyway) but nagging depression.  I’ve spent most of the past few weekends doing very little, and most days after work recently I’ve come home and climbed into bed.  There have been ups and downs during these most recent blues, and I’ve done a bit of running and a few yoga practices.  Overall, though, I don’t really feel as good as I’d been feeling, and more importantly, I don’t feel entirely like myself.

I believe that when you’re depressed, there are times when you need to honor that feeling, give yourself time to experience what you’re going through, and forgive yourself for it.  Anyone who has experienced depression knows that as much as you may like to, you can’t just give yourself a kick in the pants and get over it.  But I also believe that there are times when rather than letting yourself wallow, you need to rally.  In my case, rallying consists of making sure I get my running in (it is well known to people who know me that when I have stopped running entirely, I am truly depressed), adding in one or two more yoga practices in a week, and making an effort to get out of the house, eat healthy, and focus on things that are going on outside my head.  Rallying is hard work, and in order to do it, you have to work up quite a bit of motivation.  As you do, you realize that these two things are inextricably linked to one another.

My friend Sonia has a great blog, which she started fairly recently.  Sonia and I met in 2007 and ran the Philadelphia marathon together (our first marathon ever)!  Unfortunately for me, she lives in Montreal so we haven’t seen each other since that marathon, but we keep in touch with each other through blogging and other outlets.  Today Sonia wrote a great post about motivation.  Since it’s in French, I’m going to translate one of the passages that I thought really captured the relationship between motivation and rallying (I’m assuming that not every person who reads my blog is also a francophone.  Forgive me if this assumption offends):

When it comes time to go out for a run, I have, in spite of [my motivation to run], very little desire to actually do it.  Especially in the winter, when I’d much rather eat comfort food and watch marathons of TV shows.  It’s the principle of inertia: in order to put a body in motion, one has to apply force upon it, supply energy; once in motion, a body will maintain its trajectory and its speed.  To stop it, one has to apply an opposing force.

This is, at least, how I explain to myself this strange and comical phenomenon: when I’m not running, I have no desire to run, and when I am running, I don’t ever want to stop…The point is this: all that is needed is to work up the initial energy, which is to say get everything you need together, get dressed, and get out the door.

A big part of the process of rallying, then, consists in getting outside and putting one foot in front of the other.  This, in turn, can squeeze you back into the motivational cycle you managed to fall out of (when, for instance, you/I initially took some time off after a marathon, and then had trouble getting back into a schedule, and then caught a nasty cold, and then ended up a little bit depressed).  Of course you have to work to get back into the cycle in the first place–it doesn’t happen after only one or two runs.  But it does happen eventually, and once you’re back, it really is true that some opposing force has to come along to interfere with how consistent you’re being.

So I’m saying it here: it’s time for me to rally.  Another thing Sonia mentions about staying motivated is that she keeps her goals in a place where she can see them, and has a detailed schedule that she adheres to.  These are both really good techniques when it comes to accomplishing what you’ve set out to do, and techniques that I have been very lazy about recently.  To help me work up some activation energy, I’ve registered for a few NYRR races (I’m thinking of trying to do one race a month this year), and I’m going to spend some time tomorrow working on writing up a schedule (and not just finding one on the internet and posting it here, but writing it up and working in the time to get back in shape, and printing it out, and tacking it up somewhere).  I know it’s going to be difficult, but I also know I can do this.

How do you stay motivated?  Do you find that the principle of inertia describes your attitude toward working out too?  When you fall out of the motivation loop, what do you do to get back in?



  1. Not a runner, just a little old artist lady living in da woods… and! You Go Girl! Your motivational/rallying article works for other things as well. The bit about getting up, one foot in front of another, getting out the door – true for shovelling snow, getting to work, writing. Thanks for sharing… SARK calls these micromovements… and they work! So does putting the schedule up where you see it. May I encourage you to keep on keepin’ on? 🙂

    1. I’d never heard of ‘micromovements’ before, but I love that concept! And I love your comment, reading it brought a huge smile to my face. You are more than welcome to encourage me to keep on keepin’ on, as long as I can do the same for you 🙂

  2. Because I am 6 at heart, I have a calendar that I put gold stars on every time I get my butt out the door for whatever planed workout I have that day. I also get a gold star if I eat the way I’m supposed to. I love seeing my calendar covered in gold stars, which isn’t happening at the moment and frankly, it’s bugging me enough to make a change.

  3. I think that routine helps me when I just don’t feel motivated. If its my routine, then its just something I am going to do instead of thinking whether or not I want to do it. But when you are truly depressed it can be hard. I can see when I was depressed once I’ve come out of it, but I never know I am when I am there. Good luck rallying yourself!

  4. Can’t wait to see what your plan will look like, Emilie! It took me more than a week to put mine together, so give you some time to think about it. Thanks for sharing my thoughts, which actually sound better once you rewrite them!

  5. I think keeping calendars is an excellent idea – especially ones w/gold stars! Another calendar that would be helpful to you at this time is one that shows the countdown of the days left until you start your new job. Or better, a calendar that shows the countdown of days left working with your old boss. Today you have 6 days, after tomorrow you will have 5, etc. It will remind you how the days do go by and cheer you up a little bit!

  6. For me I rally, I get my mind geared to it or my husband says “you know you’ll feel better if you do it” and he’s so right!

    My motivation is me!

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