Here is a Fun Fact about me: If I am interested in something, I am really, really into it. If I’m not interested, there’s almost nothing I can do to make myself get interested. I can’t decide if that means I have to leave “self-motivated” off my resume or not. Perhaps I could amend it to “self-motivated, but only by internal forces”.
This quirk of my personality has ups and downs. I get bored easily with mundane tasks, but genuine curiosity about a subejct can make me an expert. I can read piles of books on the subject and never be tired of it, becase I want to know more. Sometimes I wish my interests were a little more lucrative- why can’t I be interested in, say, flipping houses or managing corporate empires, instead of running and knitting? For the most part though, I’m trying to make peace with it. Following what fascinates me has taken me to some fun, interesting and unusual places in life, and I’m grateful for that. In some ways, it’s a great gift to have passions that don’t generate any income- that means that I have the freedom to pursue what I find inspiring.
Very early into my running journey, I read a chapter in The Complete Book of Running for Women called “Finding Motivation”. My eyes started rolling involuntarily. I already knew that if I wasn’t already feeling plenty motivated pre-run, I would most likely skip the motivational tips… and the run. Not long after that, I read The Summit Seeker by Vanessa Runs and found this quote to be more in line with my feelings: “I am saddened when I see articles with headlines like, Run Less, Run Faster! If you want to run less, you should just run less. Running is not supposed to be a chore. It likely isn’t your full-time job. If it doesn’t bring you joy and renewal, why waste your time?” (Not coincidentally, The Summit Seeker is probably my favorite book on running.)
I recently encountered a dry spell in my interest in running, as one might have guessed by several weeks of blog silence. It’s hard to determine the exact cause, but I suspect it had something to do with a couple deeply unpleasant runs. I felt incredibly accomplished after my first 20 minute run, but just days later I had major digestive distress on a shorter run and had to turn back. The next run, I decided to try for a longer run but with intervals of 3 minutes running, 1 minute walking. Since I was taking all those walking breaks, I pushed myself to run at a much faster pace than usual… and burned out at the halfway point. I was humbled to realize thats so far, I have set myself up for continued success by keeping a slow-but-steady pace. Just slightly faster made me feel like my progress wasn’t much progress at all.
Taking “a couple days off” to recover stretched into two long weeks. I thought about running all the time, but I just couldn’t bring myself to strap on my shoes. I wish I could say that throwing my training schedule to the wind was a great vacation for my legs, but truthfully it wasn’t much fun. I felt stressed and unhappy, like I was letting myself down. Intellectually, I knew that most people face periods of non-interest in their hobbies, but my running habit still feels very new and tenuous. I’ve been knitting for more than a decade now, so if I go through a few weeks or even months without picking up the needles, I can be reasonably sure that I’ll eventually get started again. Not so with this running thing that I’m less than six months into.
What would it mean about me if I never felt like running again? For one thing, it would mean I have two very expensive pairs of moisture wicking pants in my closet for no good reason. For another, I would have to stop telling friends, family, co-workers, and random people on the street that I’ve been training for a 5K. Oh, and I would definitely have to delete my running blog and pretend it never happened.
Luckily, I’ve been myself long enough to know that the best course of action is to simply wait the dry spells out. Forcing the issue just incites rebellion. I’m happy to report that the urge did come back, and I’m working on keeping it around by pushing just hard enough, and running first thing in the morning before life has a chance to get in the way. I am not a morning person, so knowing that I care enough about running to get up a little earlier for it makes me feel a lot more confident that those moisture wicking pants won’t be a total loss, after all.