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We all have moments of low motivation. I love exercise and I still periodically feel stuck in a fitness rut. If someone who makes their living encouraging others to exercise can sometimes feel unmotivated, then anyone can.

Instead of feeling deflated by momentary wanes in motivation, use lackluster energy and restlessness as data — a neon sign flashing “Try something new.”

Consider a race.

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Racing will reinvigorate your routine. It requires a structured plan, creates purpose, and makes you feel like an athlete; it builds a “have to–ness” into your workouts. Plus, paying and picking a date creates accountability. Never raced? Start with a 5k run or a “try-a-tri” triathlon. Did a 5k last year? Amp it up. Try a 10k or half marathon.

A few things to keep in mind

Know yourself: Feed on friendly competition? Find people and groups motivating? Race with a friend or sign up for a training group. Solo achiever? Train and race alone. Identify what will make you the most motivated. Do that.

Make goals not wishes: Take the time to “set yourself up for success” — a failure to plan is a plan to fail.

Figure out in advance the WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, and HOW you will train. WHERE and WHEN will you work out? Will you join a gym and use the treadmill? A running group? Need help being accountable? Get a fitness buddy. WHAT exercise will you do? Will you train for a running race? A triathlon? A duathlon? WHEN is race day? Don’t just say, “I will race this summer.” Pick a distance and a date. HOW will you fit in your training? What accommodations do you need to make? Do you need to rearrange who will drive the kids to school? Do you need to block off time during your work day?

Establish long-term and short-term goals. Breaking goals down into smaller, more manageable pieces can help you avoid feeling overwhelmed. Your long-term goal might be a half marathon. Targeted short-term goals could then be a 5k race in 8 weeks, a 10k race in 12 weeks, and a half marathon in 6 months.

Learn from yourself and others. Have you been sidelined by an injury? If so, consider implementing a targeted “pre-hab” for that weak link. Raced before and been successful? What did you do well? Work to replicate those choices. Learn from others — read appropriate literature, talk to successful friends, etc. Implement any strategies that speak to you and your lifestyle.

Don’t JUST run!!! Running is a fantastic full-body, do-anywhere, efficient, effective, and accessible — not to mention exhilarating and highly addictive — workout. It offers the potential for gradual progression and never-ending fitness goals.

Running is also hard on the body. The repetitive nature stresses your joints, tendons, and ligaments. Cross-train, strength train, do core work, stretch, and maximize the recovery process by prioritizing sleep, hydration, nutrition, and self-massage techniques such as the foam roller.

Consider a triathlon: In a triathlon you swim, bike, and run, which means built-in cross training. Don’t be intimidated by the three sports — there are many short races. Start with a try-a-tri (usually 350-metre swim, 10-kilometre bike, three-kilometre run) or a sprint-distance triathlon (usually 750-metre swim, 20-kilometre bike, five-kilometre run).

Progress gradually: Always give your body time to adapt. Build the intensity, frequency, and duration of your workouts up gradually. Space out your workouts. Newbie runners should run two to three times a week on non-consecutive days.

Have plans and goals — but be flexible. Know your health “destination” — such as improved health and/or a particular race — but “re-route” as needed. Training derailed and can’t make your intended race pace? Run with a slower friend — pace them. Roadblocks are an inherent part of the health process. Take each bump in-stride. Learn from the experience and course correct as quickly as possible.

Kathleen Trotter is a fitness expert and overall health enthusiast. In her new book YOUR FITTEST FUTURE SELF: Making Choices Today for a Happier, Healthier, Fitter Future You [Dundurn Press | January 2019] she takes a functional approach to personal fitness and helps readers learn how to effectively factor their OWN personal health, work/home schedule, and overall lifestyle into their overall fitness plan and goals in order to achieve their “fittest future self.”

By Kathleen Trotter

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