Strategies for coping with the hardest moment in running: getting out the door
We love to run. But sometimes getting started feels insurmountable. We put it off in the morning, resolve to do it at noon and put it off again. What gives?
Chrisoula Andreou, editor of the book Thief of Time, says the type of procrastination that delays running is different from the sort that holds up, say, cleaning out the car. Because training builds toward long-term goals, runners tell themselves that any given day off won’t likely have much impact. Avoidance associated with short-term pursuits is easier to combat because the reward is more immediate.
Even the best runners are guilty of dillydallying. „I’m the worst offender,“ says Chris Solinsky, five-time NCAA champion and former U.S. 10,000m record-holder. On a cold, easy-run day when he has no training partner, „Anything and everything to do around the house takes precedence over getting out the door,“ he says. Andrew Bumbalough, fourth in the 5,000m at the 2012 Olympic trials, wages war with inertia when it’s time to go out for a second run and no one’s counting on him to show up. „Just getting dressed is the hard part,“ he says.
Getting out the door even when you don’t want to may represent one of the hallmarks of the serious runner, once in a great while, you might give yourself over to inertia. Procrastination advocate Frank Partnoy, whose book Wait considers the advantages of delaying, believes that runners–and he is one–sometimes are wise to hold off a little if the thought of running evokes a paroxysm of dread. Delaying is a form of listening to your body. „Figure out the maximum amount of time you can delay, and then wait as long as you possibly can during that period of time,“ he says. Waiting allows you to assess more data and may lead you to a wiser decision.
For those times when you want and need to run but can’t find the gumption, here is what some top runners do to overcome routine procrastination–or what Andreou calls a „voluntary act of self-defeating behavior:“
Make a date.
Holding yourself accountable to another runner is the single most popular tactic for ensuring a daily workout. „Meeting people is the easiest way to battle procrastination,“ says Solinsky, and many other serious runners. Even if you’re the only one showing up, setting a specific time for your run will keep you from waiting for the spirit to move you out the door.
Set yourself up to make the run as nondeliberative as possible. „The key for me is not to think too much about the choices–course, pace, etc.–until I am out the door,“ says Kim Jones, a distance-running legend.
Give yourself an incentive.
For those easy second runs that Bumbalough struggles to start, he allows himself the luxury of listening to music. „I used to be anti-music while running, but now I let myself cheat a little bit,“ he says.
Find fellow procrastinators.
When the morning has come and gone and the run has yet to be tackled, send out a message to others to see who else might be dithering. Tom Ratcliffe, a 2:14 marathoner in the ’90s and now an agent at KIMbia for elite distance runners, fights his tendency to dawdle by sending out midday email requests to fellow runners, in search of a partner.
Invest the goal with more significance.
Convince yourself that today’s run is essential to achieving your goal, even if the workout in question is a pedestrian-paced 6 miles. Better still, consider the typically delayed run a test of will and self-control. Adding weight to any particular run’s worth makes it „more momentous and thus less likely to be put off, Andreou says.
„Somewhere in the world someone is training when you are not. When you race him, he will win.“
– Tom Fleming, two-time NYC Marathon champ