The second most popular question I am asked, after “what nationality are you?” is “what motivates you to keep training hard year after year?” I’m Cuban and Italian and I was basically born motivated (and angry) however, when I really think about the longevity of my training, I can narrow it down to a few things.
One: I Love It
I don’t wake up every morning excited to train. Ok, fine so most mornings I do but, I go though a lot of downs, lack of motivation and general feelings of blah toward my training. I also definitely have that little voice in my head saying:
You’re too old
You’re doing too much
You should get a grown-up job (i.e. make more money)
You’re never going to the Olympics so what’s the point?
But, I simply ignore it and realize how very lucky I am that, after all these years, I still love to lace up my running shoes, or strap on my bike helmet or suction my goggles to my face and get after it!
That is the best way I can explain it – I just simply love to swim, bike and run.
Two: Training Helps Manage My Anxiety
I just recently read All is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker. There is a passage in the book that talks about people with generalized anxiety disorders and I’ve never heard it described quite so perfectly:
“We are all (most of us) at times overwhelmed by our feelings. Think about the first time you fell in love or the first moment you saw your newborn baby. Perhaps you experienced profound fear in some kind of near accident, or extreme rage when someone hurt you or your family intentionally. You might go days without eating much, without sleeping through the night, without having control of your thoughts as they fixated on the source of the disruption to normal life. You may think you feel “happy” if the source of the disruption is positive – “falling in love,” for example. But it is not happiness. […] Actual “happiness” is when you sleep though the night next to your new love, knowing she is here to stay. Imagine never getting out of that settled place after a disruption, and instead feeling that new, powerful emotion all the time.”
While my anxiety is not severe, I feel like I live in a constant “unsettled” state. I’m always thinking after X,Y, or Z happens I will be able to relax. Well, X,Y and Z have come and gone several times over and I can never seem to fully relax…unless I’m training hard. It’s truly the only time (besides sleep) when I’m completely and totally relaxed, when my brain is focused only on the task at hand and I can think of nothing but exactly what I’m doing in that moment.
After a hard workout or race I always feel more relaxed, more in control and better able to handle whatever is on the agenda for the day.
And, if you have ever read anything about helping to control the symptoms of anxiety, the very first thing on the list is always exercise. Check.
Three: Time Management
I want to be very clear about this piece of my training puzzle. I do not have a full-time job that requires me to be in an office building during certain, specified hours. My kids are 7 years-old and no longer need round the clock care and are often at camp or in school for several hours a day. My freelance job offers a great deal of freedom in my schedule and, most of the time, I can control my work flow.
That said, I get up at 5am every morning to get two hours (hopefully) of uninterrupted work time. After I bring the boys to camp I do 1-2 hours of training before heading home to do more work. After I pick up the boys in the afternoon I spend time with them and then do laundry, cleaning, meal prep, etc.
Yes, I have a lot more freedom than someone who has a 8-5 job in an office building however, I have also had that kind of job and was up at 4:00am running or going to the gym. I can tell you that if I needed or wanted a full-time job I would do it all over again and somehow fit in my training.
I have trained though vacations, kids being sick, and many family and friend commitments by waking up before any human being should, to get my training in. There are people out there who work three jobs, manage four kids and train for an Ironman.
My point is, you can do it if you want to do it, regardless of your schedule.
Four: My Health
My mom died from cancer when I was 17. The thought of leaving my kids before I have the opportunity to watch them grow up, is one of my biggest fears. When my mom was my age, she spent most of her time getting chemo treatments in a hospital. She could never run or cycle or swim.
I train for my mom, who never could.
I train for my kids so they see what healthy living means.
I train for myself.
I train for life.
[Tweet “The key to my #training #longevity is these 4 things! #train4life”]
Why do you train?
What is your biggest motivator?
Absolutely freaking YES! I especially like – if you want to do it, you can do it. There’s really no excuse. There’s always someone busier than you that can get it done. Why not you?
Totally! Every time I want to whine I think about the Ironman athletes who get that shit done, no matter what! I mean, their training IS a full time job!!
This is is so so lovely to me <3
and I need to hear what you are saying about the general unsettled state as I think that is someone in my life and, since I dont feel that way, Im not as compassionate as I could be.
More exercise or SOMETHING like that could help him as well.
Thank you so much Carla and yes, being unsettled all the time can be especially hard to people around us! I think it’s very important for the person feeling anxious to find a management tool or outlet for the anxiety. I’m here to discuss further anytime!!
I can relate to training helping my anxiety as well. I feel like I’m better able to relax when I train consistently. I have high cortisol so training and keeping a routine helps me lower that.
I love this post because as athletes, we do get the questions of “what keeps us going”. Motivation truly runs in our blood.
YES!…to everything you said 🙂
I love this post. Although I am no where near your level of athlete, I completely agree with you. No excuses!
I too, lost my mom at an early age and vowed to live a healthy lifestyle. I was too young to lose my mom and my kids for sure missed out on having an awesome grandmother.
I ran all my marathons while raising 3 busy kids, working and taking care of the household stuff. Getting up early, making exercise a priority, was the key for me. My kids asking, “Mom, how was your run?” was and is the norm for us.
I never felt guilty because I knew it made me a better mom. Now they are all young adults and they all go to the gym, run, or do something active on a regular basis. That makes me happy.
YES!!!! You are a shining example of exactly what I am talking about. It does not matter what level we are on, only that we get after it every single day. I especially love that you ran guilt free – a rarity. Good for you Ginny!!!
Love it and love all the reasons to remove excuses! Thank you friend!!
You know it!
Kind of interesting because several of us have posted variations on the theme of aging/longevity today. I do run/workout to chase away old age. But lately age is winning…or maybe it’s life and I’m using age as an excuse? Whatever it is, I need to get back on top of it.
I have no doubt you will!
I think so many of us “masters” runners/athletes think about this because, as the years pass, there are fewer of us out there! Keep fighting the good fight Wendy and running will be there for you when you need it.
It’s so interesting to hear what motivates other athletes, especially ones like you who are so inspiring! I love your no-excuses approach and your pure love of running, swimming, and biking.
I don’t tend to be a very anxious person, but running does help me cope on the days where I just get too down about the world. Running produces such a calming but also empowering affect upon the mind.
I think you live in an especially calm-provoking environment. I mean, how can you look out at those mountains and not feel a little less stressed? They have a way of putting our world into perspective and I only hope I can come there and run them with you someday 🙂
Love what you wrote; in honesty comes clarity and strength to push forward. Thank you for being you and an amazing example of perseverance! #miyagistrong
YES! You know you have always been an inspiration to me and are the reason why I loved passing on my love of running to anyone who was open to it. xoxo
This is my favourite post of yours yet! I love how you wrote that you were basically born angry. LOL! And YES to all of the anxiety points, and pretty much yes to everything you wrote. I feel like we share a brain.
You are the freakin BEST!!! You are my sister from another mister for sure. #BornAngry
So much awesomeness in this post!!! Gah!
I’m with you 100% on all this. Before my back fusion, I trained martial arts in my teen years to deal with my scoliosis and also anxiety. And rage lol. I trained hard because I had a lot of pain in my body and anxiety. The training helped numb my mind and felt good. After I had my full spine fused, I slowly got back into serious stuff but walked every single day for two years till I could do more. Waking became my training because I didn’t want to be like anyone else, at home feeling like cray. I wanted to feel good and show myself what I’ve got.
When I got pregnant I didn’t want that slow me down, but I became hyper aware of how much more important it was to take care of not just my body but also my brain. I got diagnosed with thyroid cancer during my first trimester and after a month of depression I finally decided to seize life by the balls.
I’m training for life, for me, for anyone who doesn’t think it’s possible. We don’t know when our expiration date is so I intend to feel good for as long as possible!!!
Yes, yes and hell yes!!!!! Running and training has been such a constant for you and ALL you have endured. It was a reason to push forward and the reason why you were so willing to push! You are the definition of strength and toughness my friend and your daughter is so lucky to have you as an example of what a woman is! xo
This post has it all… motivation, reality check and a touching story to remind us of how fragile life is and how we need to value it! Thank you for this amazing post!
Anxiety.. anxiety and it’s ugly face! I’m going across the internet spreading the word of Jenny Lawson and her fantastic books. Have you ever read her? She make me laugh and cry in the same page with her way too real anxiety stories.
Thank you so much Ana and NO!? Googling Jenny Lawson now…
I absolutely love everything about this Allie! I can definitely relate to all of your points. After awhile the training becomes part of who you are, and yes, there’s always a way to make the time for something we really want to accomplish!
It definitely becomes just part of who you are and I love how you can relate to that!
Thanks so much Marcia.
There is soooo much I love in this post… the anxiety quote… that was actually sort of me and more so my husband for a long time… when this and this pass, then I’ll relax. But there is always something… always the next stressor, so learning to relax is key!! And you have to enjoy the exercise… I learned to enjoy it. And please, do not explain away your ability to train with not working a typical full time job, etc. You are getting up at 5 am to get it done… you are making it a priority… It’s hard when babies are not sleeping through the night, but after that, it is doable.
Yes – there is ALWAYS something and I’m working on relaxing more even when I’m not exercising…whenever that is?
And THANK YOU 1,000 times over for saying I don’t have to explain away my ability to train while not working full time. I feel like I constantly need to since people will often reference my “lack of work/schedule” as the reason for my successful training. Not even. xoxo
Let’s high five to anxiety!!! And have a drink! lol sometimes I think I want a tshirt that says “fueled by anxiety and pixie dust”
This – I love all of this. The quote re anxiety definitely speaks to me and the whole idea that once this passes, I’ll relax. Yup, still waiting for that to happen. Exercising is the only time when my mind actually quiets down (except when I’m running on the treadmill – then those inner voices get super loud!!). And #4 – 100% yes. xo
Thanks so much Christine and I’m so sorry to hear you are home from vacation. I’m sure those voices will be working overtime until the boys go back to school! Just keeping looking at your pictures and taking deep breaths!
This is a great post. Btw you should do an ancestry dna test. I thought I was Spanish and Puerto Rican. Turns out I have a lot more going on. When I get anxious/very worrisome, I think of a quote from Mark Twain: “Some of the worst things in my life never happened.”
So deep and transparent:) I love hearing about the Allie behind the phenom! The sacrifices, the hardship, the passion and dedication to making it all work, very cool.
Absolutely YES to #1. I love it too! I get the same ?s, and, -when are you going to grow up?- Never I hope, if it means no longer being impassioned.
No to #2. I’ve learned to let go of ALL anxieties, not that I had many at any time in my life to begin with. I think it all started on my 1st jump in the military, especially since the story of a paratrooper falling to his death when his ‘chute candled, just a week b4 my 1st jump.
As I was falling through the air praying my chute would deploy, It hit me like a ton of bricks that i control nothing so may as well enjoy to death the ride down b4 hitting the ground. I’m sure that when my chute deployed above my head is when I dropped into living in the present. The future will always come of its own accord, I’ll deal with it then, no need to worry about it now, it’s a waste of brain power!
Yes to #3. I can always better manage my time after I’ve scheduled training, or actually trained, for the day. The earlier, the better. It’s the only time the brain can shut off and go elemental, while still being conscious (unlike sleep). Training IS meditation, we know that You and I.
A great BIG YES to #4. Without your health you have nothing, sickness will consume you, and it will affect all your loved ones around you as well. I’ve watched my Father become a shell of a once vibrant man from Alzheimer’s, and I want to stack everything in my favor.
I’ve only lived half my life so far; so I plan to be around for a hell of a long time, and totally healthy; but again, you control nothing, however you can attempt to skew the outcome in your favor by your actions in the present.
Then again, I might get run over by a Mack truck on my run tonight, so who knows? I’ll deal with it then!; but right now I’ll refuel with a Margarita:)
Love this post! I totally agree that working out just makes me feel GREAT. Exercise endorphins are no joke, and I’m addicted to em!
Your training is extremely inspiring to ME. Very very much so.
I could read myself in nearly every work of this post. Especially the anxiety bit. I think this may be one of my bigger reasons…marathon training gives me structure and something I can control. And at the end of the day there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good healthy sweat!! Thanks for this post. <3
Training helps my anxiety too. Which is why I stay active most of the time.
The greatest post I have read. So many of these same thoughts run through my head. You are so strong and determined. Your mom would be so very proud!
The greatest? WOW! Thank you so much Sandra. Your words really mean a lot to me and I hope you know that!! xoxo
Love this post. I don’t necessarily think I struggle with anxiety, but I am definitely a very high stress person, so running is totally my outlet. I feel totally at peace and relaxed and allow myself to just be when I’m running. It’s very cathartic!! I can’t imagine not having that part of my life!