How do we convince ourselves to do something we’d rather not?
It’s cold and raining outside, but I’m supposed to go for a training run today. I really don’t want to. To get myself out the door, here are the kinds of things that go through my head, and ways we can all think about approaching any difficult task that we’d really rather not do.
If you prefer to listen, check out the podcast version. Otherwise, scroll on.
…and I seem to have two choices: run and get wet, or don’t run and stay dry. The forecast is predicting a cold drizzle all day long; waiting it out is not an option.
I could question whether I really need to do this particular run at all. It would be easy to say that I don’t:
- It’s not a critical session – not the long Saturday endurance run or the Thursday speed session. It’s just one of those steady runs where I run a lot to build the strength to be able to run a lot.
- It’s only one run; how important is one run out of hundreds?
- It’s only a few miles; how critical are they in the context of thousands?
- Maybe I could do something else productive with that time.
This may be reasoning enough to take a pass, and it’s tempting. But that’s not really all that’s at stake here, is it?
Other Things to Consider
There’s another set of muscles that’s involved in this workout. Not in my legs, lungs, or heart, but in my head.
Our will is a kind of muscle, and it’s times like these when we can either train it to grow stronger, or allow it to atrophy. Sit this run out, and my brain loses muscle tone. Run, and I’ve flexed my will-power, and made it a little bit stronger.
Then there’s self-respect. Every Monday I plan my week; the plan for Tuesday was to run. That’s what is required to meet my long-term goals. Now that it’s Tuesday, I have a choice to make. If I don’t run, it’s like breaking a promise to myself, like telling my earlier self that those ideas and plans were meaningless, a waste of time. Run, and I affirm my self-image and confirm my own integrity.
And then there’s the future. It’s quite possible that it will also rain on another running day. Skip today, and it becomes easier to skip the next one, and the next. Like removing blocks from a Jenga tower, soon the entire structure threatens to topple. Run, and I’m adding blocks to the foundation, making it stronger. The next time it rains, I will remember that I was strong enough to run when it rained, and I will run again.
Success leads to success.
But What About the Rain?
These may all be good reasons to run, but still, it’s chilly. I’ll get wet. My shoes will be soaked and I’ll have to dry them out. The ground could be slippery; the trails will be muddy. It’s going to be a hassle, and possibly even dangerous.
Sure, but the objective was to run miles. The plan didn’t say which miles. If it were really nasty out, I could drive to the gym and use a treadmill. If not, I can still modify the route, pick one that covers the distance but avoids the mud, keeps me out of flooded areas. The rain is not a reason, it’s an excuse.
Not long after moving to Minnesota, a running friend shared with me a local perspective on the climactic extremes here: “there is no such thing as bad weather, only poor clothing choices.”
Maybe he’s right – I could put on another layer, do what I can to protect myself from the elements, and then get out there.
I don’t control the weather, but I do control how I respond to it.
Preparing for Race Day
Then there’s this: What if it IS raining next Thursday for my speed session, or on long-run Saturday? What if it’s raining on race day? Will I just not run then, too?
One race I’m preparing for next year is the Boston Marathon. It is famous for unpredictable weather on race day – stifling heat one year, frigid rain the next. How will I perform if I only trained on balmy days in the sunshine? Or only on days with a tailwind? Or only on flat roads?
To run well in a rainy race, I need to learn to run well in the rain. What to wear, what to carry, what to do with my glasses when they fog up – everything. Then, if it’s raining on race day, I’m ready.
As a person and a leader, I’d like to think of myself as one who thrives when things get hard, not one who folds the tent and goes home when clouds appear on the horizon. This is my chance to prove to myself that it’s true.
And if it’s not raining, well then it will seem all the easier.
Find the Fun
One more thing about the rain: it always seems worse when we are looking at it from a place of dry comfort. But once outside, it’s not so bad; the hardest steps are the first few. After a couple minutes, we barely notice it.
Growing up I used to walk a half-mile to school every day (no, not uphill both ways in the snow!). I remember one afternoon in particular walking home through a great downpour – rivers of water overflowed the curb; whirlpools circled the sewer covers; cars resembled tugboats plowing through restless brown water. Once I accepted that I was going to get wet, walking home in it was a blast. I waded and kicked and splashed and jumped my way through the neighborhood, appearing on my doorstep drenched from head to toe, and grinning from ear to ear.
Maybe today’s little rain is a chance to see if that joyous boy is still in me somewhere. Maybe the rain isn’t a problem at all; maybe it’s a chance to have fun. Even if it happens to be Type 2 Fun.
Running in the Rain – The Takeaway
It might seem easy to rationalize not running today. But the more I think about it, the easier it is to see that I should run. That I need to run. Particularly because it is raining.
We all have different “runs” that we are trying to get done, and the “rain” in our way can take many forms. Often, we are tempted to stray from our plans, or see obstacles as barriers keeping us from progressing. But instead of using them as excuses to justify not starting, look for the many reasons that it is more important than ever to get started right now.
I’m going to run today because that’s how you train to be a good runner. I’m going to run today because I told myself I would, and it will make me stronger as a person and leader. I’m going to run in the rain because I don’t want the variables to control me. I’m going to run in the rain so I’ll be ready for whatever comes on race day. And I’m going to run today, in the rain, to rediscover the joy of running in the rain.
In fact, now I can’t wait to get started. Whatever your “run” is today, I hope you are anxious to get started, too.
I’ll see you out on the trails. Dress appropriately!
Note: For more ideas on how to set and achieve your goals, check out my Goal Mastery Course; the first several lessons are free.
Credit: Jenga Tower Gif by Jorge Barrios – Public Domain