Motivation Monday: The ‘mandatory minimum’ edition

Mandatory minimum usually refers to punishment. This week, though, it served as a motivational strategy that led to a few workouts that were longer and more intense than I thought I had in me.

It started on Friday, when I woke up early to squeeze in my weekly long run for my Virginia Beach Half-Marathon training. I needed to run somewhere between eight and 10 miles, so I told myself I had to run a minimum of four miles out before turning around, with an option for another mile out if I felt good at that point.

On Saturday, during a relaxed afternoon swim, I told myself I had to swim a minimum of 3X300 free as the main set, followed by a minimum of 4X100 sprint, leading to at least a 3,000-meter workout including a warmup and other sets.

And on Sunday, I told myself I needed to run at least three hill repeats on Park Valley Road, a super-steep .2-mile hill off Sligo Creek Trail, before shuffling—ahem, jogging—home.

The net result: the first 10-miler of my Virginia Beach Half-Marathon training; a 4,750-meter swim that included 7X300 free, sprinting the first 10 strokes of every 50; and six sprints up the steepest hill I’ve found in this area, for a total of one mile—and more than 500 feet in elevation gain—of hill work.

My mandatory minimums took the pressure off each workout. It’s the same idea as telling yourself you only have to make it to the next telephone post on a difficult run— you know you’ll likely be able to run farther once you make it there, but focusing only on a small micro-goal makes the whole run feel less overwhelming.

This is a useful life skill, too. Former OMB director and marathoner Peter Orszag put it this way in my interview with him (in case you missed my Runner’s World interview with him, check it out here):

“Being in a job like this is very similar to running a marathon,” Orszag said. “If you focused on how far you have to go, it would be so stultifying and demoralizing, you would never actually do it.”

What kind of mental tricks do you employ to make workouts seem less overwhelming? And what’s motivating you this week?

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Motivation Monday: The ‘mandatory minimum’ edition

  1. amy

    This is my biggest hurdle right now and am appreciative that so many people are talking/blogging about it this week! I often use the shorter goals within the longer goals trick. I also have a bunch of code words that serve as triggers to think about motivating things. Finally, I do best when I can get lost in the run, not thinking about anything in particular with the miles ticking by. I haven’t figured out a trick to get me there though…yet.

  2. i’ve gotten really bad with bare minimums… some days i’ll literally just go and run my required minimum and then go home and be lazy. but then again, at least it’s better than nothing? (uh, like the complete-nothing i’m doing lately)

    back when i was more disciplined i broke things down a lot. like with repeats – i’d aim for the halfway point; or with a longer run i’d split the run into “sections”.

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