Why Runners Need To Grind It Out

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We all have times when we don’t feel like doing our running work out. However, it’s important that us runners grind it out and do our workouts even when we aren’t in the mood. In this post, you’ll hear my thoughts on why runners need to grind it out.

Sometimes I just don’t feel like running

I have run at least one mile every single day since New Year’s Eve 2018. Today has been my 727th day of consecutive running. You might think that, given this impressive streak, I’m always hugely motivated to get up and do my daily workout.

As much as I wish I had endless bounds of motivation to have kept up this daily minimum of one mile every single day without a problem, some days I just don’t feel like it.

Like everyone else, I occasionally have lapses in my motivation and would rather be doing something else. Sometimes I’d rather watch a Netflix series, read a Charles Dickens novel (yes, really), play Fifa on my Xbox One or go on a YouTube marathon for the afternoon.

We all have times when we don’t feel like running

Even though I know I should slip into my Mizunos, chuck my sports headphones in and head out the door for my planned workout, I encounter a mental resistance which makes doing so tough.

I’m 100% sure I’m not alone in this willpower conundrum. Lacking motivation and willpower is a problem that affects all runners at some point or another in their careers.

Why do we sometimes not feel like running?

Sometimes, we’d much rather be doing this than running.

We know that we should be productive by putting in the run and that by doing so we will advance our own interests in the long-term. These interests are in the form of our unique running goals and can be anything from losing 2 stone to finishing a sub-3-hour 30-minute marathon.

We are well aware that by sticking to our running regime, we will edge a little nearer to accomplishing our goal but, for some reason, we are just not in the mood. Why is this?

It’s all to do with our brain and its innate preference for instant gratification over hard work. This is a biological mechanism that has evolved in us to favour immediate rewards rather than acting logically to work for a long-term benefit.

Rather than going for a run, which our brain may view as a difficult task requiring physical effort and exertion, our brain innately prefers the quick reward of chilling out and doing something pleasurable.

This concept applies to many areas in our lives. Ever intended to start a work project but been distracted by surfing the net for hours? You may want to eat healthier but choose a chocolate gateau over broccoli when given the choice. These are just two examples of our natural tendency towards instant gratification in our daily lives.

On days when this natural preference for instant gratification is strong, it can feel like a mental battle with your brain to muster up the willpower to get kitted up and go for a run. In these difficult times, it’s particularly important that us runners grind it out and do the run anyway.

What does it mean to grind it out?

Grinding it out means overcoming our innate desire for instant gratification and its immediate rewards in favour of putting the hard work in for long-term meaningful results.

It means setting aside the urge to watch a TV series, scroll through social media on your smartphone or lie in for an extra hour, to instead focus on the pursuit of important goals.

‘Only the disciplined ones are free in life. If you are undisciplined, you are a slave to your moods’Eliud Kipchoge

Why runners need to grind it out

In our running lives, the most worthwhile goals that we want to accomplish are only possible by grinding it out. Therefore, it’s extremely important that you learn to grind it out and put in the work even when you don’t want to.

One key difference between average and great runners is that great runners run all the time. Even when they’re not inspired. Average runners, on the other hand, will happily postpone their workout because ‘it’s raining’ or ‘it’s too cold’ or they’re ‘tired’ or they ‘want to stay in’ bed or a whole host of other excuses.

Do you think that Mo Farah gives a planned training session a miss when he’d rather stay in bed drinking coffee? Of course not. If he made a habit of putting off his runs, he’d stop qualifying for major competitions due to a notable decline in performance. Instead, Mo Farah and all great runners grind it out and put the work in day in day out even when they don’t feel like it.

The same principle of working all the time, even when uninspired, applies to creative types. There’s a misconception that those that are creative can only produce excellent work when they’re ‘inspired.’ This is simply not the case.

Professional writers, artists, musicians, directors, and actors will put work into their craft whether they’re inspired or not. If they only worked when they were inspired (say once a week), their output would be significantly less than someone who worked five times a week regardless of inspiration levels.

What’s more, the professional who grinds it out and does five bouts of work per week will have significantly more practice than the one working on an ‘inspiration only’ basis. Who do you think will have more success out of the two? It’s the same with us as runners; we need to grind it out and work whether we feel like it or not as, by doing so, we get more practice and become better in the long run.

A nice thing about making the decision to grind it out, even when you’re not in the mood, is that you will typically find yourself rising to the occasion. Even though you might not be overjoyed at the thought of running during the willpower battle, you’ll usually find yourself performing well after starting and you’re a mile or two in.

What tends to happen is that we mistake a lack of willpower for a lack of physical readiness to put in a decent running performance. Nine times out of ten, this isn’t the case.

Personally, I’m not normally able to tell the difference in performance data on my sports watch in a session where I’ve been demotivated compared to one where I’ve been inspired to run. This means that, by grinding it out, we can still get a decent workout in despite the lack of willpower.

Sure, running isn’t as fun when we’re not inspired or massively motivated to get going. However, we can’t have fun all the time in our lives as unfortunate as that sounds. There will be times when you will need to grind your runs out despite not having a massive desire because you know the long-term pay off of achieving your running goals will be worth the work.

Runners who grind it out when they’re not motivated to workout will outperform those that give into the short-term allures of instant gratification. Learn to grind it out and it will be much more likely that you will achieve your running goals.

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