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“Any Excuse!”

It’s a phrase we often hear – usually making fun of someone, sometimes harsher to the point of ridicule or berating. I am going to use it a little bit differently here to highlight that your motivation doesn’t have to come from some grand purpose. Indeed when motivation is proving tough to find desperately searching, or worse waiting around, for some grand passion to take hold of you is really such a drain on your energy that it is likely to be counter productive.

Look, trying to achieve a massive goal from a standing start is incredibly difficult and very few people are gifted with either the talent or drive to do that. Instead we break our goal down into manageable chunks, “baby steps”, achieve the next level and keep raising or targets or goals as we progress. Relating these smaller tasks to an overall goal can be difficult as they can seem so far apart. This can apply to anything; academic studies, career goals, fitness or weight loss to name but a few. So how do you find your motivation to get up and take the next step?

My simple answer is don’t going looking for something deep and meaningful. If you have deep and passionate reasons that’s great and you probably don’t need to read anymore of this. For the rest of us mere mortals getting going can be a real struggle and we are often adept at finding reasons not to. So apply the same logic – any excuse will do. That is, instead of any excuse not to, use any excuse you can find to do something.

I want to relate an example to you of how I have managed to maintain regular exercise over the last year or so and in particular the first six months of 2019 using Strava, a social fitness network, that is primarily used to track cycling and running exercises.

First off I want to make clear I am no athlete and have no desires or pretences to be one. I am an ordinary 52 year old male with a wife, young children and a job. I also lost both my father and grandfather to heart attacks a couple of years either side of the age of 60 – so perhaps do have a grand goal in mind – staying alive.

A really useful feature of Strava is the Challenge section. Strava hosts regular monthly challenges for running and riding specific distances, overall distance and ascent in a given month. On top of these regular challenges are ad hoc often sponsored challenges. Completing these challenges earns you a digital “trophy” badge on your profile page and in the case of sponsored challenges often the chance to win some goodies from the sponsor.

So back to me and 2019. As we stand at the 30th June 2019 I have accumulated 76 challenge trophy badges for running and cycling. That’s an average of 2.9 per week and certainly no mean feat. I have also completed at least one 10km run every month since October 2015. Yes I know lots of “proper athletes” will say “oh they are so easy I won’t even bother” or “yeh I could have claimed all of those with the mileage I do anyway”. BUT and it is a big but that is not the point. If you are already doing 1200km of cycling per month you probably aren’t the person who needs motivating to get off the sofa to go for a ride and also have plenty of time to devote to it.

I am not that person, I am at work, doing the school run, taxiing children to various extra curricular activities etc. so I fit things in when I can. Strava Challenges have been a massive boost to that. Look I am not over shooting the targets for these challenges by much and certainly not troubling the leader boards, but I am out there getting my exercise regularly even on the days I don’t much feel like it.

To bag trophies across running and riding I have to switch between the two regularly in order to time my activities to achieve the current challenge I am signed up for. It keeps things interesting. I used to mostly run in winter and ride in the summer – now I am constantly mixing things up throughout the year and am in probably the best shape I’ve been in for years without getting jaded.

The next Strava badge has become my “any excuse”. They have no value to anyone except me. In fact individually they have no intrinsic value even to me. But that next challenge, the intrigue of what is coming next, the how can I fit in 30km of running by the end of next week when I also need to ride 100km is what keeps it interesting and keeps me ticking over, regularly getting out there and doing something.

So don’t wait for or look for something really important – find any excuse you can and milk it because mostly the doing is more important than the why.

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