"Good Brain - Good Bod: How To Get and Stay Motivated!"

author : malvey
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How to motivate yourslef into habit forming triathlon training goals.

At the Total Immersion swimming workshop in Chicago last month, we received T-Shirts as a part of our “graduation.” The shirts say, “No Brain… No Gain.” The coaching staff had been wearing the shirts throughout the workshop. When I first saw them, I did a double take. Isn’t it supposed to be, “No pain no gain?”

Actually, TI has it right. Terry Laughlin, the founder of Total Immersion, has perfected a system whereby a set of specific and easy set of skills leads step by step to dramatically improved swimming. You master the skills through drills, thinking through the steps carefully. Each set of drills has specific focus points that lead to successful swimming. Good brain leads to good body in the water.

What Motivation is not:

Motivation is not emotion. As I look back over three decades of pizza, suds, and a remote on my favorite couch, I clearly recall having a motivation problem. I can’t begin to count the times I would say to myself “I just can’t seem to get myself going,”. The “hook” on my couch that had such a rigid hold of my derriere was the sense that I needed to “feel” like getting active. It was as though motivation had to come from emotion – and frankly, I didn’t have those super good feelings I supposed would show up to get me motivated. Like I was supposed to wake up one day with this, “Wow, what a feeling! All of a sudden this morning, I just want to get out there and put in a hard workout!”

There’s the genesis of the “Bad Brain, Bad Body,” syndrome. Richard Benyo in his book, “Running Past 50,” does a masterful job of taking apart what he calls, “Bad Bod Syndrome and Bad Brain Disease.” My brain had been sitting around waiting for emotion to come and fuel my motivation and my body – well, it literally sat around waiting for motivation. The motivation was a persistent no show.

Motivation is not wishing and promising. Most people in America have said something like, “I wish I was thinner,” or, “I wish I was more athletic.” Promises frequently follow the wishing. “Starting Monday, I am going to…” Promises that are rooted in wishing never get off the ground. Have you noticed since the beginning of the year how those ads for weight loss programs and exercise equipment have begun to slow down. Right about New Year’s resolution time, Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig and exercise equipment manufacturers spent millions on advertising. The push began to taper off in mid-February and will get back to normal by the end of March. Millions are made on the wish dreams of those resolutions and great deals are to be had for exercise equipment for those who patiently search the classified ads from about July until December.

What Motivation is:

Motivation comes from setting reasonable short and long term goals. In the first days after my coronary scare, my short term goal was to be able to walk two miles at a brisk pace. My long term goal was to develop the ability to run a 10k race. I had about 50 pounds to lose. That was a killer thought, so I decided on 10 five pound diets. Short term, five pounds, long term ten of those which translated to 50 pounds. The real long term goal was to be able to get myself to a place where the word “triathlon” and Malvey used in the same sentence did not send my family into fits of uncontrollable laughter. Goal setting and not emotion is the first building block of getting and staying motivated.

Motivation comes from habit formation. A friend of mine has done a good deal of research on habit formation. The result? It takes six to eight weeks to imprint a new habit. Grab hold of this next part. It is critical that you drag, scold, promise, or do whatever it takes to get your body out of bed, or during lunch – whenever – to some kind of physical activity. It is much more important to do this every day for six to eight weeks regardless of how much your brain and body might want to resist. Doing it is more important than how long you do it! Still with me? If you get up fifteen minutes early five days out of the week for six weeks and walk for ten minutes a day the first week than add just 60 seconds a day for the remaining five weeks, I promise you that your 35 minute daily walk will provide a motivational foundation that will translate into a fitness lifestyle. You build from this point on and your short range and long range goals kick in here to provide the content of your physical activity. You will discover that instead of your body crying out for the couch, it will fuss at you when a workout has to be missed. The bad brain disease will absolutely turn around and instead of providing excuses to opt out of the promises to change, your mind will be searching your schedule for time to take care of your physical being.

Motivation comes from results. Have you heard country artist Toby Keith’s, “how Do You Like Me Now?” Admittedly, it is a kind of an “In your face,” song, but my own group has quit laughing when I talk triathlon. Now it’s more, “Wow, never heard of spending that much on a bike, and dang, just over $400 for a swim workshop? Are you nuts?’ My favorite swim and tri coach says, “Tell them you ARE crazy. What a wonderful crazy it is!”

So there you have it. The way to get and stay motivated. Set goals. Form a new habit. Celebrate the results. Hey – let me know how it goes. Write me. And jump on the BT forums with your motivational journey.

I leave you with this quote from John Ruskin that has become a profound truth for me:

“The highest reward for a person’s toil is not what they get for it but what they become by it.”


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date: August 31, 2004


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