Its 4:45 a.m. Its only about 60º in the bedroom, so couldn’t be above 35º outside. The day promises to be grey and windy, and I know I’m going to have to fight for every mile of the day’s cycling adventure. Still, I get up, eat, and get into my car for the 90 minute drive to San Francisco (or Tahoe, or Santa Rosa) and smile in spite of the grumbling. Adam wants to know: How do you motivate yourself to do it? The answer is twofold: first, I make it a mechanical process so that I don’t have to think; second, I keep my goals in mind.
A. Automatons Meet their Goals
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Making fitness a mechanical process is the process of making it a priority in your life. To do it, you have to first set aside the time you need, making it sacrosanct so that nothing will dissuade you. That means knowing what you need to do ahead of time and literally calendaring it out. Once the plan is in place, you have to make it easy to accomplish by removing physical barriers. A typical ride works pretty much like this for me:
“Hey, Matthew, want to go for a 100-mile ride at Lake Berryessa on Saturday?”
Matthew, of course, says “Yes. Pick me up in Davis at 7:00 a.m.”
Then, sometime that week, I let my clients know that they’ll have to leave messages on Saturday — there’s only spotty cell reception on that route!
Before I go out on Friday, I layout all my bike clothing, fill my water bottles, make sure my bike is clean and good to go, and I have plenty of snacks ready.
Friday night, I make sure I’m home by 10:00 p.m., having eaten a carb-rich meal and drunken very little alcohol. Then I prepare the coffee pot and a bowl with oatmeal, nuts, brown sugar etc. to be made as soon as I wake up.
Get up at 5:30 a.m. so I can leave my house by 6:15 or so. Make my oatmeal and coffee, eat them quickly and post on Facebook complaints about getting up so early.
By the time I’ve used the toilet, packed my car and started off, I am usually smiling happily.
So, by doing this, I’ve committed my time to someone else, made sure that I am not going to be interrupted during that time, made sure I wasn’t hung over, and made the process of getting up and out as easy as possible.
Yes, its hard to get out of bed, but that’s when I have to think about my goals.
B. Knowing Why is Half the Battle
When I’m convinced I can’t do it, then I remember why I’m doing it. You definitely have to psych yourself out on this front, because if you let doubt creep in, your goals start evaporating quickly.
My primary goal is simply overall fitness. My plan is to live to be a healthy, happy centenarian. The only way that is going to happen is to keep my body moving, muscles toned and useable, good cholesterol high and bad cholesterol low. Exercise is key to doing that. More than once, I just had to remember how much pasta I’d eaten the night before (in preparation for the ride) to get my butt out of bed. Then you start thinking how you can burn between 4000 and 7000 calories on a 100 mile ride, and how many morning buns that equals. Food is a great motivator.
My secondary goal is, of course, sex. I want to look good and feel good. I’ve learned that only a lot of exercise will help me keep the fat off. Diet alone never works for me — its got to be accompanied by a lot of aerobic exercise. For me, that’s usually about 14 to 30 hours per week. And again, many mornings I get out of bed thinking about one of the Bears of the Day (such as the gentleman pictured). I know I’ll never look like that, but as a goal, its still a great motivator to imagine I can.
Then there’s the adventure. In no small measure, cycling is about adventure — remembering the fun of seeing a new landscape, mooing at passing cows or llamas, seeing the sun rise over a calm lake, making it to the top of an impossibly steep hill, or a thrilling descent into a cool shaded valley, these things make each ride different and unimaginably fun.
Finally, of course, there’s the AIDS/LifeCycle. Each year as I train, I think about how great its going to ride with 2,500 of my closest friends, camping each night, eating in the chilly dining tent, getting to know new people and seeing the amazing accomplishments of my friends. And all this for the great cause of bringing life and dignity to people living with HIV and AIDS. When they finally find that cure, I’ll be proud to know I did my tiny little part to bring it about.
So these two are like a positive feedback loop: I set a goal, then I do things to make it easy to accomplish that goal, by accomplishing that goal, I want to set another goal… With each accomplished goal, its possible to set a more ambitious goal. There seems to be so little in my life over which I have control. It feels so good to be able to do this one thing under the illusion that I am controlling it.