One thing I know from training for a marathon, there are some days you don’t feel like doing the miles, attacking the training regimen, and putting in the hard work. You have two choices: you can dismiss the feeling and go through the paces of the workout anyway; or skip your training, regroup, recalibrate, and try and rediscover your mojo by mixing it up and taking an internal inventory. I’ve done both and I have discovered that there is no clear advantage to either approach, in fact, you need to adopt both in order to have any chance of making it to the end of the training and have a successful race.
There is quite a bit of research on muscle memory, of training your muscles to respond regardless of the situation or what your doubtful mind may be telling you. The theory goes that your muscles, if well-trained will continue to perform even though your mind is telling you something totally different. Regardless of whether you “want” to train or not, if you simply put one foot in front of the other, eventually you will get to the end of the workout accomplishing the goal, adding to your performance level, even though your mind and heart may never be fully engaged. It’s the same analogy as the often-quoted cliché that says that the key to life “is just showing up.” My experience is that there is an important part of getting to your goal that requires the “showing up” and “faking it until you make it.” No one feels 100% inspired and motivated all the time. And if they do, they are really annoying. We all need to see our bodies respond, overcome doubt, and we need to be relieved to find that there is something hidden inside us that will emerge when the will of the mind has forsaken us. These workouts may not be pretty, or threshold setting, but they are necessary for setting physical expectations and training you to deal with the mental nay-saying that will no doubt enter your head on race day.
There are also times, when you have to listen to both your mind and your body. If you have truly lost the joy or the drive of your pursuit, there is no amount of going through the motions that will remedy that sinking feeling. In those moments of crisis, I’ve found that it is essential to take the time to reassess. Sometimes, all it takes is changing the routine, taking a yoga class, swimming laps, or having one wild evening of vice (alcohol, high-fat junk food, lethargy in front of the TV while watching Spirit of the Marathon, etc. ) to diminish the boredom and restore the drive. If it’s a real crisis of endeavor, then it may take more than that, like questioning why you wanted to run a marathon in the first place, finding out if by adjusting the time of day of training or by adding/subtracting training partners, or identifying an awesome reward at the end of the endeavor changes your motivation. My experience is that if you can’t connect with your heart, no amount of “mind over matter” or going through the motions is going to pull you through the tough times. And believe me, on race day, you need to be ready for the tough times. For me, my reason for training, specifically for the Boston Marathon, is because I think that life should be about exploring one’s potential, win or lose. I’ve learned more about myself as I’ve stumbled, fell, thought about quitting, didn’t quit, embraced pain, embraced winning, and let myself believe that I could be something nobody ever expected; especially me.
So, with that said, I’ll stop feeling guilty about not going on my long run today and chalk it up to needing to recoup (and that it's Christmas). Going through the motions can only get you so far. If you really want to get somewhere you have to do both a gut check and a heart check. And if all else fails, I simply turn to the words of Scarlett O’Hara -- tomorrow is another day.