Posted by Filed Under: Inspiration & Motivation

Scratch that – this isn’t about motivation. We’re all motivated to run, be it to drop a couple of pounds, set a new PR, or just spend time with the other runners in our life. The problem we all face is one of execution – actually getting our butts out the door and on the road.

Let’s think of some of the reasons I haven’t run in the last couple of months: Weather wasn’t just right. Left my stuff (Nike+, iPod, Shoes, etc) at the (house, office). Worked through lunch / Slept late. Etcetera. So on. And so forth

Running isn’t the only place where consistency and execution are important. Cory Doctorow, prolific science fiction writer, copyfighter, and part of one of the most popular sites on the net gave the following advice to aspiring writers:

The most important thing, I think, that any writer can do is: when you’re learning your writing habits, eschew all ceremony. Don’t be one of those writers who needs to light a candle, and clean the cat, and wash the dishes, and vacuum the house, and put away all the books, and do 20 minutes of yoga, and go for brisk walk, and contemplate your navel before you can set a word down on the page…. (I)f your job is to be a writer you have to be able to write. Garbagemen never talk about having garbagemen’s block. Doctors never say, “I can’t do surgery today, I’m just not in the mood.” If it’s your job you have to be able to write when it’s time to write.

Running is like that – if you wait for the perfect weather, or have to have a complete and total set of gear absolutely every time you head out the door, you’re not going to make it.

Which isn’t to say that preparation doesn’t have its place.

I’m fortunate in that I’ve got a shower in the basement of my office building, and gyms I can use both near the office and the house. So, one of my excuses – “I don’t want to stink all day” just can’t be called ever. Which is why it isn’t on the list.

For most of the others, you’ll notice that the excuses are “Sins of Omission” rather than “Sins of Commission”- ie, stuff that I don’t do instead of stuff that I do intentionally. Part of the problem, I think, was that I would put off getting ready for the next day’s workout until that morning. So, workout prep would get lost in the morning shuffle of coffee, breakfast, and not being late for a darn 8 AM meeting.

I decided that a both hardware and procedural controls were necessary.

First: New gear!

I picked up a big plastic bin for “Workout Stuff”, separate from my gym bag. In it went my bike pump, spares for both mountain and road bike, an old but still workable pair of running shoes for days I forgot my current pair, two pairs of spare socks, a pair of spare shorts, bike helmet, and an empty water bottle. The box went in my trunk, and stays there. I check it on the weekends.

Next: New workflows!

Here’s what’s been working for me:

1. Get home from work, park the car.
2. Pull workout bag out of the car.
3. Walk in the back door, kiss the family.
4. Stinky clothes and towel in the dirty clothes.
5. New shorts, socks, shirt, and towel in the workout bag.
6. Check soap and shampoo. Replace if necessary.
7. Pull out iPod, put Nike+ receiver inside my running shoe
8. Put iPod on the counter to be synced
9. Put bag by back door, ready to go tomorrow
10. Dinner

The whole thing takes only a couple of minutes, and then I don’t have to worry about it at all until the next morning. It’s a routine, like brushing my teeth.

Writing this out makes it sound like running’s a lot of work. Don’t be fooled – it’s not. Running’s cake, and the greatest thing that predates canned beer. And, if you read back through this, there’s not a whole lot of things to do in the workflow – I just made sure to detail EVERYTHING that I might possibly need to do, so I don’t have to smack my head and not run.

If you’re getting started, or if you’re struggling, take a good look at your excuses. If there’s anything that keeps recurring, write out a solution.

Then do it.

Comic via Cox and Forum

About Bill Jankowski

Jank is the nom-de-plume (alias) of Bill Jankowski. Jank is a runner (defined as “one who runs”, without any necessary claims of athleticism). More accurate would be to say that he enjoys the company of his iPod, and goes to great lengths to get long periods of time alone with his thoughts. Plus, running is a wonderful way to keep his ego in check. He’s been physically active since he was a kid (assuming that, for the years 1995-1999 and 2001-2003, drinking counts as “active”), playing Soccer, Flag Football, Basketball, and Softball while in college (for his fraternity’s B-team)(Actually, add 1990-1994 to the years of inactivity). In addition to running, Jank swims (controlled drowning), bikes (’cause his mom suggested he play in traffic as a kid), and kayaks (see swimming, but with sharks and props). An engineer by the grace of God, a (recovering) submariner by the graces of the taxpayers of the United States, and an MBA by mistake, Bill enjoys gear (oooh, shiny!), cycling (oooh, shiny bikes and clothes!), and poking at accepted ideas with a pointy stick. In 2004, Jank decided he didn’t want to go full-over to being fat, and took up running (instead of stopping eating). In 2005, he finished his first marathon (WooHoo!) in October, and his second two weeks later (dumb idea). He is still recovering. Bill lives in Connecticut (the poorer, eastern part) with his lovely wife Melissa (who is far more fit than he is and way less navel-gazing about it), and their two sons, Jake and Nate, who, in addition to having deliberately cool names, are the finest children to grace the Earth (clear proof that “evolution through natural selection” is bunk; although he still questions the monthly bill for “Pool Boy” despite not having a swimming pool). His rants can be found at; his best stuff is found here at CRN.

  1. Run, Run, Run, Run, Run, Cycle, Cycle Too » Danger, BillJank on June 20th at 7:44 am

    […] go check out my latest bit on Complete Running. I’m kind of happy with the way it came out, especially the cartoon they added at the […]

  2. jeff on June 20th at 10:16 am

    there was a saying that i used in the corps after we’d come in from a field exercise; “gear before beer”. perform all the preventative maintenance, clean the gear and stage it for the next exercise before retiring for food, fun and frolicing. that way, you’d never have to worry about finding where stuff was or worrying about cleaning it up later and you can shift gears and not have it hanging around in the back of your mind as a ‘to-do’.

    and those back of the mind ‘to-dos’ are just another form of sabotage.

  3. 21stCenturyMom on June 20th at 11:57 am

    I read an article on getting your workouts in years ago where the woman said she laid out all of her clothes the night before and when she gets up in the morning she pulls them on before she knows what’s hit her. It has worked for me for years. Just move toward the workout and there you’ll be!

  4. norfolkbroad on June 20th at 1:04 pm

    Jank – what a fabulous article. Thank you so much – runners talk so much sense!

  5. JLF on June 21st at 1:52 am

    Motivation has always been hard for me to find until I joined a running club.
    Training with friends, helps you get started and endure tough split training.

    My mileage and race results have never been so high !

  6. billjank on June 21st at 3:56 am

    Jeff – “Gear before beer” is going in if I ever revisit this article. Great turns of phrase.

    Mom – The preparation is the easy part. My next goal is to master the snooze button. But the less to think about in the morning, the better: hence, my coffee maker is on a timer!

    Norfolk – It took a while to sink in, but yours is a wonderful observation – “Runners talk so much sense”. We’ve got to – it’s extremely tough to talk while we’re gasping for air, so every syllable has to count!

    JLF – Friends are often the best motivation. Especially for prying me away from my desk at lunch…