My two weeks leading up to this race were a study in negativity. There wasn’t a single workout I wanted to do. Two weeks out the workouts are long and exhausting. I did most of them with little to no enthusiasm, focused solely on finishing. The final week, meant to be easier, was no better. The week was focused on short, intense workouts. I was focused on the short part. I should have been eager to do the easier training, but I didn’t want to.
After the race I took Sunday off. Monday I went for a ride with a teammate. It rained half way through, and we cut the ride short. I was disappointed. I didn’t have to ride. I wanted to. Tuesday I went down to the pool with nothing in mind. I just thought I would swim for a while. It turned into my longest workout in months. I felt great. I didn’t have to swim at all, but when the warm Florida sun hit my shoulders and I jumped into the cool clear water, I wanted to.
I think it’s easy for athletes to get caught up in “have to” instead of “want to.” I’ve gotta go for a run hides the words “have to.” There’s this feeling of obligation inherent in the sentence, a feeling of unwelcome requirement, effort, or work. “Have to” is like my least favorite chore, weeding. And if running is weeding, then it’s only a matter of time before I stop doing it. (You should see my garden.)
We create structures to help us through the “have to” moments. We join a team or club so we have company. We go to classes at the gym to provide variety (triathlon is a study in variety.) We hire trainers to motivate us. My personal favorite is scheduling training with friends so I can’t skip a workout. And we sign up for races to provide goals and a natural finishing point. All this is just a means to get our heads in the game, to turn “have to” into “want to.”
In the end, we “want to” reach our goals, but in order to do so, we “have to” do some unpleasant things. Sometimes working out is actually work. Sometimes it’s really fun. Finding a way to flip the “want to” switch is the key to turning work into fun. Maybe it’s as simple as changing how we talk about training. I’m going to stop saying “I have to…” and instead say, “I want to…”
I want to go for a swim, a run, a ride. I want to go to the gym. I want to sweat. Wanna join me?