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  • Writer's pictureMichael Van Elsberg

Keep Going

The whole point of this blog is to encourage and inspire others that anyone can do big things if they are sufficiently motivated. So this post is about motivation and how to stay focused and keep moving even when you aren't feeling like getting out there. Getting out there is our mantra. I tell anyone who will listen that it doesn't matter what you do as long as you get out there and move. In this post I'm going to share some advice I've gotten from others over the last few years and also some tips and tricks that Chris and I have come up with on our own.

Lately I've been struggling with motivation and also just not feeling it and this morning's run was emblematic. Chris and I have been focused on increasing our VO2 max, which, it turns out, does not require particularly long runs (it's also easy to improve at first--but then gets much harder to make even relatively modest gains). It requires speed. I'm good at long runs, but I'm not fast--and that isn't going to work for the big goal I'm reaching for.

The last couple of times I got out there I really had to push myself to do it, including this morning. In the end I was able to keep moving and pushed myself not to quit and felt the deep rewards that come from overcoming the temptation to stop and also the physical benefits that come from laying that foundation, which is what every single individual effort will lead to as long as you are doing whatever you are doing with enough intensity.

I was able to continue by listening to the advice that I have gotten from people like Andre Blumberg (one of my heroes), who created the Hong Kong Four Trails Ultra Challenge (my big goal) and others, including my friend Tomo Ihara (another one of my heroes), who completed the HK4TUC in 57 hours (the challenge is to do it in under 60) and who's goals include running 100 miles 100 times (and, also, who I believe can finish the HK4TUC in under 50), and Thom Shea, highly-decorated US Navy SEAL (retired) and founder of Unbreakable Leadership (yes, another one of my heroes, and yes, I have a thing about Navy SEALS and other special forces-type people) and who is himself also an ultra-endurance athlete. I'm also inspired by every runner who ever even attempted the HK4TUC, including those who did not finish, and those who "survived" by running all four trails in under the cutoff (currently 72 hours).

The major piece of advice is, of course, to keep going and don't quit. As Thom likes to say, "Simple." "But not easy." Never give up. Keep moving. But how, exactly, do you acquire the mindset of a Navy SEAL or an ultra-endurance athlete like Andre or Tomo? And, especially, how do you maintain it? Chris and I like to say: one (training) evolution at time. One trail at a time. One mile or kilometer at a time. No matter what happens, keep moving (yes, I know I said that already--Repetitio est mater studiorum--repetition is the mother of all learning).

We've also learned that it's okay to fail. We just keep getting back up, no matter what, and getting back out there even when we aren't feeling particularly motivated. We just know that there will be days like that. We just know that there will be pain. We just know that it will be uncomfortable. But we know that that is what it takes to improve.

For me it usually takes a few miles (sometimes longer) to get my "second wind" and I know from long, hard experience, that if I just keep pushing, I will get to that point and then I can continue. Chris and I have been training following HK4TUC rules, which include no headphones. That makes it a lot harder. That makes it harder to distract yourself from being uncomfortable and also from your inner demons and requires you to focus on your goals or distract yourself in other ways until you reach that point where you know you can, in fact, keep going. So I think about those people who have motivated me to do something more--to pursue something worthy, which is always to be better than I was yesterday.

So, here are a few obvious, and some maybe not so obvious tips: set out your gear the night before; start early, right after your coffee--resist the temptation to linger on the couch--you will be rewarded by starting your day with a feeling of accomplishment; bring more food and water than you need (and always bring water); know from the beginning that it is going to be uncomfortable. But do it anyway. I like to say, "Do the hard things." And finally, "Keep your head up, keep your eyes open, and stop trying to hide from the pain."


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