I am not Catholic, but I can do guilt trips like a seasoned professional. Most days, this guilt sits like a devil on my shoulder, gently coaxing me up to train and reminds me that now that I am awake, I need to get up and make the most of the morning opportunity. Sleep is done. There are no obstacles to this except a fever, and then that devil sits with less fervour telling me I should be stretching, walking, crunching or mapping our potential training routes or fixing my bike up. There is no reprieve.
Guilt is one of the main attributes of my training consistently. I like training and I feel wonderful when my brain and body are flooded with endorphins and with a wonderful sense of accomplishment. I can arrive at work exhausted, with no packed lunch and wistfully plan my lessons as I walk to my office all with a rosy glass half-full feeling. But when I push that devil aside and try for that extra 30 minutes of sleep, telling myself that I can make it up later, the day is ruined. I never get that sleep-in, the guilt wins and the morning is spoilt. My brain is focused on carving out when I will get that trainng block completed and what will need to be given up in order to make up that 60-90 minute block of time again.
Quarantine presents new challenges to this motivational mindset. With the school day changed and our normal routines moved about and environment and seasons changing, the procrastinator in my head is shifting slightly. I am not surrounded by people who are young, training and athletic. I am not cycling with my usual crowd. I am not running with aspiring young people or 2h30m marathon amazingness. I am not swimming at the same time as the swim team and coaches who I imagine are shaking their heads as I fumble another flip turn and inhale water – all of that has changed.
I am back to training on my own. Well, I have digital friends who I am giving kudos to and congratulating on Strava or Zwift but the actual pounding is being done by me. I am running or cycling or doing circuits alone. It takes me back to being a teenager or young university student – reminding me of why I love running again. The personal sense of accomplishment and the meditative solitude that running can afford.
When I have too much going on, I retreat. I get so anxious before a long run on Sunday’s I feel ill. I feel so stressed that if I don’t run in the mornings, the whole day is spent building the anxiety towards the event and doing deals with myself about what I can do or will do before or after and then doing deals with my family about mapping out the day so I can run. After 30 years of Sunday long runs, I wonder whether this will ever go away.
Guilt is a wonderful motivator and can cut through the procrasitnation and force my hand but it can also be a knock to self-esteem and purposeful movement – taking away from the feeling of it and lowering the power of having done the movement in the first place.
It is a balance I am still working on – but I hope with another 30 years, I might start to get it right.