I’ve been thinking a lot lately about motivation and its many forms. It’s a timely topic, of course, because this is the general time of year when people are already beginning to give up on their New Year’s resolutions, which often seem to involve unused gym memberships and anti-chocolate sentiments that are frankly unnatural. (This video blog by danisnotonfire is a terrifyingly accurate summary of same.) Personally, I don’t go in for New Year’s resolutions; I like to make resolutions and completely fail at them year-round, because I feel like with any skill it’s important to keep in practice. So my struggle with motivation is more or less perpetual.
It’s not that I don’t want to do the things I should be doing, it’s mostly just a matter of overcoming inertia. If it’s a choice between staying on my computer or running the dog, the choice is obvious because one of them’s entertaining and the other one’s going to leave me gasping like a landed fish. And then once I’ve dragged myself away from whatever is fascinating me on my computer screen to take the dog for a run, I have to spend the entire duration of our exercise making myself keep going when I’d really rather walk or stop or possibly collapse into a heap in the nearest pile of snow. (Trudeau does it all the time, it seems like fun.)
Still, I’m pretty serious about the running, I want to improve, I want to keep going, and it makes the dog so happy that he has like joy-seizures, so I drag myself out of the house for it. Plus, in cold weather like we’re having, it’s easier to keep warm at a run than at a walk. (Usually I can’t feel my face, but you don’t need your face for running, anyway.) I also motivate myself with a solid rewards system: I have a few good audiobooks on my MP3 player, most of them read by either by Benedict Cumberbatch or Tom Hiddleston, and which I am only allowed to listen to if I’m running. (As it turns out, beautiful voices murmuring in your ears while you exercise is really motivating and also kind of distracting. Not that I’ve jogged face-first into any lampposts or anything. Yet.)
Today was finally the breaking point of our long cold snap; I’d been pondering a movie matinee but I didn’t want to waste the weather, so I resolved to at least take the dog for a short run. Between my hectic holiday work schedule and my traditional end of year being-sick-a-thon, I hadn’t gone running in at least a month. Trudeau was absolutely beside himself when we headed for our usual running route, but I wasn’t doing so awesome. I managed to turn my ankle just crossing the street before we even got to the park, which is probably why as soon as I started carefully picking up the pace, my knee started making its own contributions of weakness and shooting pain. I ran it off like every one of my gym teachers ever have wisely advised, and for most of our run — which really I should call a “slow meander” because I was trying to ease back into it — I was doing pretty good. Around the halfway point, everything started to hurt and I really, really wanted to stop running.
And then I found my motivation.
There hadn’t been anybody at all out and about on the walking path, but suddenly Trudeau started craning his neck back behind us and generally acting like a psycho, which is usually a sign that somebody in the vicinity has a dog and Trudeau thinks he needs to fight it. I looked back and there was nothing there. So I urged Trudeau on, but I don’t know if you realize this, it’s really difficult to keep up a steady pace when there’s a 110-lb jackass on the other end of the leash displaying behavior that’s usually only seen on Jersey Shore. So I turned to look again, and this time I saw what Trudeau was so worried about: a big black lab sprinting after us through the snowy field beside the trail, right across the frozen pond.
I found my second wind, dropped a few dog biscuits on the trail in hopes that our follower would get distracted, and we ran for it. Every time I thought we’d lost him, the little bastard would turn up again, keeping a careful distance but running for us flat-out every time we started to pull away.
For all I know that dog was running after us shouting the doggy version of “Let me love you!” but he was a good 80 pounds and didn’t appear to be neutered and frankly, unleashed dogs are the bane of my very existence in any case. They might be perfectly friendly, but Trudeau has a talent for being so offensive to other dogs that even the saints among them want to give him a beating, and the last thing I want to deal with basically ever is a dog fight and the vet bills that are always sure to follow.
So I dropped more dog biscuits to slow him down, and he probably thought it was all a great game where I run like hell and he gets dog biscuits, but that all ended when I turned and stood my ground, shouted at him that he was a very bad dog and go home, and started lobbing snow balls. At which point the lab looked at me like I had crushed all of his dreams, like he thought we were bros, man, and then he turned and wandered back the way he came, like it was all fine and he didn’t want to hang out with us anyway.
I was relieved to finally be rid of him, but then I realized I was back at the entrance to the park, and I’d run my entire route without hardly thinking about the agony, and then I wondered if maybe I could convince that lab to terrify me regularly, if only I could bring along enough dog biscuits.