FitOldDog Talks About Why We May Have To Dig Deep To Find The Underlying Nature Of Our Motivations


Hi folks,

supporters, race supporters, Lake Placid Ironman, FitOldDog

Three of FitOldDog's supporters, Deb (right), Tara and Paul (great guy from Canada), watching for my exit from the swim at the 2010 Lake Placid Ironman.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I have great supporters, and they usually urge me on, including my friend Tara, my partner Deb, and number two son, Duncan. Interestingly, it was a very hot day at the track yesterday. Deb, Tara and Duncan had all finished their runs, stair workouts, and so forth and they were ready to get out of the heat and onto Southern Rail for food and cold beer. The only problem was that I was still running around and around and around the 400-meter track, finishing up my 7-mile run, comprising a 2-mile warm-up and 5 miles at race pace. My friends were sitting up in the bleachers, in the shade of a large tree, but it was hot and humid. Very humid. I was just putting one leg in front of the other, lap after lap, when I heard them shout, in spite of my encouraging them to go on without me, “Come on, it’s time to go. You’ll hurt yourself out there in the heat, and anyway, beer would do you more good than all that running around.

Boy! Did I want to stop? Sure I did!

I asked them if they would join me as I stopped for water. Both Deb and Tara did one lap before returning to the shade, but Duncan just talked about cold beer. So! Why, or should I say how, did I finish my set? The answer was simple. I told myself that if I couldn’t finish a simple 7-mile track run, how on earth would I complete the Eagleman Half Ironman in a decent time in two weeks time. That was enough – I wasn’t stopping for anything. The motivator was concern for my level of fitness training for my next race = FEAR. The workout was a critical test of the state of my body, running form, and mental conditioning.

rescuing turtle, wildlife, FitOldDog's advice, rescue turtles, cycling,

FitOldDog rescues a turtle from the road during a training ride, only to be honked and insulted by a passing motorist. Waving the turtle did no good - she was incensed!

Motivation is an interesting subject, and one that is critical if you want to undertake safe exercise for better health effectively. As far as I can tell there are only two key motivators, seeking pleasure and avoidance of pain (fear), but they each come in all shapes and sizes. For instance, what was our motivation for rescuing a turtle and a snake during recent bike rides? We had to stop, risk injury from high-speed traffic, including the ire of some motorists who seem to be incensed by bicycles sharing the road. As we picked up the turtle, a young woman in a small car came hurtling past, swerved close to us, honked her horn repeatedly and appeared to be completely apoplectic about our presence in her path, whilst sending rude digital messages with the middle finger of her right hand. I waved the turtle in explanation (Sue, contrary to safe behavior on a bike, was less polite, and I understand that), but the car honked off into the distance. What was the motorist’s motivation for such behavior, I wonder? I actually have no idea as it makes no sense to me at all. It could be fear of being late for Church (it was Sunday), or seeking the pleasure of dominating others, perhaps? Or just bad manners due to a poor upbringing?

luck, horseshoe, a horse's ass, FitOldDog

FitOldDog holding up a horseshoe, a symbol of luck, whilst patting a horse's ass. Be nice to horse's asses, they can be dangerous.

This implies that our motivation actually may be the consequence of prior conditioning, which opens up an interesting philosophical question. If you are trained by your parents to hate cyclists, or anything else for that matter, and you do so without question, then the motivation is that of your parents combined with your fear of your parents or the pleasure that you derived from pleasing them.

Interestingly, Sue and I had different reactions. Sue made an aggressive digital protest (which is dangerous when dealing with horse’s asses). I waved the turtle in explanation, who was surely confused by the whole episode. But then I did make a verbal expression of anger (“F**king a**hole,” if I remember correctly, making that aspect of my response the same as Sue’s). This event was followed by a brief discussion of the nature of balance. It is surprising how easily someone else’s state of imbalance can throw us off balance. I work to overcome this tendency, but I still have a long way to go in spite of years of meditation, martial arts, and contemplation – still human, I guess!

black snake, rescuing snake from the road, FitOldDog's advice, cycling,

A black snake that we chased from the road during a bike ride, where it was sunning itself. Here she is slithering quickly down a nice safe hole to the side of the road.

Our rescue motivation? Seeking pleasure – it feels good to be helpful to turtles, snakes and kittens lost on the road.

Then there is the ride itself. Why do we triathletes train so much? Pleasure – it just feels great to be out on the open road, your body like a well-oiled machine (old or not!), seeing nature, feeling the whole experience. Fear – concern for our longterm health, which might be improved by fitness. I actually feel concern for those who do not like to exercise.  I suspect that if they could get past the initial resistance to the change involved that they would soon fall in love with a more healthy body, the open road and country trail runs.

Furthermore, if you work for your beer it really tastes so much better.

-k @FitOldDog


Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.