Motivation 101: Girl With A Pearl Ice Pack

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Catherine Hughes

Director of the 8 Women Dream Project at 8 Women Dream
Catherine’s dream is to make 8 Women Dream the premier online publication for women looking to pursue their dreams. She is a published author, a freelance writer, and a guide for those who want their dreams to come true online. Catherine would someday like to be invited to speak at TED about her observations about her 8WD project inviting women to take a chance on their dreams. Wine was required... Catherine posts on Sunday evenings and fills in dream stories as needed. If you aren't sure how to comment on this story, click here.

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Motivation 101: Girl With A Pearl Ice PackThis week I have been thinking a great deal about motivation.

For example, now that I know that we are almost 100 days from the Bay To Breakers, I am easily motivated to work out by walk/running every single day for about 50 minutes.

It has been about 2 miles a day – sometimes a little more.

I have also started upper body weight-lifting again.

I follow the plan set forth in Veronica’s post, What Everyone Ought To Know About Training For A Marathon In 2010 where if you are a novice you train for 6 days and take the 7th day as rest – usually Mondays.

It seems easy to get myself motivated and out the door in my running shoes – even when I don’t feel like exercising.

Why has a 7 mile marathon suddenly lit a fire under my butt?

And why haven’t I been doing this all the long – I mean for the past couple of years?

Is it that the Bay To Breakers is a short term goal which makes it an easy motivator?  Or is it the fact that I am running with a group?  Or is it because we have committed to this in front of the world (or those few thousand people who stop by here regularly)?

What is it?

In a research study scientists found that in a series of experiments, where individuals were assigned different types of goals on a variety of tasks, it was repeatedly found that those assigned hard goals performed better than those assigned moderately difficult or easy goals.

Individuals who had specific, challenging goals outperformed those who had vague goals.

I would say that the idea of doing the Bay To Breakers before my 50th birthday is a pretty specific, challenging goal. But really I started out just wanting to support 8 Women Dream members with their dreams, and they said they were going to compete in some marathons this year.

Now -  how exactly did I get here with a swollen knee and aching hips?

I understand motivation only works for people who are willing, or ready to change.

Obviously I must have been ready to change back into the person I was before who worked out every day prior to getting Hashimotos disease. Last Thursday it dawned on me that I must be feeling better too, and realized how far I’ve come managing hypothyroidism.

Maybe my motivation comes from the encouraging feelings I am experiencing as I train, which helps me work toward a goal of hiking 14 miles each weekend by April, then running (maybe crawling) in the Bay to Breakers in May.   Frankly folks, I am a little worried about having enough training time, since I lost a month with that nasty bronchitis that hit everyone over the holidays.

Can I do this?  It seems easy in my head, but then I am not up to 7 miles yet.  Hell, I am not back up to my old 5 miles yet.  OK not even to 3 yet.

Motivation theorists say that motivation creates the needed energy to perform, as well as energy creates the motivation to perform.

It”s sort of the scenario of the snowball rolling downhill effect.  Once the energy gets the motivation rolling down the hill, then the motivation keeps the energy going which keeps the motivation going until BAAM your run straight in to accomplishing something big.

Got it?

The energy part comes from our emotions, which can be both good or bad. Meaning you can be just as easily motivated by negative emotions as positive ones.  You can be motivated because you are angry and tired of something, or you can be motivated because you are happy and excited about something.

Or maybe for me it’s a little of both?

What about you?  What motivates you?

Meanwhile I’m the girl over here in the corner with an ice pack on her knee.



  • Catherine

    Hi there Miss Wendy. It’s not easy and I had to take three days off for my knees and now have a head cold, but I am determined to overcome. What I do is give myself an awful either or choice. I think, “I can go for a walk today or I will eventually have to give myself an insulin shot in the thigh” Hmmm I think I will walk thank you. Plus I want to play with grandchildren 10 – 15 years for now and where will I be tomorrow if I don’t do something today?
    So I do something today. Then I don’t listen to any other mind chatter.

  • Wendy

    You go girl! I am impressed. I find big looming deadlines just make me freeze up. I had most of January off and thought i would spend it focusing on health instead I turned into a lump and wasted time watching tv. I have a lifetime of bad habits to unlearn.

  • Hi Catherine,
    I have been sending you emails about overload. Have you received them?

  • H

    Ice and Ibuprofen! Ice and Ibuprofen! Ice and Ibuprofen! Ice and Ibuprofen! Ice and Ibuprofen! Ice and Ibuprofen!

    That’s all I’m saying – and rest them too!


  • Catherine, Site Admin

    Thank you all so much for your feedback and Rachel I have thought a great deal about what you said and began leg strengthening exercises.

    I also moved to walking my son’s high school track for now because it is padded. They are still sore, but not like they were over the weekend. I have been icing them and taking ibuprofen. So hopefully they will improve as I grow stronger.

    Remy – you and I will be there together!

  • Cath, am so proud of you getting out there and exercising every day! That so rocks! Hope (besides the sore knee/hips) that it feels good emotionally to be doing it – sounds like it :) – You are riding the energy wave! You go girl!

    And I agree that having goals that are “bigger than ourselves” – including some BHAGs (“Big Hairy Audacious Goals”) can be a great motivator. After all I’m here putting time in several days a week to write a book that I believe will make an impact on the world… No one is paying me to do that (yet! :) and yet I continue to find the time…

    Living our dreams IS important… Let’s do it ladies!!!


  • Rachel

    Oh no, I think I lost my post (otherwise this’ll be a double.)

    This “knee point” scale is an interesting way to think about what kind of things are reasonable for you, at your age and with your body, to do without tearing up your knees. The first is a way to decide how many points you get per week. Start with 100 points, and add or subtract, according to the chart. The second tells roughly how many points an hour of various activities will cost you.

    The straight leg raise on page 3 of this document is really good for strengthening muscles that support the knee, as well as hip and core muscles that will support good posture/form while running. I personally modify by raising smoothly but very slowly (15-20 seconds for each up+down cycle.) You increase intensity with either longer holds (or slower raises), or by adding ankle weights.
    Since quads get very little use while running, you can improve muscle balance, and support knee cap alignment by doing quad sets:

    Both of these are great, because they involve no knee bending, so they are not hard on your knees the way exercises like leg presses and squats are. Plus, you need no equipment, so you can do them anywhere, and they don’t take a lot of time, either.

  • Rachel

    Some links for you:

    This “knee point scale” is a way to think about what factors influence the exercise you should do, and what exercises are harder on your knees than others. It’s pretty rough, but the idea is helpful. First link is to determine how many knee points you get per week, and second link tells how to calculate the points.

    You don’t need to do high resistance exercises (like squats or leg presses, which can be hard on knees) to strengthen muscle. There’s a lot you can do, a little at a time if you like, with no special equipment.
    The straight leg raises shown on page 3 at this link are great for the quads (which running doesn’t strengthen much, so it helps to even out your workout), hips, and core muscles (which support good form and posture.)
    Instead of the hold, I go smoothly and very slowly through the motions (takes 15 – 20 seconds to do each.) I’m getting to the point where I need to add ankle weights now.

    The quad sets strengthen quads especially near your knee, and are good for balancing muscle development with running, and supporting knee cap alignment.

    Both of these can be done with absolutely no knee damage, because there’s no knee bending.

  • Remy G

    I am motivated positively by the collective goal – knowing that we are all a part of something bigger than ourselves. I’m also motivated by fear – fear of looking out of shape and dorky. I’m only 43 I should be able to tell my body to do stuff and it should respond. Right?? Thanks for the reminders! Rem

  • Catherine

    Great tips thank you both!

    Can I pout now?

    I agree that it is a leg strength thing – oh hey I am looking right at Heather’s leg machine because we have a friggin weight machine in our office!

    I am hoping it is just a problem of needing to get my legs stronger (hoping – praying)

    Otherwise …?

    More pouting!

  • Rachel

    P.S. Taking anti-inflammatories so you can exercise (something I’d been doing for about 2 years) is a sign there’s a problem that needs care. When you do it, it is easier to continue damaging activity past the point of what’s reasonable, so it may be better to just be prepared with ice for immediately after exercise.

  • Rachel

    I love the pearl ice pack image :)

    And yeah, the specific, shorter term goal is a big deal. It’s amazing how a race can motivate a person.

    Some things I’ve learned about knee care recently:
    1) Don’t try to run, and avoid stairs and all non-nurturing excise as much as possible while there’s swelling. (If running triggers swelling that goes away with the first icing, and doesn’t return overnight isn’t such a big deal, but if even that is consistent, don’t run on 2 consecutive days.)
    1) Bike riding with low resistance and no hills is nurturing, but bike riding in San Francisco probably involves lots of hills. It will be less jarring than running, but still hard on the knees.
    2) Doing the same thing you’re training for in the water will strengthen many of the same muscles, still helps build endurance, and is much more nurturing than on land. Water should be at least chest deep. (Helpful only if you have pool access, though.)
    3) Straight leg raises (one leg at a time) and quad sets can strengthen muscles that support good knee alignment, with no cartilage damage, because there’s no knee bending. (They won’t give you calf strength, though, which you need for running, and for tendonitis on the patella tendon, they aren’t good, since tight quads contribute to that. Patella tendonitis seems unlikely to be caused by running, though.)
    4) For tendonitis, the issue is often an imbalance of strength, so doing different activities that strengthen different leg muscles matter for that.
    5) It’s important to keep calves, hamstrings, quads flexible. Anything that’s too tight can affect alignment or contribute to tendonitis.
    6) Ski machines, apparently, are nurturing.

    Good luck with your race!