“You must love doing this!”
“It must be so much fun!”
Questions I am sure many people are asked and ask themselves on a regular basis. Whether it is about our work, a holiday, a hobby or a sport – we hope that we do the things we do because we enjoy doing them, because we are passionate about them. But what happens when those things feel like a chore, when the motivation to do the thing you once loved has waned? Certainly if you follow some of those sporting influencers on social media you will have no doubt seen talk of the ‘lost mojo’.
The challenges I’ve set myself, both last year and this, were always in part a way to distract from lots of other things going on in my life. They are a way to focus my mind on something productive, to create order where there is none and to manage how I feel. But the last two weeks, since launching my grand finale 7in7 Challenge, things have got hard and it feels like very little progress has been made. I am not where I feel I should be and simply put, I am just not loving it at the moment.
Is it just a hangover?
There is an inevitable hangover from any challenge, race or event – all your focus goes on planning, training and then the doing. But once it’d done there is that period where you have to adjust back to reality and normality – frankly that bit sucks. Long distance or multi-day cycling becomes a job in itself, a routine of its own is created to get you up and through each day. But once that’s gone it leaves a hole that reality, like sand in a timer, can only very slowly refill over time. I think, part of my issue at the moment, is that the time between completing the Pure Three Peaks challenge in June and the next challenge, cycling between 5 European Cities, in September has dragged. Previously I’ve had 4-6 weeks between challenges, so I guess I’ve lost a little bit of that time pressure and therefore the focus it creates.
Completing these challenges takes a huge amount of effort – both physically and mentally – and there is a definite feeling of success and pride on getting them done. But getting back in to the training is hard, you’re tired so you find the excuses not to run or ride or your head finds excuses about why you should stop or cut a run short. People tell you how incredibly fit you must be to take this stuff on – you’re ego inflates and part of you believes some of that hype and create another excuse not to put the work in.
I wanted to take up running and cycling as a way to help me manage my mental as much as my physical health. I wanted to find a hobby I could be passionate about, something that I could be an enthusiastic amateur. I didn’t count on my underlying personality traits coming to the fore – my competitiveness, my restlessness and stubbornness combining to create a new hole inside me. Those attributes focus on the winning and not the journey, the long hard days in the saddle drive me to get to an end point, often at the expense of the journey. I think I feel a little sad that this upcoming challenge is going to be the hardest yet and will become unenjoyable as a result.
Challenging myself in a way that takes me to the very edge of my ability and mental fortitude is, in a way, both exhilarating and addictive. Hence my apparent need to create harder or longer challenges. I got back from the Pure Three Peaks feeling very proud, but I also felt something else, a sense that it wasn’t good enough, that I wasn’t enough. I am trying to raise money for Make-A-Wish and the trickle of donations left me feeling that I wasn’t going big or hard enough – that what I am doing isn’t unique or interesting and is therefore failing to capture people’s interest.
So you may have read this far and thought “What a load of self-indulgent clap trap!”…and you might be right. I guess these blogs have a cathartic property for me – a way to organise my thoughts for myself as much as anyone.
Well, in my hungover state I decided that the challenge I had planned and shelved would be put in to action – and so the 7in7 challenge was ‘released’ and a public commitment has been made.
But now that commitment has been made I think, for the first time I am scared.
Scared because the people who love me are worried about me, about the risks associated with what I’m doing and the increasing number of unknowns.
I never set out on this journey to break myself, but I’m scared these next two challenges are a leap too far. I am worried that I am not strong enough and that my body and my mind just won’t cope.
We are all different and whether you’re a runner, a cyclist or a ballet dance, your experiences and motivations to be active and do it will be as unique as you are. Exercise is free, you don’t need a GP to prescribe it and its benefits go far beyond physical health – but that doesn’t mean it’s easy or that our goals will be the same. For some the act of signing up to an event will be motivation enough, for others that maybe just too much pressure.
So maybe I’m just dancing a very fine line between self-motivation and pressure?
Am I burnt out?
So, my conclusion to my current state of mind – while I am scared, I think jaded is the best way I can describe how I feel currently. This is no longer a distraction, it’s no longer simply getting on a bike or lacing up the trainers. These challenges are getting bigger, harder to plan for and harder to comprehend and they are taking a significant chunk out of my work and personal life. All of that has made me question why, a lot more than normal.
I haven’t done this to be celebrated, liked and followed, to be famous or put on a pedestal. I’m doing this because I want to make a difference – only if it’s in the life of one wish child and their family. I’m doing this because I want to show my children that we have to think about more than just ourselves, to be the change we want to see. But I am the only one who puts pressure on myself to do this, so really I only have myself to blame, but on the flip side I wouldn’t want it any other way.
So while my confidence ebbs and flows, I know that I will stand at the ‘start line’ of both challenges and I will put one foot in front of the other until either I reach the end or I simply cannot go any further. Why? Because I’d rather try and fail than to never have tried at all.
Reckless, possibly. Foolish, probably. Tired, definitely. But this is bigger than just me – this about the 11,000 children who have received a wish from Make-A-Wish UK since 1986 and the 11,000 more children who could use some magic in their lives. Maybe I just need to find a way to better walk that tightrope between my ability and my ambition. Either way, it’s time to get my head out of my behind, dust myself down and get ready to dance.