Overcoming armchair mode is real battle

It's Saturday morning, the sun is shining and I'm wrapped in a dressing gown, huddled over a heater.

In the eternal battle waged between sneakers and slippers, slippers were the clear victors this morning.

I wrote the other day about the effort people go to with their Hadlow to Harbour (H2H) fun run outfits —they help mark the event and make it the fun run that it is.

But what about those average days where you haven't got teammates, other participants and friendly spectators laughing you on? When you're running incognito, sticking to basic gym gear so you don't draw attention to your slow, pained pace, and the most outlandish thing you're wearing is a shocking shade of tomato red on your face?

I should be excited: I stuck to my training plan until that plan came unstuck, then stuck to plan B and have seen more of Timaru's scenic trails in the last month than I did in the whole of last year. The H2H is eight days away and I'm on track to blitz my personal best (or I would be, I'm sure, if I had ever bothered to record my finishing times.)

Instead, I've hit a point where my brain and body are locked in conflict. (Or they would be, if my body could be bothered to come to the party.)

Quit making excuses and put your sneakers on, says one. The other doesn't say anything as it mindlessly reaches for another piece of toast.

Sabotage can be as simple as pulling the covers tighter over your head after you test the air and decide the mercury dipped below 3 deg Celsius overnight, or it's as cunning as "forgetting" to put your gym clothes in the wash the day before. What? No clean t-shirts? Better not stink the streets up with pongy socks ...

This morning I've chosen a classic mindgame trick. The thought pattern goes like this: summer finished yesterday; today it is autumn; autumn mornings can be cool; it's too cold to get dressed this morning; because it's too cold to get dressed and go running, I'll treat myself to a delicious breakfast of homemade toast drizzled with honey; oh dear, I've eaten breakfast — can't possibly go for a run now. Not with two thick slices of whole grain bread sitting in my stomach. But don't worry; there's always later in the day to get in a run ...

It seems to me some people are born with a gene which gives them a natural advantage over those sans gene. You can pick these genetically blessed people by comments they make. Things like, "I can't not have my daily run or I get incredibly cranky", or "I'm just heading out for a morning bike ride to Fairlie—see you at lunch time", or the ever hopeful "Christmas dinner was great — now who's up for a walk?".

These people seem to have an inbuilt need for exercise. If they don't get their daily walk/run/cycle, they start getting antsy and restless. Maybe they have an innate sense of impending doom if they don't get their heartrate going above a certain point at least once a day? 

I do not have this gene.

It's not that I don't enjoy exercise (once I get started). It's that my body doesn't seem to have any little alarm set to warn me when my heartrate has plonked itself down on armchair setting and is showing no interest in getting up. It also means to get started my brain needs to actively cajole, bribe or otherwise persuade my body to overcome its reluctance to struggle beyond its beloved armchair setting.

For me, the hardest part of committing to most runs is not squeezing tears out of your eyes as you deal with the pain of stitch in your side, or the curious sensation of your feet, or your legs, or even your butt going numb as you chug along up hill. The hardest part is the battle going on in your head just to haul yourself up to the start line. The fight to overcome the armchair setting, discomfort, reluctance, [insert any excuse], and pull on shorts and top, stuff your feet into socks and sneakers, and turn up to hear the starter gun.

Like me, you may not have an inbuilt way to bypass this internal fight, but you have noticed something. If you can overcome the battle of getting dressed, usually the war's already won.

The sun is still shining, and it's ridiculous that I still have the heater on. Where are my sneakers?

The Timaru Herald