Like clockwork, the aspens turn from green to gold, the days grow short — and I get lazy. It may be a deeply embedded genetic code, but these days I want to eat calorie-rich foods, crawl into my cave and hibernate bear-style.
My bike hasn't moved from its parking space next to the front door. My running shoes are MIA. Football season turns my butt into a magnet, my couch into an iron throne. And here I sit, my motivation for exercise and an outdoor lifestyle slipping away with each colorful fall sunset.
Many of you get it. Your shared war stories ring with truth. After a spring and summer filled with activity, our bodies crave a slower pace. Our aches and pains — or full-blown injuries — need time to heal.
Kaylen Adragna, a 26-year-old runner and assistant cross country coach at Fountain-Fort Carson High School, eased my troubled mind last week. She had completed a 3.5-mile run in the Pikes Peak Road Runners' Fall Series, a run that included a slog up the middle of Monument Creek. She confirmed that the motivational blahs sometimes sneak up on her as well. And she has her own way of beating them.
"For me, especially, wintertime is hard," she says. "But for me it's a good spiritual experience and good stress reliever. I mean, everyone has a different reason. But I know how good it feels when I'm done."
Coaching teenagers has taught her a thing or two about motivation. Young folks need a jump start as well from time to time.
"It is one of the hardest things, to motivate, especially in such a painful sport," she says. "If you give them a goal to meet, like take 10 seconds off, once they see they can do it, it really helps."
Adragna likes to celebrate the special moments: "A lot of times, we'll tell success stories. And we relate it to life, a lot. There are times in a race when you want to give up, and times in life when you want to give up. If you can push through it, it's pretty rewarding."
Hey, sometimes younger folks have it figured out. Goals, set them. Success stories, tell them. Check.
Wayne Heilman, a 59-year-old newspaper reporter whose Gazette job requires hours of sitting each day, became motivated by a desire to lead a healthier lifestyle. He lost 55 pounds in 18 weeks on the Weight Watchers program. From there he tackled the Manitou Incline and began running in a social group with runners of various levels. Fast running isn't necessary. It's OK to be slow.
"We go to a different park or open space each week. I've gotten to know the other runners and they don't let me get lost," he joked. "I like the group runs."
This exercise thing doesn't have to be torture, he says. No need to freeze on a cold day, or endure a painful injury.
"When it gets really cold, I'll skip those runs, or do the treadmill, or run on the track at the Y," he says. "I'm not a big fan of running in single digits or a snowstorm.
"There are better alternatives."
Heilman now has two Pikes Peak Ascent finishes to his credit. He currently runs 20 to 25 miles per week and spends his free time perusing the race schedule for fun events to do in 2017.
Run with friends. Going slow can be a good thing. Be comfortable. These people are on to something.
My quest for knowledge continued with Judy Fellhauer, whose "Women's Fit Team" program ($120 for 15 weeks) has helped hundreds find motivation. Some of them have started from their couch.
"I remember when I began skiing," she says. "I was a basket case. Then I took a lesson and I was taught to ski correctly. If I would have gone on by myself, I would have quit."
It's the same for running, she says. "It's difficult to sustain it by yourself if you don't know what you're doing. I always suggest getting a coach, or joining a group."
Coaching. Lessons. Find people who know their stuff. Got it.
But I'm a special kind of head case. I need more. Sports performance therapist and excellent cyclist Danielle de Boer dialed it in for me.
"For someone wanting to get into an exercise program, I think it is valuable to first spent time asking, 'What are my values?'" she says. "If you think of a pyramid, the lower widest part would represent your core values. The middle section of the pyramid, which builds on top of the values, would be principles. The very top of the pyramid represents your actions.
"If we were to make a goal that addressed your actions, without considering the values and principles which support those actions, the goal could be so misguided that failure and frustration are inevitable."
I've got it now, I think.
My values are family and friends, my relationships and work. (Yes, I just said that. I enjoy my work.) My principles dictate that health is important to enjoying my life. My actions should fall in line.
I'll be happy — and ultimately successful — with a goal that supports by values. Training for a 5K will leave plenty of time for hiking with friends, or recharging my batteries with a cup of coffee and some alone time.
Keep it simple. Keep it mine. Support my values with my actions.
My first action will be to find my running shoes.
Let the motivation begin.