Running in South America – how to motivate yourself to reach your goals?

Before I left to South America (read more HERE), I had given myself a sports challenge to run regularly. It didn’t seem like a spectacular challenge. However, in the context of my journey it was a demanding task for me. Traveling through five different countries within two months, changing accommodation every day and spending time actively on sightseeing, trekking and climbing was a challenge, but I wanted to find even more energy to exercise. Firstly, because more than a two-month break in trainings results in starting from scratch again and working on condition from the very beginning. It’s always painfully disappointing and I’m truly surprised every time I can’t do a plank or run 5 kilometers after a few weeks break. Even the best trained body instantly forgets how it is to train. Secondly, I wanted to check if my body is able to keep up with such pace and whether I was able to train in various conditions, at 2500 meters above sea level with little oxygen to breath in, where people get exhausted way faster.

And my condition was poor before I left. More than a month ago I had an ankle injury, it made me unable to walk at first and then I was limping for several weeks. I was angry that I fell out of my daily routine I had worked for so hard. I was even more frightened it could interfere with my trip. But instead of panicking, which I was very close to, I’ve decided to reprogram my head and body for a new challenge and I’d talk myself into getting myself together and heal in order to achieve it.

As we all know, it’s easier to plan than to actually do, though it was me who accepted the challenge so I was the only person I could harbor a grievance against for having such crazy ideas. And here is the border between inspiration to do something ( I will run in such a beautiful scenery!) and motivation to achieve it (I will prove myself I can manage to do it). The key moment in planning to achieve something, (so visible in sports) is to distinguishing these two motives.

What is a difference between inspiration and motivation?

We live in the Internet era, literally flooded by inspirations. There is an abundance of photos, videos, quotes and memes aiming at giving us a prod. It’s enough to log into Facebook in the morning and, instead of coffee, we are filled with new ideas for a better, nicer, fuller life. I don’t think it is wrong until we can make a good use of it. What if our inspiration vanishes as soon as we take the last sip of coffee? Then it is all words, blowing in the wind, fading away after closing a laptop. At the end of the day we have this feeling again, the sense that nothing has changed. That’s why we should look at inspiration not as if it was a real action that would change something but as an incentive encouraging us to do something in a different way. If you’re disappointed that after watching a video on keeping fit  (despite it amazed you and you thought: I want the same thing!), you still don’t feel like hitting the gym and fighting for it, it means you didn’t reach the change level, the motivation.

Motivation is the strength we find in ourselves, driving us to real action and establishing habits. Without it, no task or need will be fulfilled. No matter what we want to achieve, even the smallest and easiest goal (a walk in the park after work) is impossible since we don’t really know why we want to reach for it.

A particular goal determines the direction we move in, but in order to achieve it, we need willingness, desire and interest. These three components together construe the motivation process. Let’s look at it in a different way: you can set various goals without being interested in achieving them. For example, our objective is to lose weight, but we’re not eager to stop eating lots of sweets. So what do we get from setting an objective if we don’t possess enough motivational energy to make it happen?

Tell the aim and the reason apart

However, it works also the other way round. If we didn’t set our aim, the motivation only doesn’t make any sense and it won’t get us anywhere. For instance, what if I’m motivated to do something cool and involving sport in South America (I’ll do something new!) but I don’t have an idea what is it and why would I do this.

In case of sport, majority of us aims at similar things: to lose weight, run a marathon, be fit again, look great in bikini. When we think about it, we see only the final result – us, arousing admiration during holidays, crossing the finishing line in a competition, etc.

Each of the above purposes has its hidden agenda – the reason why we actually want to achieve them. And the difference between the reason and the aim is huge! Above all, the aim answers the question: ‘What do I really want to achieve?’. The reason asks: ‘Why and what for do I want to achieve it?’. The reason of starting doing something is the essential thing at the beginning of the challenge, we must understand what drives our decision to change. Looking for reasons is looking for an answer to the question: ‘How does my life change after I achieve the aim?’.

In realizing sports (but not only!) goals, we need not only inspiration and incentive to act, but also disciplined motivation. Achieving a success is simply a sum of small steps made in overcoming excuses and the feeling of an award at the end of the road. This is the true reason of getting up and moving forward.

The process is not easy and demands holistic approach, so it’s good to remember about a few motivational tricks. I will present them to you using the example of me running in South America.

1. What is really the reason of what you do?

 Analyze what stands behind your action. Why did you decide to devote one hour of your life four times a week on training? Is it really the need to look stunning on the beach this holidays? Maybe the reason is more profound? Do you want to impress anyone in particular? To wow someone? Feel competent? Consider, if the way of doing it is suitable for you. If, for instance, you’re doing something not as much for you as for other people, you motivation can drop down with the passage of time and you won’t achieve what you planned. Research shows that aims set by ourselves are more motivating than aims set by others. The reason I took up my running challenge in South America was to learn if my organism is strong enough to manage trekking in new, unknown conditions. I haven’t set up a challenge like this for a long time and it was my chance to do it.

Running in the jungle in Brasil, where you try to be faster than mosquitos are :) Iguazu Falls

2. There’s no such thing as better opportunity

There’s one thing about the motivation: the more you think it through, the less it appeals to you. If I wonder too much how it will be to run, whether or not I will make it, will it rain, I discourage myself and many ‘buts’ pop into my head. The worst thing to do then is to convince yourself that something is too hard, so maybe it’s not the best moment to do it. It’d be better to run in the park, not on the street, in 20oC, not 7oC, having a day off, not being exhausted after work, etc. I’m afraid there’s no better moment than now. IT IS GOOD. For me, it actually was, since I might not run in South America spots again. And I would kick myself for not experiencing that.

Morning training in Patagonia (Argentina). It’s 6 a.m. and Fitz Roy in the back looks like made from gold :) It was 5 Celsius degrees though…

3. Start off gently. Slowly doesn’t mean worse!

The biggest problem of people beginning their sports adventure or returning to it after a break, are high expectations towards their possibilities. They often promise themselves to train hard or run 10 km during the first training. And their frightened body rebels. Consequently, their self-esteem decreases, they are depressed.

So don’t do everything you’ve planned on the first day. An 80% training is not worse! If you are a running rookie, gradually make the distance longer, get used to it. It influences not only your self-confidence but also a positive training attitude. My running during the journey was also easy at the beginning, short-distance, however with an ongoing appetite for more!

Running through Atacama Desert in Chile. I was cold and I had so much sand in my shoes…

4. Think, what’s the award and enjoy it!

 Awards aren’t necessarily long-term and awaited for months, e.g. one day, I’ll be young and beautifulJ Bear in mind, it’s only here and now that matters and you don’t need to deserve enjoying the moment. Aims are important and they organize our actions but the way we travel to achieve them is also wonderful. Isn’t a me-time awarding? A moment of relaxation, good mood, sun shining and irradiating you, the ability to work out? I often think about all of these things during trainings and I’m enjoying them more than the goal itself. My award for an effort in South America was the possibility to run among breathtaking nature and any kind of exhaustion could take it from me :)

It was my biggest award! The views that helped me to stop thinking about exhaustion. Lagoon on Atacama Desert, Chile

5. Monitor your progress and be proud even of the slightest one

We often forget to observe our actions daily. We do many things mindlessly, we don’t draw any conclusions. Not only the time left to achieve the goal drives us but also the way we went through and our progress. We don’t appreciate how hard we try, we’re not proud of the fact that we are trying and fighting for it. It means we control our mind and body, we hold all the aces, therefore we are more confident in other situations. I was proud of every kilometer I ran and every training I performed during this demanding journey. And even the fact I managed to make all of it happen is my success.

Break for a run on my way to Miscanti Lagoon in Chile

6. Always think positively

Reject all negative emotions. Don’t let them in. Control your thoughts and listen to your inner voice. I bet you don’t listen to it often. It’s high time you change it! If negative thoughts flow in, tell them to stop immediately. Positive attitude is the beginning of a healthy approach to new challenges. Positive thinking is miraculous! Sometimes, when I haven’t been running for a long time, I feel worried I can’t manage any more, I’m afraid I’d feel dizzy and unable to finish my run. But then I try to remind myself of all challenging moments I survived despite the difficulties.

One thing is very important – the training is motivating only if afterwards there are positive emotions, satisfaction and the feeling of time well spend.

It was my worst training. 3 500 m above the sea leavel made me suffocate. Atacama, Chile

Thank you CARDIO BUNNY for being my colorful motivation while trainings. Also for your partnership in South America where I was chasing my running dreams :) It’s way much better to train in clothes in which you feel good and attractive :)

To see the whole Cardio Bunny collection – BACK TO GYM you can see on the photos, just click HERE.