Posts Tagged ‘psychology’

Disclaimer: 1) I’m not a sports psychologist. 2) I’m not a 9 yr old.


Last week I asked my son if he wanted to delay his tennis session to run his 10th parkrun (that’s the weekly, Saturday, free 5km run – in case you’ve been on another planet…or you are one of my relatives) at the same time I was due to run my 50th one. No pressure. 

He said, “Yes”.

On the Friday night, I went to a Christmas work do. I cycled there. I had a good time. I had a bit too much to eat. I had just the right amount to drink. I danced far too much. I cycled back. I got home in the early hours of the morning- at 02:00.

At 08:00 on Saturday I go through to my sleeping son and say, “So… you’d better be getting up if we’re going to make it to parkrun this morning.”

There are some protestations from him – the bed is warm, he forgot it was Saturday, the wind might blow him away, there are hills, etc.   I remind him that I said I’d meet fellow runner/blogger abradypus at the parkrun, so I was going anyway and if we were going to run our milestone runs together, then today would have to be the day. He gets up

He said he was going to run, so he did. Credit to him.

Now obviously I don’t want to force or blackmail him to run. I would have gone on my own. Yes, I wanted to run it with him… only partly because if I ran it on my own and ran it hard (as I would), then the results, given last night’s…. ‘dancing’… would not have been pretty. But I would have gone on my own.

He is in control now. He chooses a light breakfast, he asks to take headphones this week (there’s a whole other debate, right there), but as it turns out, my ears and his are different sizes (who’d have thought it?) so we end up leaving them.

We are soon at the parkrun and meet up with Louise (abradypus) and her entourage, in the form of Mike – another runner, and Louise’s husband and chief bag holder Andy – not running today.

*For those who doubt the importance of punctuation in blog posts, I think that last sentence proves a subtle point.*

We set off… too fast as always…but this is my son’s run and I’m just there for the ride. The first half km is pretty flat but he struggles a bit at the first hill, more at the second, and he has a stitch that is threatening to rip out his insides by the time we reach the third. We walk. We talk. We run again. On to lap two.

This is where I think I make an error, I put my hands up to this – without intending to add any pressure but because I thought he might want to know – I look at the time and I comment that if he keeps this pace, he’d beat his PB (he’d asked about his best time before we left home).

Bad, bad daddy! I am 9 years old, I actually wanted to stay in bed this morning but you guilted me into running with you, and now here I am – still with 2km to go and that series of mini hills / mountain range and you tell me I have to keep this pace?! 

When we hit the next hill, he holds my arm. I assure him it’s fine to walk for a bit. We do. But I notice tears 😦

We walk… and I do my best not to sound sarcastic in any way when I say we can walk or run or whatever he wants. I don’t want him to be upset – obviously, I don’t want him to hate running, and clearly I don’t mention the time again, I want him to know (silently) that the time is not important here. We walk. We hug. We are passed by a couple of very encouraging runners on the top, hilly (mountainous) section.

“I just can’t do it” he says.

“I want to, but I can’t.  It hurts.”

And although this isn’t about me, I also feel suddenly very aware that I look like a pushy parent, forcing his child into painful, unwanted physical activity. This is not me, by the way. This is not parkrun.

Choices time. We can stop here. There’s the cafe. Short-cut to the cafe. Hot drink? Grab the football we brought with us? Have a kickabout? Achieve those milestone runs another time?

But it’s not my choice and I refuse to make it (though I was asked).

We have all been there or thereabouts before, I’m sure. Going for a goal, falling short of what we hoped for, and needing to decide if we cut our losses and live to fight (or run) another day or keep going – just finish. Sometimes just finishing is important to us. Sometimes it’s the goal that’s important and stopping is actually the strong thing to do, increasing the chances of hitting the goal another time. So I’m not saying one is right and the other, wrong… just that this decision wasn’t mine.  

When it came to the crunch, he decided to run. He said he didn’t want to come this way and not complete it. It was as if once he made up his mind, that was it. He ran all the remaining way, eventually passing the ever-encouraging other parkrunners who’d passed us earlier. He finished. He finished strong. He was even almost happy…

…but that was before early-onset teenagerhood kicked in again back at the cafe.

He was of course now too tired to speak. Too tired to talk. Too tired for a drink. Too tired to lift his head from the table…

…so naturally we played football for half an hour before his hour-long tennis coaching session…

…where incidentally, I massively pulled my calf muscle and still can’t walk properly. So much for warm-ups!

What’s next. Now that we are have running icons in the parkrun world we might just claim our free parkruns any Saturday morning when the mood takes us.

We will also claim our milestone T-shirts and if/when he wants to (and my calf has healed), this father/son combo will be back.


Why do I run?

How many blog posts try to answer this question?

I’m not sure I know the answer…to either of the above. Partly because the answer changes day to day, month to month, year to year.

I started initially so that a female friend at university didn’t have to run alone at night when we were on placement in a new place. But I found myself still going for runs when she said she couldn’t make it.
Stress relief. I think that is still the main reason for me.

One of the best explanations from someone else that I have seen, is one with which you may already be familiar if you are within the running world.
It’s by ‘the oatmeal’ and can be found here.

Gimmicks can help get me out running too. I remember being given an iPod and a Nike+ foot pod thing many years ago now. Then using the Nike+ app with its sort of internal pedometer (my iPod didn’t have gps).
When I eventually got a smart phone, that opened up a new means of run recording, via gps tracked runs. I used apps like endomondo, runkeeper and more recently Strava.  Seeing the miles clock up and seeing speed and distance improvements certainly helped, along with the various other stats.
Also parkrun – the run not a race  (but where you push yourself hard over that final straight so that person you’ve been ‘leapfrogging’ with over the past 4.8km doesn’t overtake again over the final 200m) adds a new element to running motivation for some. Some people don’t miss a week.

This Juneathon and Janathon malarkey… Exercise everyday, blog everyday for a month… Or doing a ‘runstreak’… Motivating? Definitely at times. But if you miss a day, what happens to that motivation?

Jantastic – the initiative from the marathon talk folk was really useful for helping me to get out and running over the first three months of this year in preparation for a marathon in April.

Would I have got out and run without it? Probably. But I think it helped.

Or did it?
Do any of these things?

Or do they do the opposite?

Would I still do Juneathon if nobody read/liked/commented?

Does the motivation come from within (intrinsic), or externally (extrinsic) in the form of whatever ‘reward’ we perceive we get?

Moreover, does the introduction of extrinsic rewards lead to an overall decrease in intrinsic motivation once the external rewards are removed?

I remember the above hypothesis was a generally accepted one in sports psychology around the time that I did my GCSE in physical education …errr…a few years ago.
There was some experiment where people were observed regarding the length of time spent playing with a puzzle. They were then paid a small amount for solving puzzles the next day, and then the day after that the pay was removed and the puzzle playing dramatically decreased. (If I was still at university, I’d have to reference that, but because I’m not, and I’m feeling lazy, I’m not going to. Such a rebel!)

This hypothesis – that intrinsic motivation was decreased by the introduction and subsequent removal of extrinsic rewards – was perhaps a rather sweeping statement to make anyway as more recent studies seem to suggest things are a little more complex and that in some circumstances extrinsic rewards can actually enhance intrinsic motivation. (If you are interested to read more, there’s a bit of a summary at )

This is good news, I think.
I don’t want to be decreasing my desire to be active by using the various gadgets/apps/rewards-websites that I do. But… and unfortunately, I have to admit, I can think of times when this has happened in the past… I don’t want to not get out of the house because I can’t find my phone/ipod, or stop a run because my app has crashed and ‘it won’t count’.

So maybe it’s good to get out every now and again without an app, without an iPod, without even a goal or a session plan in mind. Just go. If you don’t think you would, or could, then maybe your intrinsic motivation has been decreased?

Now… not to undermine all of that… but intended as an extra, an add-on, a ‘sign-up and forget about it’ sort of thing, I have joined up with two rewards sites. One (Bounts) has been going for a while and the other (Running Heroes) only started up in the UK in this past month.
Both sites award points for the exercise you record via any number of apps and you can then exchange these points for tangible rewards such as discount vouchers, gift cards, etc.
It would be a real shame if it ever got to the point where anyone just ran for the purpose of earning these points, but personally, I figure, “if I’m running anyway…why not?”. I am currently at a point with Bounts where I’m just a few runs away from being able to get a £10 supermarket gift card… effectively for runs I’d have done anyway.

If you haven’t already signed up to Bounts and you are thinking about it, then for a limited time we can both get a load of extra points if you sign up through this link or quote avery1132 when you sign up.

I was also contacted by Running Heroes recently and in addition to bonus points if you sign up through this link, they also sent me an instant 100 point bonus code ‘run67run‘ which they said I could share with my readers.

My personal idea with these sites is, having signed up, just to forget about them for a while. They sync up automatically with the apps I use and the points build up over time for what I do anyway. If someone wants to send me vouchers for doing that – great.

Yesterday, I played tennis. I didn’t get any (website-related) points for that. I still enjoyed it. Intrinsic motivation still intact there. Today it’s back to running, though…and I’ll probably get a few points for it… But that’s not the reason I’m going.

If you use these sites, I’d be interested to know what you think of them too. Let me know.