"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit." — Aristotle

My water was warm.

My feet were hot.

My treadmill was squeaking and my hip was aching. The only thing moving slower than the digits on the clock was the distance indicator on my favorite machine.

And then, there was the television. I looked around and tried to figure out who found small claims court, an infomercial on acne medicine and a show about three sisters who were also witches (with none of the cool amenities like flying monkeys or magical broomsticks) a distraction from indoor exercise.

This was my battle today. Getting up, it seemed, was the easy part.

Usually if I can get to the gym, I'm home free. I'm not getting up before dawn to wander aimlessly around the gym — although I have seen this strategy employed by others.

Motivation is elusive. Just when I think I have it firmly in my grasp — which I did until about a month ago — it dissolves, evaporates, dissipates. The drive to push myself comes into direct conflict with my desire to take the easy way out.

Newton's law of motion tends to summarize my struggle: "A body at rest tends to stay at rest unless an unbalanced force acts upon it."

The irony is, my life could be considered an "unbalanced force." And it feels like lately it's not just acting upon me, it's beating me down.

So that motivation that I held so proudly through December and January now looks like some kid's cotton candy that he loved too much.

"The best way out is always through." — Robert Frost

Shortcuts only cheat you of the real rewards. And when you're training for a race or trying to lose weight or just trying to be healthier, a shortcut will keep you from the very goal that dragged you out of bed on a cold winter's morning.

I had a cross-country coach who reminded us often that he wouldn't know if we turned around early or if we cut corners. He couldn't see us during the training run that took us through the foothills of Anchorage, Alaska.

"But if you cheat," he'd say, "you're only cheating yourself. Your shortcut won't affect my physical fitness."

When the demands of the world seem to feel more like a tunnel collapse than a joyous opportunity, I do what that little blue fish, Dori, did in the cartoon "Finding Nemo." I just keep swimming.

I don't beat myself up for the days I'd rather sleep, and I no longer require a two-hour workout every day.

"Work spares us from three evils: boredom, vice and need." — Voltaire

I firmly believe that the work is the reward. I have worked hard enough and reaped enough benefits from that hard work to know that you don't need a medal to make the suffering worthwhile.

The pleasure really is in the pain.

So rather than move away from the reality that life is complicated and motivation is fleeting, I'm trying something new this month.

I set minimum workouts, and I seek motivation that will help me through that workout, that day.

I'm not beating myself up for feeling a bit blah about my training, but I am also pushing myself when that first (dozen) excuse(s) tries to keep me at rest.

"You cannot plow a field by 
turning it over in your mind." — Author unknown

And as much as I wish it were true sometimes, I cannot feel the benefits of exercise, unless I’m willing to put in the effort. I cannot enjoy the races I'm hoping to run, if I'm unwilling to put in the time training.

And I cannot hang onto motivation unless I am willing to acknowledge that in life there is no finish line. And that is actually a blessing.

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