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I was recently asked on Twitter if I'd talk about where I get my motivation to run, especially on days when I don't especially feel like running. If you're not a runner, keep reading. I think this advice applies to most things in life, including writing.

First, a short recap: A year ago, I hated running. Hated it. I'll admit--I love it now. I'm addicted. I ran 16 miles on Tuesday, and I can't wait to get out and do my first 20 mile run. Sick, hu?

I wish I could remember when things clicked and I started to look forward to my runs. I'm pretty sure it was the first time I ran three miles and realized my body didn't hurt at all during the run. A big motivator to me is that I'm able to see the progress I'm making. I started losing weight quickly, my body started hurting less and less, I was running longer and longer distances. Every day there is a new milestone, or a new record to set. 

So, here are a few of the things that keep me running:

1. Progress--Running is the one area of my life where I am able to see a direct correlation between the effort I put forth and my improvement or my ability level. I track all my stats--miles run, times, other workouts I complete in a day--and I'm easily able to see how my efforts are paying off. It's extremely satisfying to be able to see my work pay off with a new speed or distance milestone.

I think tracking effort and progress is important in any area where we want to make improvements. It's really hard for me to see progress in my writing, but there are always things that can be tracked--word count, hours/minutes at the keyboard, books read, hours researched. All these things, this effort, should make a person a better writer.

2. Friends--
I've spent most of my life trying to deny this, but I'm an extrovert. I feed off the energy of other people (and hopefully, I inspire and motivate them too). I go to the gym because that's where my friends are. I do my long runs on weekends with friends. We talk. We catch up. We complain. We problem solve. I have friends who know when they can push me. I have friends who like to compete. I have friends who like to socialize. The best running days are with friends.

My best writing days are with friends too. When my kids were younger, my interaction with other writers was limited to friends I interacted with on Live Journal. These days, I get together twice a week with a group of writers. We spend the entire day writing, usually with iPods turned on to keep us from talking. Meeting with these writers is fun, and a great way to stay accountable.

3. Goals--I set goals for myself. Running the Disney Half Marathon was my initial goal. I knew I couldn't achieve that goal if I didn't run several times a week. You can't go from being a non-runner to running a half marathon if you don't put in the training time. I registered 11 months ahead of time, paid my money...I couldn't back out. Now that I've experienced some "success," I'm setting some goals that might seem impossible. Those are the goals that make me leap out of bed, excited to run. (Such as training for my first marathon and ambitious speed goals for my next half marathon)

The same goes for writing. It's crazy to expect to become a published author without putting in the effort. Write X# picture books in a two month time frame, set a goal date for starting and finishing a novel. Give yourself a reward tied to a tangible result: "If I finish this novel and get it critiqued by May, I'll attend the LA SCBWI conference this summer."

4. Enjoyment--I really do like to run.  Life should be fun, and most things worth doing should be fun....especially if you're going to spend hours and hours a week doing it. (Okay, laundry, especially folding socks, sucks. But, even that can be fun if you want it to be.) Initially, I ran to lose weight. Then it became fun. If it didn't become fun, I would have quit and kept searching for some fitness activity I find to be fun.
 
If writing isn't fun, don't do it. Find something else. Or change genres. Find what you enjoy and do it.

5. Habit--Running every day has become such a habit, I'm restless if I don't run. On days when I have to skip my workout, I have a hard time getting my day started. It's just part of my routine now.

Habit may be the most important one of all. Whatever you want to accomplish, make the steps to get there part of your daily routine. This is something you want to do...taking the baby steps to get there should not be a chore. If it is, reevaluate your goals and priorities.

Those are my best tips, the top reasons I drag myself to the gym each morning. What are your tips? What's your inspiration or motivation for working out or writing...or reaching for your goals?

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