I’m not afraid to admit when I screw up, and this summer, I screwed up.

But first, let’s talk about playing guitar. Yes, the guitar.

Back in college, I decided I wanted to learn how to play the guitar. It’s hard to say what the true motivation was — looking cool, being creative, impressing women — but I was determined to learn.

So what did I do?

I got a guitar, sat alone in my dorm room, taught myself 4 chords, and tried to find every song I could that used only those 4 chords. Amazingly, that worked for awhile.

But about a month later, after strumming G, C, D, and E on repeat, I got bored. The songs began to sound the same, and progress came to a halt.

Other than picking it up now and again, that pretty much ended my guitar playing career.

Looking back, I know exactly where I went wrong:

  • I only played by myself, and had no accountability or excitement from other musicians
  • I took the short cut, learning the easiest 4 chords, and never pushed myself beyond that
  • I tried to self-teach, even though I knew nothing about guitars and little about music
  • I allowed myself to get uninspired and bored

If I could talk to my 18 year old self, I would tell him that approach is all wrong, and will end up making him look silly, not cool. I’d also tell him to cut his hair, but that’s a story for another day…


The Wrong Approach to Training

Fast forward to this summer, and running is the goal.

On May 16th, I ran the Black Mountain Monster. It was my best race to date, both with how I placed and executed the run.

High on miles, I rested much of the next few weeks, and dreamed of a summer full of adventure. When the time came, I declared my big goals, and started training.

Only the training never took off. It was uninspired, unintentional, and dripped along with no purpose. My lack of planning and willingness to push all came to head a few weeks ago at the Steep Canyon 50k, when I had to fight for every mile.

It was in that moment that I realized I had done it again…

When the Pieces Are There, But They Don’t Fit Together

Unlike when I picked up guitar, this time most of pieces were there.

I had goals — 2 50ks, a half marathon, and a few trail adventures — on the calendar. I had accountability through Katie and this site. I was even able to manage consistency, running at least 5 times per week all summer.

But just like during my failed guitar career, I didn’t have purpose, or a willingness to push myself.

That’s where I screwed up.

Because without those two, you aren’t going to learn the guitar. Or have a good training summer. Or anything else that requires hard work and dedication.

Most of the pieces were there, but without the bigger purpose, they didn’t fit together.

It’s Time for a Fresh Start

My summer of training might sound a little too familiar. Runners fall into this trap all the time.

They attend a race, or feel out of shape or overweight, and suddenly have all this motivation to start training again. Only to find a few runs later that the motivation is gone and the redo a dud.

So how do you know when you’re ready for a fresh start?

The answer is a bit more obvious than you might think: When you can’t not start over.

In other words, when you’re so sick of the way things have been going, starting over is your only option.

Oftentimes, that happens without planning. You notice that you’re running more, or harder, and you can’t stop thinking about training.

That’s where I am right now. Over the past few weeks, the switch has flipped, and the excitement is real. I know this time is different because it isn’t forced. It is natural.

Maybe the change in seasons helped. Certainly the frustration of Steep Canyon made change a priority. Whatever the reason, I’m embracing it, and determined not to make the same mistakes again.

Why This Fresh Start Will Stick

How can I be so confident? Well, just like last time, the pieces are there, and I’ve made them even stronger:

I wrote a full training plan to give me direction and focus.

I’m sharing my training with others on Strava, both for motivation and accountability. You can follow along here.

I’m getting others involved by utilizing more training partners, and planning races with friends.

I have set goals on the calendar: Runners World Half and Festival next week (use promocode blogrockcreekrunner for a discount), and the Sky to Summit 50k, in North Georgia on November 7th.

Most importantly, I have purpose and drive to improve, which will keep me motivated when things get tough.

No more missing pieces.

Start Fresh, and Make It Count

Weak attempts at starting something only end up causing more frustration than not starting at all.

The next time you’re pumped and ready to declare a fresh start, don’t take the easy route and make the same mistakes I did. Make sure you’re ready. Make sure it’s natural.

Start by gathering up all the pieces.

I doubt I’ll ever be the rock star I dreamed of at age 18, and that’s okay.  But running is too important to me to let myself screw it up.

Whatever your goal is, whether it’s running, guitar play, or something completely different, find your purpose and drive.

And make it count.

On Strava? Join the Rock Creek Runner Trail Club!

As you may have heard on Facebook, I just launched the Rock Creek Runner Trail Club on Strava. It’s open to all, regardless of ability, to share, encourage, and celebrate your runs on and off the trail.

All runners welcome. All miles and paces celebrated.

Let this be one of the pieces that keep you on track. Find out more and join (it’s free) here.

Author Doug Hay is the founder of Rock Creek Runner, host of the Trail Talk podcast, and fanatical about everything trail running -- beards, plaid shirts, bruised toenails, and all. He and his wife live and run in beautiful Black Mountain, NC.

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2 thoughts on “The Need For A Fresh Start

  1. Not to worry, not only runners do this, triathletes are worse! I figured many pieces of the puzzle this time around, the most critical of which is being not so arrogant as to think you can do it yourself without the help of someone who really does know more than you; I got a Swim Coach and found out how much swimming science has evolved since Mark Spitz!. I also found out I never really knew how to swim fast, I never knew how to exert power and transfer it to the water.
    I swim with a team now, will be coached running, and bike with others who can kick my sorry ass. Can’t wait for 2016 racing after 1.5 years of prep. It’s all planned out!
    Great post, and so timely.

  2. I’ve loved listening to you and Matt on podcast radio about burn out and lack of motivation. Excited to see how you do with your next goals!!

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