Finding the motivation to exercise

“I may regret not doing a workout, but I’ll never regret having done it.”

This phrase came to me at the end of a workout that for some reason I’d struggled to get to.  I don’t remember what obstacles had got in my way, or what I might have had to give up to be there, but I do remember feeling really pleased that I’d pushed myself to make it.  The phrase would become a mantra that I’d call on when motivation was lacking.  And it has never been more valuable than one Sunday morning – Cape Town in June.

Several weeks earlier I’d come across the K-Way Table Mountain 16km race (, a stunning run from Constantia Nek up the Jeep Track to the top of the mountain, round Woodhead Reservoir and back.  I’d hiked it several times and was curious to know if I could run it.  There was only one way to find out… my entry form was sent off immediately and I was in!

Constantia Nek Jeep TrailI decided the best approach would be to run the course at least once a week and I stuck to this plan, always managing to pick the perfect weather conditions and calling on my mantra to get me up onto the trail – the stunning views my reward for getting to the top.

Then I woke on the morning of the race to gusty winds, heavy rain and Table Mountain barely visible.  Suddenly it didn’t feel like such a good idea.  Would the race be cancelled?  Would the trail be closed?

Wrapped up warm and waterproof I went to collect my number at 7.15am, still dark, still raining, still very unappealing. “We don’t have you on the list of runners” the marshal declared having checked her list a second and third time.  Here was my way out…  “Never mind, there’s always next year” was ready to come out of my mouth when she passed me a clipboard and suggested I complete another form.

It was in that moment I heard my mantra over and over in my head, pushing me to fill out the form for a second time.  I knew I’d be disappointed in myself if I didn’t run.   But then no matter how challenging and uncomfortable the race was going to be, I wouldn’t regret taking part.  Thirty minutes later I was standing at the start line really not knowing what to expect as announcements were made about how to reduce the risk of hypothermia!

It was a tough ascent.  The wind at times so strong I was running to stay still, the rain turning to sleet at the top.  To my surprise I wasn’t cold and as the sleet prickled my face I found myself enjoying the sensation, smiling at the complete contrast this was to all my training runs.

With layers on my watch was buried, and in any case I’d decided early on in the race to ignore it.  This wasn’t going to be a performance run.  It was going to be the sort of run you survive, a run that proves you’re tough and ever so slightly crazy!

Gradually I passed all my personal landmarks and suddenly I was on my way down, the wind behind me making it wonderfully easy.  The end was in sight – metaphorically speaking!

As the trail flattened out towards the bottom I pushed hard for the last kilometre.  Imagine my surprise when I crossed the line three seconds inside my personal best, incredibly happy to have run it and totally oblivious to how wet I actually was.

As well as giving me a real sense of achievement, this experience served as a powerful reminder of how effective my mantra is – to me at least.  It has taught me something about myself I can use to find motivation; motivation to exercise, to get out there and make the transition from doubting I can do it to knowing I have it in me.  Once that first step has been made, I can look forward to the wonderful feeling exercising brings me, a feeling that stays with me for the rest of the day.

Deborah Savin-Curnier

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