I’ve spent the last few months trying to figure out why I seemingly lost motivation to run. Over time, I came to a few conclusions ranging from burnout to “distraction with life circumstances.” Lately I’ve come to a different conclusion-
Running has always been a hobby. I’m an undeniable serial hobbyist. Interest in hobbies increases rapidly, plateaus, then wanes.
It’s less about the actual activity and more about the process of learning. Here’s a graph that approximates the experience of learning a new skill, body of knowledge, or other such hobby:
In the beginning, the hobby is new and unfamiliar (zone 1.) It takes some time to learn the “lay of the land.” This usually includes things like basic terminology, major ideas… whatever.
Once the basics are learned, progress occurs rapidly (zone 2.) This is a time of deep immersion. Shelly may say I’m “obsessed” with the activity at this point… which is probably accurate. This pattern continue until I gain a fair degree of mastery. I’m usually not great at the hobby, but I’m usually significantly better than a casual participant.
After attaining decent mastery, gains come slower (zone 3). More effort is required to progress, which is the basic “law of diminishing returns” idea. An hour of study or practice used to result is observable results. Now the same progress may take ten hours.
Since I’m more motivated about the process of learning versus the actual activity, I get bored when the progress slows significantly in zone 3. At that point, I usually find a new activity and the cycle repeats.
It’s rare for me to totally give up a hobby or activity… I still practice many of them on occasion. They become part of me. They’re just no longer the subject of intense focus.
When I started thinking of my past hobbies, I decided to make a list. I was shocked it turned out to be as long as it is. These are the hobbies I could think of in about five minutes:
- kicking footballs
- variety of video games
- fantasy football
- free throw shooting
- air rifles
- quad riding
- barefoot running
- computer building
- website coding
- professional wrestling
- baseball and football card collecting
- movie making
- hacky sac
- skeet shooting
- pitching baseballs
- jiu jitsu
- model rockets
- radio controlled cars
- boomerang making
- fortune telling
- fresh water aquariums
- beach volleyball
For most of these activities, I reached that “zone 3″ of mastery. I’m not great at any of these, but I’m pretty decent at most. I abandoned all of them before reaching “expert” status.
There are two major advantages to being a serial hobbyist. First, it gives me an incredibly diverse set of experiences which can be useful throughout life. Or random conversation topics in social situations.
Second, the continual high rate of learning is great training for… well, learning to learn. Since I spend A LOT of time in zone 2 learning a great deal of information in a short time, I’ve developed all kinds of strategies to learn more efficiently. As a result, I tend to pick up new activities pretty quickly. This has been a huge advantage when traveling the country or starting new jobs.
Back to running.
I realized running was a hobby just like all the rest. Specifically, barefoot and ultrarunning were two fairly distinct hobbies I just happened to do at the same time. I reached a level of proficiency at both to the point where additional mastery would take a disproportionate amount of time… time that could be better spent learning something new.
I haven’t done a lot of barefoot running over the last few years. Why? I reached a point where I found the easier-to-accomplish boundaries (ran a few ultras, ran through the winter, etc.) I could have continued to push those boundaries, but it would have required A LOT more time and effort. Instead, I focused on 100 milers.
Hundos presented a unique challenge because there were so many variables to learn. That was obvious when experiencing serious problems in a few races. Eventually I ran a near-perfect race (Grindstone 2012.) It wasn’t fast, but I did almost everything right. I felt I passed that threshold between zone 2 and 3.
I could continue to run hundos to get faster, but it would require significantly more time and effort. Like the other hobbies, I’d rather spend that time doing something new.
Does it mean I’m going to totally stop running? Not at all. I’m just not going to spend every waking moment obsessing about the details of the sport. There’s a world of new experiences out there; I need that time to explore!
Anyone else with me on this? I know there has to be at least a few other serial hobbyists out there.What has been your experiences with running, barefoot or otherwise?
What about those that AREN’T serial hobbyists? It’s evident many of my running friends are perfectly happy spending years continuing deep into zone 3. Describe YOUR experiences in the comments!