The Real Value of Commitment (and a New One I’m Making to You)

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There used to be a quote on a Starbucks cup that started out, “The irony of commitment is that it’s deeply liberating.”

I always liked it and knew that somehow I could relate it to my running, but I didn’t quite understand how. Finally, I do.

This quote has a sister idea, which says that with constraints — take an artist’s committing to napkin-art, for example — comes the freedom to create. In this case, freedom from the tyranny of the blank white page.

Ever since I finished my 100-miler in 2013, I’ve been an aimless runner. It’s been pretty nice: I’ve loved the freedom to run when only I want to, unburdened by a training plan to specify mileage or pace. And I’ve done a decent job staying consistent.

But recently I signed up for my first race since then: the Richmond Marathon, mid-November, six months from now. I chose a training plan (or rather, I stitched together two of them), and I started training.

Since then, I’ve had to run what the plan says, when the plan says.

It was a hard transition at first. I mean, come on, run when I don’t feel like it?

But now, four weeks in, I fully appreciate the value of commitment to a plan. It’s not just that it ramps you up to the race distance. It’s that it forces you to stretch.

When there’s no plan, you run when you feel like it. Which feels great, free, comfortable.

The catch is that there’s no challenge. And therefore, no victory.

Without a schedule, you might run four days one week. The next, seven days. The next, three. On average, it might even be pretty close to what you run when you follow a plan.

But I now understand this: when there’s so much flexibility that you never have to run when you don’t feel like it, you’re missing out on something absolutely critical.

The real value of commitment

What I’ve learned about running in these few weeks is something I’ve known forever, without realizing that I did. That running when you don’t feel like it — when it’s raining, when you don’t have anything good to listen to, when you’re way too busy — is when running is most valuable.

Not in the moment, necessarily, but in the body of work that it builds.

Every time you follow the plan when you otherwise would have skipped the run or put it off to (maybe) make up later, you win. Win a few times one week, and suddenly you can’t wait for next week. Do it for a month, and suddenly you’re on fire.

I’ve learned that left to my own devices, I’m okay. I’ll have the “I should run / I don’t feel like running” conversation a lot, and some of those times, I’ll run.

But throw in a goal and some constraints, and suddenly, there is no conversation: you run because you have to run. Because the schedule says so.

And aside from the accumulation of miles and wins that I talked about a minute ago, there’s also the obvious, that anyone who has ever run when they really didn’t feel like it knows:

That often the days when you don’t want to run are the days when you need running the most. Just like our artist, the magic happens when you set the constraints and stick to them.

A new commitment for No Meat Athlete (and me)

I’ve noticed the parallels between running and writing before, but never has this one been so clear.

No Meat Athlete has always been a “write when you feel like it” type of gig for me. Certainly, it has worked. But I’m at a point where I need more structure than that. And I think I owe that to you, too.

Just like your running muscles suffer from the “run when you feel like it” plan, so do the writing muscles when you only write every now and then. And worse, when you never have to write, it’s as if your idea source — whatever or whomever it may be — knows it, and happily uses that as an excuse to take a vacation.

We’ve got a lot of gigantic and exciting changes in the works for No Meat Athlete: a new logo, a new site design, new shirts, a new print cookbook, and a new, streamlined approach to products. You’ll hear more about all of that in due time. But before any of it, I want to start with this (most important) change:

Beginning now, if you subscribe to the No Meat Athlete blog or newsletter, you can expect two new posts every week. Now and then, one will be by a guest writer, and at least a couple more will be partner posts with brands, like my tart cherries ambassadorship. But for the foreseeable future, the majority will be all me.

And since NMA Radio has become as big a part of this brand as the blog, you can expect the same if you subscribe to that: two new episodes, every week.

There are still a few details to work out, many of which will take some trial and error (for example, which days to publish on? what if it’s a holiday? should new podcast episodes be posted to the blog and sent out via email, too?).

But the commitment is straightforward enough: two new blog posts and two new podcast episodes each week.

I appreciate the value of a deadline in creating new habits, so I’m going to slap on here, too. I’m going to say this is “until my marathon in November.”

But of course I hope it lasts much longer than that, and I think it will — because of all the changes that lie ahead, I really do believe that this one will bring the most benefit for everyone.

The NMA Academy just got better, too!

The No Meat Athlete Academy, our private membership site where we go in-depth into health and fitness topics to help members make big changes, recently had its first birthday.

It’s undergone a few changes of its own, too — a new site platform, a new Facebook accountability group, and a new format of (you guessed it) more frequent content each month — and I’m excited to re-open it to new annual members for the first time in many months.

If you’re looking for a jolt of inspiration and new ideas, and you think you’d benefit from connecting more closely with me and our members, check out the great offer that’s running right now. It only lasts through tomorrow, so if you’re interested, don’t wait too long! Check out all the details about the new Academy (and some amazing bonuses) now.



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  1. This is an ambitious commitment, Matt! Good luck, and I look forward to reading and listening!

  2. Can’t wait for twice weekly podcasts!! Is the monthly academy offer still open somewhere?

  3. Michele says:

    Great stuff and happy about these announcements! I fully agree with the joint accountability and joyful freedom that comes with committing to a plan. It’s one of the main reasons I wholeheartedly am training again with a coach for my next Ironman – I take crazy pride in checking “Workout Completed” on my plan, and never more so than when I didn’t think I would be able to fit it in! Good luck!

  4. I really enjoy your podcast. I run with it nearly every day! They are a huge encouragement to me. I hope to access more support, having joined the academy.
    My struggle lies in vegan eating (versus running) amidst a world of meat eaters. I look forward to refining my technological skills so that I can access accountability and encouragement through other avenues.

  5. I am a competitive tennis player and would love “No Meat Athlete, Runs On Plants” logo on something I can wear during a match… hat, visor, tennis shirt. Looking forward to your new designs. As a longtime vegan, I’m one of the few who plays both singles and doubles in the same match 🙂

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