Why Do You Train? Exploring What Motivates Us
New York City is a very busy place. It has a distinct energy that some people find overwhelming. However, others thrive on it, and I’m afraid that many of these Type-A New Yorkers inevitably end up at Finish Line Physical Therapy (myself included). As athletes, we love exploring new challenges, testing our personal limits and growing in an environment that wants us to be no less than our very best.
But why do we train? Is it part of our nature? Or do we feel forced to? Amidst the chaos of the city, why do we feel the need to run around and exhaust ourselves on top of it all?
I think about this question often, and any of my patients can tell you that within the first visit or two, I let my curiosity (or nosiness perhaps) get the best of me and ask them why they do what they do. The answers I get are fascinating and incredibly varied: people train for their health, in memory of a loved one, because they hate their job, out of habit and routine, for the sheer love of exercise, and (my favorite) for life itself.
On a recent trip to Haiti, I found myself considering even more deeply what motivates us and drives our actions.
One Vision One World (OVOW) is a non-profit organization founded by Joana Bennett to provide assistance and support to orphans in Haiti and Africa. Joana grew up in many countries as her parents traveled for work, and from a young age, she was passionate about helping poor communities and especially the children in each place she lived. I had the pleasure of meeting Joana through a mutual friend, and when she first told me about her organization, I never imagined that I would become personally involved and invested in such an amazing effort.
Up until last month, I had never set foot in a third world country. But after a short 1.5-hour flight from Miami, I found myself in a place entirely opposite of New York City. Over the course of several days with OVOW, I traveled to various orphanages and communities around Port au Prince.
We spent hours playing games with the children, handing out clothing, shoes and school supplies, discussing assistance plans with community leaders and filming a fundraising video. We visited “tent villages,” where thousands of people are living in structures made of sticks and tarps, and hiked up a mountain to a remote community where over fifty orphaned children with no shoes live and play in an open-air schoolhouse.
I was, needless to say, appalled and humbled by the conditions that many of the Haitian people are living in four years after the earthquake. What motivates them? Survival. Food and shelter and getting to the next day. And I want to train for three half marathons, two full marathons, and a triathlon this year … wait, what?!
It all made me think long and hard about why I am fortunate enough to live the life I do, what purpose I am serving each day and what factors motivate me to train. I’ve concluded the following:
I run because it makes me feel basic, whole and connected to the world around me.
I train because it makes me stronger — physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
The stronger I am, the better I am at my job.
My job is to help people wherever and however I can.
So, I ask again. Why do you train? I encourage you to think about it and explore your own purpose. Share your story and your motivation with others because it doesn’t just matter what you do, it matters why you do it.