How to Find Your Inspiration

The view from my parents' house in Southern California. I'm pretty jealous.

Inspiration is not sport-specific.  Inspiration is effective across activities; just because you happen to be running, swimming, or working through spreadsheet formulas doesn’t mean you won’t find people like Lance Armstrong or amputee Badwater runner Amy Palmiero-Winters inspiring .

In the toughest moments of a race, I’m inspired not by Olympians, even though they’re obviously very impressive.  What motivates me the are things that are closer to home. The scenes, moments, or events that I have a personal connection to are the ones that keep me moving during the times that seem most desperate.

When I need it dig deep for inspiration, the scenes that usually come to mind are about hills: climbing hills, seeing people I know climb hills, having climbed a hill, or running down the side of a hill I just finished climbing.

A few years ago, I had just come back from a long trip, at the end of which I had to say goodbye to some good friends. On returning home, I experienced the characteristic let-down of returning back to routine. Of course, the solution was a hard, fast, painful run.

There’s a route I like to run near my parents house in Southern California. It’s only 5.5 miles, but the first 1.25 miles are a brutal ascent up a very steep hill.

On this particular day, I pounded up this hill as hard as I could, given jet-lag and the associated exhaustion. At the top, I did something uncharacteristic – I took a quick breather.

The view at the top of this hill is stunning; it’s 360-degrees of rolling grasslands on one side, with mountains in the distance. On the other side is the Pacific Ocean, vast and steely grey.  On clear days, you can see Catalina Island. On clearer days, San Clemente Island is visible, too; a little grey hill of its own rising out of the ocean.

I’ve been taking some indoor cycling classes lately. They happen in the morning, and the instructor turns the lights off.  The darkness, while a bit strange, encourages visualization. When I’m looking for inspiration in those cycling classes, I sometimes think of this particular run – of vicious climbing up an impossibly steep hill, and of the beautiful reward at the top.

Inspiration comes in many forms, and from unexpected corners. Sometimes, the most inspiring stories aren’t the ones everyone knows; they are the ones nobody knows.

What inspires you? When you need a little extra juice, what do you think about?

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