Last night, I wore my marathon finisher shirt (one of my few long-sleeve tech tees) on a 2.5 mile run. Felt a bit pathetic. Yes, less than 5 months ago I ran 10 times that distance in one go. Now, I convinced myself to start the run by only planning to do a whole 2 miles, and was proud of going farther than that and only taking a few walking breaks.
8 weeks into 2014, and I've run a grand total of 41 miles - I did almost that much in a week during marathon training! I haven't been injured, and work has only been really ramping up in hours the past few weeks. I just... haven't been wanting to run, is all.
There was a time when I generally didn't bother going out for a run if I wasn't willing to do at least 3 miles. That seemed like the minimum that made it worth the time to change clothes, stretch, shower, etc.
Lately, though, I'm all about the concept "it's better than nothing!" This applies to length and/or intensity of a workout. The idea of a long run is so unappealing - but if I tell myself I only have to go out for a 2 miles, or 4 laps around the parking lot, or whatever, I can get myself out the door. I often ending up doing at least a touch more than planned, so it adds up. Or, I might set a marginally longer goal - but put very little effort into it. Tons of walking breaks and slow paces.
Is it really better than nothing? Sometimes, I definitely use it as an excuse. If I talked myself into it, I could find the energy to do a better workout. Other times, though, I really would be do nothing - I'd stay at work longer or sit on the couch for the whole evening.
Just doing something can also be useful in forming habits. I'm trying to train myself to be a morning exerciser, so evening plans don't get in the way of socializing, or vice versa (as happened sometimes when I was sticking to a training plan for a race). Is getting up early to half ass a strength workout or ride my bike trainer for 20 minutes worth while? If it helps me form a healthy routine, absolutely!
When is "it's better than nothing" a valid justification for an easier workout? When is it just an excuse to not give your best effort?