Motivation comes in many forms. And often when we least expect it.Today my motivation came while eating a Mars chocolate bar in the grocery store.

I have been unable to train consistently or train hard for 4 months, due to some weird type of musculoskeletal symptoms in my chest. Surprisingly, I have not gone crazy with this lack of hard workouts and the uncertainty of when I will get back in the game, whether it be trail running or duathlons. I would like to think that part of my “acceptance” stems from my confidence in my ability to bounce back strong when the timing is right and to attain (and surpass) my past performance! So I’ve been more or less content with doing light exercise as tolerated these past few months, believing that I will be able to make progress towards my training and racing goals in hopefully the not-too-distant future.

So it came as a nice surprise to me today, while eating a Mars bar, that I suddenly felt a strong urge to suffer thru a long and intense workout. I’m talking about a “4+ hours bike ride, during the hot midday sun, legs feeling very heavy and balancing on the edge of bonking” kinda workout.

Not what one typically thinks about while eating a Mars bar, right?

Let me try to explain. I love my sweets and I eat them daily. Fortunately, I usually only need 1 or 2 bites of chocolate and then I’m good for the day. The bar simply goes back into the fridge until the next day (assuming my husband Steve doesn’t eat it). The exception to this rule, however, is when I eat a Mars chocolate bar.

I remember when this pattern first emerged about 9 years ago, while training for the Toronto Marathon. For some bizarre reason, I told myself that I would eat an entire Mars bar after running my first full marathon. Unfortunately, I had to pull out of the race at the 32km mark. Not surprisingly, I initially felt sorry for myself and told myself that I didn’t deserved the Mars bar. That foolish thought quickly passed and I happily gobbled down the chocolate bar. I promised myself that I wouldn’t eat another until I crossed the finish line of my next marathon.

Well, that marathon never happened, and hence I didn’t eat another entire Mars bar – until a few years later, while on a cycling training camp in Arizona. While getting ready for a 26-mile climb, it was suggested that we pack a chocolate bar, as it would provide the right amount of energy if/when we felt like bonking. So off I went up the hill, with my chocolate bar neatly packed away in my bento box. I had an amazing ride going up Mt. Lemmon! From that point on, the Mars Bar has become my “emergency bonking food”-or simply, my little reward for when I do a long and tough bike ride. From the hot sun in Florida, to the windy highway on Manitoulin Island, I have enjoyed (and at times, desperately needed) my Mars bar. It represents more than a quick source of energy; it’s a symbol of working my butt off and loving every minute of it.

This brings us back to today. Other than the fact that I was starving and the chocolate bar was strategically placed at eye level at the cash, I’m not sure what initially made me grab that chocolate bar and start eating it – it certainly wasn’t because I was doing a tough workout (in fact, today was my day off of any form of light exercise). Perhaps it was a subconscious effort. But suddenly, after my second bite, I started to crave that feeling of wanting to push myself to the breaking point. I wanted to exercise much harder and much longer. I wanted to feel that rush after a kick-ass workout.

All that just from 2 tiny bites of a Mars chocolate bar? Hmm..that’s kinda neat!

But before acting upon this newfound source of motivation, I know that I need to hold back, for now. My body simply isn’t ready for the challenge yet. Perhaps it is best that I leave this half eaten Mars chocolate bar in my fridge, and save it for when my body is ready. And from that point on, who knows where my training will take me!

(So Steve…please don’t eat my chocolate bar)