Training tips: The joy of stickers

“Mum… can I give this one a sticker?”

She frowned over the kitchen table at the pile of spelling tests I’ve been correcting for her.

“Hmmm. No. They’re not quite there. No sticker!”

“But… but… what about a star? I wouldn’t waste a scratch ‘n’ sniff, but just a little something…

“Nope!” The verdict was in. “No sticker!”

Duck stickers

My mum was a teacher and back when we were in the upper years of primary school, my sister and I would often pester her to let us help mark the little kids’ work. 10% in order to be helpful, but 90% in order to get our mitts on her amazing sticker collection.

She had shiny foil ones, stars of all sizes, Aussie animals, giant ones, dainty ones and of course that great technological breakthrough of the 80s, scratch ‘n’ sniff ones. We’d make a pilgrimage to a teachers supply store every January to stock up for the new school year. It pained me that she was so stingy with doling them out to her stewed-ants, as she affectionately called her charges.

It’s a delicate balance, isn’t it? Give them out too often and they’d no longer be so special. What incentive would there to learn times tables or put I before E, except after C?

But if used too sparingly, where’s the joy? Where’s the encouragement? Where’s the HOPE, Mum?

She was a popular teacher so I’m betting she got the balance right.

What does all this have to do with running? Well, Mum’s now retired from teaching and when I visited Oz back in April, she bequeathed me the remains of her collection. Woohoo!

Half went to her teacher brother-in-law but the rest were MINE ALL MINE. I’ve been putting them to good use as one of the most effective training tools known to humanity (well, I’m sure someone’s done a study).

A wee sample of my stash
A wee sample of my stash

We’re a wee bit sticker-mad on the U&R Alumni forum. We don’t believe in sticker rationing. Why? Stickers are the perfect little thing to commemorate the completion of a workout. Even a shitty one is a done one… so boom; let’s get stickin’…

Bella's wall calendar
Bella’s wall calendar

If you’ve done a race or had a particularly good workout, then maybe bust out a fancier or sparklier number. But the idea is that every step is worth celebrating.

Ang's 5K Course chart
Ang’s 5K Course chart

It’s very motivating to see row upon row of completed sessions. A visual pat on the back; a reminder that consistency is better than perfection. It’s also pleasing to the eye and the stationery nerd in us all.

Paula's mega wall chart
Paula’s mega wall chart

Since January Up & Runner Clare has been managing a fun monthly postcard swap on the Forum, and I can tell you it didn’t take long before it become more of a global sticker swap. The only thing I like better than slapping a sticker into my training diary is to slap a sticker from a foreign land into my training diary!

Most of all it feels very very sweet to post out Mum’s stickers to my buddies, to help decorate and celebrate great feats to come.

  1. Char
    OMG this is brilliant and so much more inspiring than my standard big red X. :)
  2. Georgia
    This is seriously cool! Mind you, I'm a sticker hoarder. I used to covet them so passionately as a child (not unlike Shauna), then be too scared to actually stick them on anything in case it was somehow not "right" (whatever that means!). I had the same feeling when I looked at some of those workout charts - how would I decide which sticker to use? Would it be a good use of that sticker? Totally ridiculous questions, but clearly my 8-year-old self hasn't moved on...
  3. Mothership
    I had to hold my sides whilst l was reading this because l was laughing so much! Ah, the memories recalled. If l had any stickers left, l put a scratch'n'sniff on this one. Mint Slice or Tim Tam would be good. Yes, in the Land of U&R Alumni, l'm with Shauna. Every step is worth celebrating!
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