I polled my email subscribers and Instagram followers about running and there were two major themes about why people can’t stick with running: first, injuries. Second, motivation (or lack thereof!). I’ve addressed how to avoid injuries in this post and today, I’m sharing ways to motivate yourself to run.
Even for me, someone who absolutely loves running and has loved it for 20+ years, it can be hard to get out the door! Some days the actual running part of being a runner is the easy part, but getting started is the hard part. It’s ironic, but sometimes when you’re a beginning runner, it’s easier to get motivated since it’s new and you’re excited to work at it. But, after a while, you may get bored with it, get frustrated that you’re not improving as must as you want, or you may start to deal with injuries. Then, getting motivated to stick with it gets harder.
Maybe you’ve been running off and on for years and you’d like to be more consistent. Or maybe you used to run consistently but life, injuries, sickness or just plain burnout has broken the habit. The reason you lose motivation may change, so what you need to do to motivate yourself may change too. Today I’m sharing nine things that have helped me stay motivated to run for years in the right mindset, even when I really really don’t feel like it.
Knowing the why behind any task is always helpful for getting motivated and staying focused. I run because it’s my favorite workout. Yes, I love to strength train (I used to do Crossfit consistently) and yes, I love the Peloton. But for me, nothing is quite as good as running. Even when pregnant, I kept running!
I also like being outside, and I really like being active in the outdoors, whether it’s running, walking or hiking in Utah, Colorado or Boone. Getting my heart rate up feels so good.
I love the meditative state that running gives me and how it helps me clear my head or think through a problem. Heck, I’ve even been known to take a post-it note to fight treadmill boredom with topics I want to think through while running! Running is one of the best ways to deal with stress and it’s one of the keys to managing my anxiety.
I also love making improvements along the way, whether it’s running faster or further. I’m very goal oriented and I love numbers (I used to work in finance) and running speaks to me on those levels too. The data side of running is part of the reason I love Strava!
We may have the same reasons or you may have something totally different that motivates you. Is it because it helps with weight management? Or because it gives you an hour alone in your day? Or maybe it helps you de-stress, or to be a better mom or dad. Knowing why you want to run will make the snooze button a little less appealing in the early mornings and will make you less likely to skip your workout after a long day of working, parenting or both.
Your why will also evolve over time, and your running goals will change. That’s okay. Just evolve with them and keep finding reasons you love it. Or, admit that you don’t love running and find a workout that you DO love! So right now, write down WHY you want to run and stick it on your bathroom mirror.
The simple act of putting on running clothes also works wonders for motivation! If I’m running in the early mornings, I set my clothes out the night before. If I’m doing a mid-day workout or a workout after work and don’t feel like it, I tell myself to just get dressed. Most of the time, I end up getting out the door for a run. (Comfortable and cute workout clothes or running shoes help!)
I’m a huge proponent of buying some new gear when you’re in a training rut. Don’t use it as an excuse to go overboard, but a new pair of shorts, a hat, or even new shoes help get me excited.
A really good way to get out the door is to tell yourself you only have to run for five minutes. On days I don’t feel motivated to run, a long run is the last thing I want to do. But I almost always want to keep going after just five minutes.
I give myself five minutes to run, and then give myself permission to stop, but only after I’ve tried for at least five minutes that day. Knowing I have “permission” to stop makes it easier to get out the door. And, honestly, I almost never want to stop once I start. Five minutes usually turns into 30 minutes or more. But occasionally there are days that even five minutes doesn’t put me in the mood, so I turn around and head home. Or, I turn the planned run into a walk and that’s great too.
I can think of maybe ten runs that I’ve regretted (and I’ve run THOUSANDS of miles), and those runs were because I was running when I should have been resting. Recovery is so important, and if you never give your body a chance to rest, you’ll get burned out, and you’ll be on the road to injury.
Accountability is KEY and running friends are the best accountability out there. Before having Thomas, I ran with friends a few times a week. Not only do they keep you accountable for showing up since you’re usually meeting them in person, but they make running more enjoyable and sometimes it doesn’t even feel like running. It truly boosts my spirits! When I’m with friends, running feels significantly easier. The miles fly by, and if I’m doing a speed workout, it’s easier to execute with a friend to help push me. Runners that are faster than you will also make a huge difference in your training by helping you push your pace and grow your endurance.
If you don’t have any friends who run, get in touch with your local running store. You can usually join a run group through them. Or, if socially-distant running isn’t an option, keep in touch with friends about your training virtually.
Two of my closest running friends no longer live in Winston-Salem, but when I’m struggling with motivation, I still text them to help encourage me to get out the door. (Or to give me some good advice to take a rest day if that’s the better option!)
And laughed about the crazy storm before we even got to race starting line!
I am very goal oriented and usually set goals around mileage. In Strava, you can set weekly mileage goals, and I used aim for 40 miles a week. But once I got pregnant, I had to keep adjusting that goal and adjusting my running routine. By the end of my pregnancy, my goal was to run or walk 10 miles a week. Now that I’m a mom, our schedules have changed drastically. Now my goal is to listen to my body and run as many times a week as feels good. That’s close to 40 miles recently, but a few weeks ago, it was 10-20 miles a week. It just depends on the week.
Sometimes I have goals around a specific PR I’m going for. Other times I’m running just for fun or to build base mileage (like right now). And sometimes, my goal is to run with Thomas in the stroller 2-3x a week since that’s a GREAT workout. The key is to make a goal should have a tie to your why to help motivate you!
Another good motivator is to track your progress. How you define progress may not be how I define it and the definition will likely change over the years. But find some way to measure it. If you’ve never tracked your runs before, start by writing down your distance and/or time for each run and how you felt. You can even track your off-days to note how glad you were that you took a day off or how antsy you felt. Seeing how far I’ve come is great inspiration for me.
A good old fashioned paper journal or training log is a great way to track. The Lauren Fleshman Training Journal has a goal section, weekly intention, and racing strategies. Another great way to track your runs is Strava, an online training journal and social network. I use the paper journal to write more personal notes (e.g. my mental state around training, etc.) and Strava to track more quantitative things. Even tracking how far you went and how you felt will show you achieving your physical and mental goal which feels good.
With both or either option, you can look back at what you’ve done to see your progress, which is very motivating!
There’s something to be said for having a little skin in the game. Sometimes knowing you put money down and have a finish line (literally!) makes a goal much easier to work towards. Many races have moved to virtual options, which can be a great way to start if you’ve never signed up for a race before. (Here are my tips for running virtual races!) If you’re new to racing and don’t know where to start, I’d look into a 10-k or even a half marathon if you’re a consistent runner.
I LOVE race day and it always keeps me motivated to keep training. For some, racing creates more nerves and anxiety and turns them off to running. If that’s the case for you, don’t add the extra stressor. You don’t have to race to be a runner! But I LOVE it, even in horrible race conditions like at the 2018 Boston Marathon!
Taking the guesswork out of running is really helpful for me. When I have a training plan, I know exactly what I’ll be doing each week, and I don’t have an easy excuse to skip. I also find it helpful to switch up my terrain. If I can run on trails for at least one run per week, that always breaks up the monotony of running on pavement (and it’s good for my knees and body!).
Create a calendar for yourself or look up a training schedule. There are a LOT of options online. I also have training plans in my online running course. Or hire a run coach to get a plan created JUST for you!
I found Gretchen Rubin’s book The Four Tendencies incredibly helpful in understanding what motivates different people. You can take the quiz here to figure out your tendency. Rubin explains that there are Obligers, Upholders, Rebels and Questioners. I’m a Questioner, so I won’t do something unless I can ask a lot of questions and agree that it’s a good course of action. I ask all the women I work with to take the Four Tendencies quiz and let me know their results since it helps me coach them more effectively. Heck, it even helps me in my relationship with my Rebel husband! 🙂 I highly recommend reading the book or listening to the audible, but in short, here are some tricks to motivate yourself based on your type.
You are good at meeting expectations you set for yourself, and you are also good at meeting expectations from others. Signing up for a race with a friend and having a training plan is a great option for you to motivate yourself.
You often don’t meet your own expectations, but you’ll meet others expectations of you. So, join a running group (online or in person) and meet people who will expect you to show up and check in if you don’t.
You don’t like being told what to do by anyone, even yourself. So heck, you’re on your own. You’re only going to do what you want to do. 😉 Just kidding, well sorta. Give yourself options that you can choose from: I can run 3 days a week or I can run 2 days a week. And let yourself “choose” between the options you set.
You’re not going to meet expectations you set for yourself or that others have set unless you agree with the approach and have all your questions answered. So, learn as much as you can about running, so you feel confident in your approach and to solidify that running is really what you want to do. Then, just START RUNNING. (Questioners can get stuck in the information gathering mode.)
My online course is a great resource for ALL tendencies since there are training plans (Upholder, check!), a private community to create accountability (Obligers, check!), and lessons to teach you about all things running (Questioners, check!). And Rebels can come tell the group what they don’t WANT to do and then maybe they’ll actually do it. 😉
We all struggle with motivation and that’s okay! It’s part of the process. The key is to figure out what helps you head out the door, day after day, week after week and year after year. I hope some or all of these tips help you do just that!
What motivates you to run when you just don’t feel like it?
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