Running motivation can be an elusive feeling. Usually, when you start a new running plan or set a new goal, you’re revved up and ready to go. But as the days go by, that early morning wake-up or an evening run after a long day of work can seem insurmountable.
You might be looking at professional athletes or even people you know that seem to have endless amounts of energy for running. You’re thinking, How on earth do they manage to stick with it??
The answer is not as simple as you might hope: motivation is different from person to person, but we’ve gathered a variety of pick-me-ups that can fill up your running toolkit and give you some help when you feel like giving up.
Meghan Hicks, managing editor at iRunFar, explains it well.
“We’ve always found that motivation comes from multiple sources, some of which are unique to each of us. Because these sources can come and go, increase and decrease in importance, and evolve from day to day and year to year, it’s always crucial to have multiple reasons to get out the door to run. When one isn’t as important to you anymore, you can call on another to be your driving force.”
1. Set a Long Term Goal, Like Running a Race
Hicks advises that a great form of motivation is “having a long-term goal in the more distant future like a goal race four or six months away. It also means developing process goals for the interim time between now and that long-term goal such as planning a group long run with friends next weekend or a training vacation away from home in the not-too-distant future.”
Here are some examples of long term goals for different runners:
If you’re a total beginner and you’ve never run a mile without stopping:
Sign up for 5K race a few months in advance. Then, set a goal to run a mile without stopping at your halfway point. After that, set a goal to run for 5 minutes without stopping this week.
If you’ve run in the past but didn’t stick with it: sign up for a half marathon 4 months in advance. While you’re at it, sign up for a 10K race and a 5K race along the way, to inspire you to hit those milestone goals and give you a sense of accomplishment as you go.
Our couch to half marathon training plan is perfect for this goal.
2. Tell Your Friends About Your Goal
RT Hill, Physical Therapist and co-founder of The Stride Shop, gives this advice to his many running clients.
“By setting goals, you’re able to push towards something as opposed to just running. By telling other people, you add another layer of accountability. Instinctively you will want to live up to your word, and by telling other people about your goals, more and more people will be rooting for you to succeed. The goal is specific to YOU.
For some, the goal is to run 100k. For others, it’s to run two days a week.
Both are important and valuable because you are doing something to challenge yourself. Keep pushing your limits, and you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish.”
- Related: 20 Running Motivation Quotes
3. Join a Run Group or Get a Running Partner
Hill also recommends running groups:
“Joining a run group is an excellent way to find motivation and get a weekly training run under your belt. There is a social aspect that takes your mind away from the actual process of running. These runs go by so much more smoothly, and there is a sense of community after the run.
You meet people, you share your triumphs and struggles, and you get to see parts of your city you may never have visited. Becoming a part of a group and more interactive in the community is an excellent way to find motivation.
Getting a running partner forces accountability. It’s fantastic to have a high level of self-motivation, but sometimes you need a partner to push you a little further than you want to go.
I recently trained for a 50-mile ultramarathon, and there were many times where I would have cut the run a few miles short if I didn’t a partner there to keep me accountable. Having a training partner was so valuable in keeping me on track and helping me reach my goals.”
4. Run for a Cause You Care About
Hill also points out that internal motivation that can help spur you on with the knowledge that you’re helping others.
“There are plenty of charities, non-profits, and community engagement runs that happen all across the world. I recently helped to coach a woman whose daughter has epileptic seizures. She wanted to raise awareness for this cause and hosted a 5k run in her hometown. She was so dedicated to her training because she felt that it was part of something larger than her ambitions.
Make the run about something larger than yourself, and the result means so much more. Fun fact: she has asked to continue with her training because she is now motivated to build on her progress!”
Alternatively, you can literally use the stick instead of the carrot and use an app like StickK to put money on the line in order to ensure you follow through on your goals!
5. Pick an Event With a Fun Twist
Another tip for keeping yourself excited about your upcoming event is to make sure you choose an interesting one. Nowadays there are enough events that have an interesting spin on them that they become much more of an experience than just ‘going for a run’.
6. Use Running as an Excuse to Travel
Many distance runners note this as the single best thing about having running as part of their lifestyle – they get to use a race as a good excuse to visit someplace new or exotic.
Running an event in a new country gives you a different perspective – you will likely see the country from a different angle than if you visited it on a touring holiday, and you’ll instantly have a good story and a reason to interact with the locals.
Use it as an excuse to see all those places you’ve looked at on the map, but never had quite a good enough reason to visit – until now.
7. Consciously Develop New Habits
In the bestseller ‘The Power Of Habit’, Charles Duhigg explains how changing your habits vastly influences your lifestyle and wellbeing. An external goal such as a running event six months away gives you all the reasons you need to make small but significant changes to your lifestyle, which can have compound effects on the rest of your life.
For example, as part of your training, you might decide to do one good hour of exercise (running or cross-training) every day.
Not only does this serve as excellent preparation for your event, but this establishes a new habit in your lifestyle that has far reaching effects – the regular exercise will make you fitter, happier (thanks, endorphins) and maybe lose some excess weight.
8. Combine Running With Your Other Interests
Running can be a great opportunity to listen to music more intentionally (rather than just hearing it in the background), work on self-development by listening to audiobooks, or catch up on a favorite podcast series.
Others will use it as a chance to explore nature trails in and around their city, try out the latest running gadgets and electronics, or even as an opportunity to meet people who prioritize fitness and health.
Pairing your run with something else you’re looking forward to will train your mind to get excited about running instead of dreading it.
Related: Running With Airpods
9. Get a Running Hero
Find a runner who inspires you and follow their journey. Follow them on Instagram, track their race times, and find out what keeps them motivated.
Personally, I love following the journey of Desiree Linden, a Boston Marathon champion who competed on an Olympic level two times. Following her races and training often inspires me to get out there and run.
10. Take a Break
Sometimes the best way to rekindle your love for running is to take a break.
Hicks recommends using that time to reconnect with why you loved running in the first place.
“We’ve found that staying true to your inner, instinctual ‘why’ is perhaps the greatest motivator we have. Loving the feeling of running, being excited about your 45 minutes of breathing fresh air, doing something that you think is hard, seeking the peace of running, or seeing what numbers you put up on your workout today: whatever ‘why’ speaks to your heart today is your most powerful motivational tool.”
11. Follow a Training Plan
OK so you’ve signed up for your event, and your enthusiasm is sky high. So now is the time to lock down a training schedule: sit down and think about what is going to be required over the next few months in terms of commitment, and draw out a training plan.
Channel some of that enthusiasm onto paper, and then you’ve removed the ‘decision fatigue’ element from your training period – rather than waking up and deciding if you are going to train that day, and what you are going to do, you’ve already got it all laid out in your own customized training plan.
Use our library of free marathon training plans as a resource to get started.
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