What To Do If Your Running Motivation Drops: 5 Pro Runner Tips!

Let's take a look at what the pro runners have to say and how they deal with being in a slump.

Even if you love running, there’s a good chance that there are days when you just don’t feel like heading out the door and putting in the miles. 

Particularly when it is cold and dark outside—as summer transitions into fall and then winter—you might find that your running motivation can wane.

This can feel disorienting or confusing to diehard runners who normally love nothing more than lacing up their running shoes and pounding the pavement, treadmill, or trails.

As it turns out, even professional runners struggle with mastering the motivation to run from time to time. 

However, rather than just push through the slump, these athletes often try to dig deeper into why their motivation to run is waning, asking themselves questions like, “Is my nutrition off?”, “Have I not been getting enough sleep?” “Do I need a new goal?”

To learn more about how the best runners handle running slumps and what it might mean if your running motivation is low—we reached out to several top professional runners.

A runner smiling.

Let’s see what they have to say!

What Does It Mean If Your Running Motivation Drops? Here’s What Pro Runners Say

Although even the top runners in the world struggle with dips in running motivation to train from time to time, the consensus seems to be that drops in motivation are clues from your body and mind that something is off.

Here are some of the ways that pro runners address understanding why their running motivation is low:

#1: Do an Audit: Physical or Mental Motivation Saboteurs? 

Katie Asmuth, a professional trail and ultrarunner for Saucony, says that we all have motivation slumps from time to time, but you know yourself best. 

Being your own detective about why you don’t feel like running is important. 

“Are you someone whose motivation ebbs and flows? Or are you super motivated to get out the door? If the latter, I say listen when your motivation weans,” she advises.

“You may be coming down with a virus, or you could be leaning towards an energy deficiency and putting yourself at risk for injury.”

A runner smiling with a water bottle.

Asmuth says you might need some testing or to do an audit for your diet.

“Consider getting some routine labs drawn, including an iron panel and thyroid panel. Try increasing your protein intake,” suggests Asmuth. “For endurance runners, it is recommended to take 1.4 to 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.”

On the other hand, if you feel like there isn’t a physiological reason underpinning your drop in running motivation, you might need to shake up your running routine. 

“If you are someone who hasn’t found a running routine, and your motivation wanes regularly, sign up for a race! Find a location that excites you and a distance that challenges you,” suggests Asmuth. “Even better, sign up for a race with a running friend to train together!”

#2: Review Your Workout Log

Jeff Colt is a Professional Trail Runner for On Running.

As an ultrarunner who has to put in tons of training while working a full-time job and juggling all of his other responsibilities, Colt says takes dips in his running motivation as a sign to review his training to ensure he’s not overdoing it.

“The number one influencer of my motivation is my endocrine system and my stress levels. Balance is central to my running practice at this point in my life,” he notes.

A group of runners running in a park.

“If we can give ourselves grace, recognize when we are having a rough day, are overworked, under-slept, or are emotionally charged, and adjust our training appropriately, we will stay healthier, get fitter, and not exacerbate a challenging day.”

His advice is to track your training with a running log or an app like TrainingPeaks so that you have all of your workouts in one place. This will enable you to review where/how you might have been pushing too hard.

#3: Is It an Acute Running Slump vs Ongoing Struggle?

Oiselle athlete Maria Michta-Coffey, Ph.D., PA-C, is a 2x Olympian in the 20k Race Walk who has competed in the last seven straight World Championships and has earned 48 National Titles.

She says that when her running performance drops, or she feels in a running rut, she asks herself to consider if it’s a short-term issue or more of a long-term slump.

When I’m in a rut, I try to zoom out and look at the big picture: is this one workout or race that didn’t go as expected or part of a larger trend? If it’s just one bad day, I focus on the positive of what I was able to do that will aid in future improvements,” she explains.

“I’m starting to notice a trend; there is usually another factor or two that is negatively contributing. I try to make the necessary changes to sleep and recovery to help me maximize my current training and future racing potential.”

A runner smiling.

#4: You’re a Person, Not Just a Runner

While we often only consider our mileage, cross-training, and other workouts when we evaluate why we feel depleted or like our bodies and minds aren’t recovering well from running, Molly Bookmyer, a Professional Marathon Runner with the Oiselle Underbird Team, says it’s important to consider your life as a whole.

Other things might be wearing you down and impacting your physical or mental energy to run.

“Typically, when my motivation is low, it comes from outside stressors,” Bookmyer says.

“We do not live in a silo: family, work, and other life stressors can all impact motivation to train. If I start to feel unmotivated or tired, I begin to focus more on the things and people that help lift my spirits,” she advises.

“I typically try to get an extra run in with a friend, swap a hard day with an extra recovery day, or find a new coffee shop to meet my coach at.”

She says that doing these little things gives her the physical and mental space to take a step back from the intensity of her training so that her running motivation comes back naturally instead of having to force it.

A person running with a cell phone case on their upper arm.

Briana (Bri) Boehmer, a pro runner and triathlete with Oiselle, agrees with Bookmyer that stress outside of training can absolutely impact her motivation to run.

“For me, stress makes my motivation dip a lot; my mind gets overwhelmed, and the thought of trying to work hard after my brain is tapped is very difficult for me,” she says.

“I am still working on how to destress and also have perspective on what is ‘mission critical’ vs. ‘not the end of the world.’”

Having this type of perspective can help you cut down on “background stress” outside of your running training that might be draining you when you try to hit the road to run.

#5: Consider Seasonal Depression and Other Sources of Low Physical Energy

Elena Hayday, a distance runner for Oiselle, who will be running in the Olympic Trials next year, says that there are often physical underpinnings to her slumps in workout motivation.

“I’m a motivated person, so when I start truly dreading runs and workouts, it is a big signal for me to look into my training and stress load,” explains Hayday.

A person looking at their running watch.

“Sometimes, this is a result of mild overtraining and underfueling, in which case, it’s important to lower training load and increase food intake (with the help of an RD if needed).”

Hayday says the winter months are also a time when her running motivation and energy naturally drop.

“Like many people, I’m also affected by seasonal affective disorder, so I feel like my energy supply is down a little bit in the winter. I have to take other steps to make self-care a priority to ensure that I’m resupplying that energy at the end of every day,” shares Hayday.

“This might look like extra sleep, scheduling time to do non-work and non-running activities, or even engaging in talk therapy if that’s needed.”

Finally, Katie Asmuth says that maintaining perspective (and staying grateful!) is key to running motivation. 

“Don’t take one step for granted. Running can be taken from you easily—whether injury, sickness, or life circumstance,” warns Asmuth. “When you can, move outside. Running is a gift, and you won’t be able to move the same way forever.” 

Dips in running motivation are certainly normal, but putting on your detective cap can help you get back in fighting form and back on track for your running goals and, most importantly, enjoying the journey!

If you think your running motivation may be lacking due to low energy and would like to learn more about iron deficiency in athletes, click here for our guide.

A person crossing a race finish line.
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Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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