Why You Don’t Need Motivation To Run

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“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” – Pablo Picasso

Have you ever wondered why some people seem to have no problem running regularly, yet you can’t seem to do so with any consistency?

Maybe you’ve wondered how those regular runners stay motivated to keep running day after day, month after month, year after year.

Maybe you’ve wondered how you can get motivated. Maybe you’ve asked other runners for advice about getting motivated or searched online for ideas to get yourself motivated.

But what if it’s not about motivation at all?

What if it’s just about deciding to run and having the discipline to do it?


In this article we are going to break down the key points surrounding running motivation:

  • What running motivation is.
  • Why motivation alone isn’t enough.
  • 4 steps to become a consistent runner.


Let’s get into it!

Why You Dont Need Motivation To Run

What is Running motivation?

Motivation is that initial boost of inspiration you get when you sign up for an exciting race, set yourself a new years resolution, or join a gym.

It’s where your mind ploughs through all of the exciting training sessions you have up ahead, mentally committing yourself to give 100% in each one, and maybe even toying with the idea of adding on extra sessions.

This is great! Without motivation, we would never get anything off the ground.

But where motivation is misinterpreted is when its powers are overestimated.

Motivation is fickle. By nature, it doesn’t stick around for very long. You can’t rely on motivation for running consistency.

This is where building consistent habits come in (more on that later in the article).

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When Is Motivation Good?

You only have to look through a running magazine or search online to discover that people are always eager to find something to motivate them to run.

And there are plenty of motivation inducing tips out there: Sign up for a race. Get a running buddy to keep you accountable. Create a training plan. Set goals. Reward yourself.

These tips can be great for kickstarting a habit.

They are not, however, likely to keep you getting up before the sun rises for a before-work run for more than just a short period of time. Your goals, once fresh and exciting, will eventually fade and lose their power to the pull of a warm cosy bed.

Why Motivation Isn’t Enough

Motivation is just not enough for long term running success. Why?

Your goal will get old and stale.

When most people talk about ‘finding the motivation‘ to run, they talk about short-term, external reasons to get themselves out the door.

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Perhaps they want to fit into their old jeans, look good for a high school reunion, or cross a marathon off their bucket list.

There is nothing wrong with these reasons and they are, in fact, likely enough to get someone running … for a while.

Even those motivating factors that seem to hold more weight- being healthier, losing weight, lowering your cholesterol– your motivation for these will inevitably fade too.

Anyone who has ever made a New Year’s resolution with conviction and enthusiasm, only to find it has lost its lustre by February, knows this pattern well. Wanting to create a positive new habit or reach a goal may feel motivating, but relying on those desires or goals to change your behaviour overestimates the power of motivation.

The thing with motivation is that you will inevitably loose it. This doesn’t make you weak, it just means that motivation isn’t enough.

Why is motivation not enough to maintain a running habit? It just isn’t.

4 steps To Becoming a Consistent Runner

So, if the typical motivation tactics aren’t likely to work long-term, how do you become a lifelong, consistent runner?

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Step 1: Don’t wait to become motivated to run

The first step is to acknowledge you don’t need motivation to run.

Remember, even great runners don’t usually like running when they start doing it.

You don’t have to want to run or feel like running to actually go out and run.

You don’t have to have a race on your calendar or a friend waiting for you to force you out the door.

You also don’t have to enjoy every run.

In fact, if you’re only going to run when you feel like running, you’re never going to become a consistent runner.

If you know someone who runs consistently and has been doing so for years, you may assume that person loves to run, that they look forward to every run, and that running just feels good to them.

Chances are, however, that person does not always feel like running, has other obligations that require attention, and may not feel great while running.

The difference is, that person has decided that running is important, has made it a priority, and has the discipline to run whether feeling “motivated” or not.

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Step 2: Accept that your goals require running

What are your goals?

Physical and mental health? You know you feel more positive and energetic on days you run, maybe you want more of that?

Or perhaps you just want to set a good example for your children and show them by your actions that exercising regularly is important.

Maybe you see people in their 80s out running and you want to be as fit as they are when you reach their age.

Whatever the reasons may be, it’s important to give this some thought.

Accept that you can’t achieve these goals if you don’t run.

It’s also important to know that it’s okay if, after giving it some thought, you decide that while you think you should run, it’s really not something you want to do. In this case, give yourself permission to stop trying to force yourself to run.

After all, running isn’t the only exercise out there. Who knows, once you stop thinking about running, you may open yourself to exploring other activities and discover a passion for biking, swimming, dancing, boxing, or yoga.

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Step 3: Just Do It

If you decide that running regularly is important to you, the next step is, to borrow Nike‘s slogan, “Just Do It.”

Stop thinking about whether or not you feel like running, and simply put on your running shoes and head out the door every day (or every other day, or whatever schedule you have decided is right for you).

Start treating running more like a habit rather than just something you just do for fun.

Put running in the same category you put your other obligations: going to work or school, walking your dog, taking care of your children, paying your bills, brushing your teeth.

If you think about it, you can probably come up with dozens of things you do on a regular basis whether you enjoy them or not. You do them out of a sense of obligation or responsibility and because the long-term rewards or benefits outweigh any short-term annoyance or antipathy.

To become a regular, lifelong habit, running needs to be put in this category. It needs to happen regardless of how you’re feeling or whether you’re motivated.

When your alarm goes off in the morning, don’t spend any time mulling over whether you want to get out of bed or whether it’s too cold outside or whether you’ll just run later. You’ve already decided running is non-negotiable, so you just get up and do it.

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Step 4: Minimize Your Barriers

That said, it’s not unreasonable to minimize any barriers that may truly make it difficult for you to stick with your commitment.

If you have never been a “morning person,” then don’t commit to running in the morning. If you typically have family obligations on the weekends, don’t commit to running on the weekends.

Work with your natural inclinations and current circumstances when deciding when you will run, not against them.

It’s also important to make sure your running goals and plans are reasonable.

If you are a newer runner, or have not run in a long time, for example, don’t commit to running 40 miles a week or to a certain pace. Start out going slowly for short distances and let your body tell you when to speed up or go farther.

At this point, the goal is simply to develop the discipline to become a consistent runner, so stay focused on just getting out the door regularly.

A great way of doing this is by sticking to a training plan!

It is also important, of course, to allow yourself breaks when you truly should not run, such as when you are sick, injured, or have unexpected important family matters that require your attention. Being a consistent runner does not mean running no matter what, just almost no matter what.

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Habits Breed Motivation

“Mood Follows Action”– Ultramarathoner Rich Roll

Once you’ve become a consistent runner, you may want to set yourself bigger goals or find reasons to “motivate” you to run faster or farther. This is great, but always hold on to the fact that running itself is non-negotiable.

And, while it’s difficult to find the motivation to make you a consistent runner, once you become a consistent runner, you may, as Picasso suggested, discover that motivation, or inspiration, finds you.

“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” – Pablo Picasso

Maybe we can inspire you to build consistent running habits with our training plans.

Check them out!

Click Here For Half Marathon Training Plans

Click Here For Marathon Training Plans

Click Here For Ultramarathon Training Plans

Photo of author
A lifelong runner and USATF Level 1 coach of high school cross country and track, Sarah enjoys racing all distances, from the mile to ultras. She is a recent transplant from California to Seattle and spends her free time exploring her new neighborhoods by foot.

1 thought on “Why You Don’t Need Motivation To Run”

  1. 40 years ago I continued to run by telling myself that if I still didn’t wanted to go further at a specific point (the point where my body was warmed up, about 10 minutes away from my house) that I was allowed go back. Coming there was always enough to enjoy my training and keep going.


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