I’ve been running consistently for over 20 years and am often asked by friends and online followers the same question: How do you stay motivated to run? How do you keep doing it even when you don’t feel like it?
And I get it, even for me, someone who absolutely loves running and has loved it for 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 burn out has broken the habit. The reason you lose motivation may change, so what you need to motivate you may change too. Here’s what has helped me stay motivated to run for years, even when I really really don’t feel like it.
Ways to Motivate Yourself To Run
Figure out why you’re running
Knowing the why behind any task is always helpful to get motivated and stay 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 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 the treadmill of 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!
So, figure out why you want to run.
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, to be a better mom or dad. Knowing why you’re running will the snooze button a little less appealing in the early mornings or skipping your workout after a long day of working, parenting or both.
Your why will also evolve over time and 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!
Use the 5 minute rule
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 can talk myself into 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. 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 those 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 on the road to injury.
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!)
Make running friends
Accountability is KEY and running friends are the best accountability out there. Before 2020 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. 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.
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!
Set a goal
I am very goal oriented and usually set goals around mileage. In Strava, you can set weekly mileage goals and I usually 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 our little one is here and I’m still in postpartum recovery mode, my goal is simply to listen to my body.
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. But a goal should have a tie to your why to help motivate you!
Track your progress
Anther 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.
A good old fashioned paper journal 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, how postpartum recovery is going, 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!
Sign up for a race
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. 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, don’t add the extra stressor. You don’t have to race to be a runner! But I LOVE it, even in horrible conditions!
Have a training plan
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.
Create a calendar for yourself or look up a training plan. There are a LOT of options online. I also have training plans in my Get Your Run On online course. Or hire a run coach to get a plan created JUST for you!
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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