10 Tips & Tricks To Keep You Motivated As an Ultra Runner
The morning is an incredible time to run. The mind is fresh, the legs are light, and the body is strong. It’s a special moment in time, an early start where dreams are created and anything is possible. Time is constantly moving , and each and every one us are continuously moving towards something. Remember, we are dynamic creatures by nature but sometimes moving forward through our training programs can become difficult. As ultra runners, how do we keep moving forward through our training programs and make it to the race day starting line? The foundation begins with motivation. Here are 10 tips & tricks to keep you motivated.
1. Variety Equals Growth
When we feel bored or tired, it’s a good idea to interrupt our repetitious pattern of training by doing something completely unexpected. It puts new demands on our body and keeps running fresh in our minds. For example, during long runs you can sprint full speed every 15 minutes for 1 minute. Another technique is to cross train or change your training day pattern. Variety can lead to growth in that we may feel inspired by the novelty of a new or different activity leading to a more productive training session. In this way, variety leads to growth as we are inspired to reach new limits. We all need some variety in our lives so be creative and keep your body on its toes—literally.
2. Set Your Goals with An Outcome in Mind
Try to have your next race picked out prior to beginning a new training session. It’s always useful to train for an ultra marathon with a race deadline in mind. Did you ever notice how you perform with a deadline versus without one? Aren’t you much more productive with one? It’s been said that a goal is nothing more than a dream with a deadline. Furthermore, consider what meeting that deadline means to you. Remember a time you overcame a difficult challenge and obtained your goal? How did that make you feel? There is much more reward in completing your training than relief from quitting halfway through. As we reach our goals, it provides us with genuine happiness. However, if you’re not achieving your desired goals, then you may want to consider changing your approach. For instance, if your knee hurts, then you may want to consider reevaluating your training schedule, technique, or shoes. The decisions we make and the goals that we set are what make us take action in running; they are what shape the future of our sport.
3. Sign up for the Race
When signing up for a race there’s no real comfort level. Honestly, when are you ever ready to run 100 miles? Therefore, why not rip off the Band-Aid and enter your name? Signing up for a race makes it a commitment and that in turn leads to actions necessary to prepare for the race day starting line. Also, have a backup race in mind preferably within the same time frame in the event plans must change. Unexpected events can come up in the days leading to the race and with a backup race in mind there’s no excuse for not putting your training to good use and crossing that finish line.
4. Leverage Your Motivation
Find out what motivates you and use it to your advantage. Love new clothes? Buy a new running outfit. Does time motivate you? Increase your pace. Are you a social butterfly? Run with other people. If you ever feel yourself in a rut during a morning long run, try muscling through your next long run at night. A long and tiring late night run might just be what the doctor ordered to cure your morning sluggish run. In this way, your next morning long run feels fresh, lighter, and faster. Sometimes things need to become worse before they can become better and they always become better with time.
5. Motivation is Everywhere
There are various motivational tales of individuals taking on astounding challenges, like swimming across oceans and running across deserts. There are movies about space explorations, athletic achievements, and fighting racial oppression; readings from activists, poets, and philosophers that provide inspiration in such abundance that it calls out to us. We can instantly change our state of mind to get moving towards our next starting line when we become inspired.
6. It’s Okay to Skip a Training Run
If you miss a training run, it doesn’t mean you’ve failed and must stop. Ask any seasoned ultra runner and they’d likely tell you they’ve missed a training run in the past and still continued on to race day. Also, new runners should beware. Time and again, we meet runners who prepare for their first ultra marathon by setting a training schedule that is too aggressive only to quit midway through the training. Running more as in six days a week is not necessarily better. In particular, running six days a week as a newbie will most likely lead to burnout or injury, which commonly causes missed training runs leading to a failed attempt. Personally, my first ultra marathon was about getting across the finish line and my training reflected that.
7. Be Conscious of the Benefits
Running a 100 mile distance is a challenge that places physical demands on the body; however, when you consider the various lifestyle changes that one makes to obtain this magnitude of distance then you begin to understand the benefits of being a long distance runner. For example, making healthy food choices as in eating all natural and minimizing or eliminating alcoholic beverages from your diet is beneficial to you as a runner and to your general overall health. In addition, to pursue a passion gives meaning to life. Focus on the benefits of your healthy lifestyle changes, monitor your progress, and acknowledge your outcomes. Every day is a good day when you run.
8. The Power of Music and Friends
Download a new playlist. Music is a great way to energize your run and is like running with a group. Did you ever notice the first thing you want to do when something exciting happens in your life? You likely want to share it with someone. Sharing our experiences helps us to experience the event again and running with people can add the same type of benefit. Music and friends can provide that extra motivation you need to keep your legs moving through your next training program.
9. Gain Mental Strength
As we gain physical strength in our long distance running abilities, we also gain mental strength as we make progress towards our goals. In time, our mental and physical strength operate harmoniously as we master the challenges of running ultra distances. In the ultra world, your mental strength is extremely important. It’s said that while running ultras of 100 miles you run the first 50 miles with your body and the second 50 miles with your mind. As such, consider using visualization techniques and positive affirmations. Also, stay in the present during your runs. Here’s a thought—close your eyes if you must: How do you feel when you HOPE to finish a race? Now, how do you feel when you EXPECT to finish a race? Notice the difference? Our metal strength will drive our motivation, leading to success on race day.
10. A Boost from the Sun
Looking for an extra boost while running? Get out for your run while it’s still dark and catch the early sunrise. It shifts your internal clock forward as your body realizes the new day has come. If you’ve ever run 100 miles, you have probably had this experience. During ultra marathons runners can be exhausted to the point of nearly falling asleep while running, but with the sunrise in the distance and your internal clock awakening to a new day, the boost of energy received is abundant. It’s motivational and it’s inspirational and it can provide just enough energy to keep you moving forward to the completion of a run.
Running can take us to places we’ve only imagined in our dreams: new heights, new discoveries, and new adventures as we reach inconceivable distances. As we turn them into something physical, we are able to reach for the stars and develop as endurance athletes in the search for something greater. As human beings we are capable of so much more but we restrict ourselves in various ways, creating even more obstacles than the one we wished to tackle in the first place. We literally move backwards before even attempting to move forward! But by running and consistently pushing ourselves to new levels we can inspire each other to move faster and to run farther then ever before. And you know what the best part is? If we choose to keep growing then we are only at the start of our journey. Motivation is what keeps us moving but the key to long-term motivation is inspiration, because inspiration is individually generated from within. Inspiration is power, inspiration is energy, inspiration is contagious and in that sense I hope you caught some in this reading.