5 Simple Ways to Stay Motivated
A common misconception among non-runners is that running always comes easy to seasoned runners. That somehow getting up at the crack of dawn, slogging through rain and sub-zero temperatures, and keeping this up year in and year out, happens automatically if you just run for long enough. Well, the bad news for both runners and non-runners alike is that this is far from the truth. Because whether you’ve been running for ten weeks or twenty years, getting out there takes effort and commitment. Always. Motivation levels lag, and time constraints are a reality. For everyone. But it’s what you do to keep yourself motivated that keeps you keeping on. So here are five simple ways to do just that.
1. Enter a race (or two)
One of the most common strategies employed by runners to stay motivated is to enter one (or a few) goal races every year. Entering a goal race instantly gives your training purpose and direction, and most runners just find it easier to have a specific goal to train for. It gives you a distance to work your way up to, a due date (so to speak) to achieve this by, and the reward of a shiny new medal or PB waiting at the end. So do yourself a favor and register for a race or two today.
Keep in mind, though, that as effective as entering a goal race might be in providing motivation to train, it certainly is no magic bullet. Training programs are long, and post-race blues are real. So best keep a few extra motivational tips and tricks handy for those “in between races” kind of times.
2. Set annual running goals
In addition to entering a few goal races each year, it’s a good idea to also set some non-racing running goals. And no, we’re not talking about writing down vague, pie-in-the-sky dreams or ambitions. We’re talking about specific, measurable, realistic, time-based running goals that will keep on getting you out there, even while you’re not training for a race.
Examples of good non-racing annual running goals include:
- Earning a Club 50 parkrun shirt (i.e. consistently completing parkrun events every Saturday over the course of a year)
- Exploring x number of new cities/trails/neighborhoods/countries on the run
- Finding and implementing x number of ways in which your running can help others
- Tackling a new running discipline, e.g. cross country, obstacle course running, etc.
- Devoting one run a week to running with and supporting a newbie runner friend
So get creative and commit to a few non-racing goals each year that will motivate you to keep on running despite not training for a race. These types of goals will also encourage you to focus on more than just faster times and PBs – a healthy approach to running if you want to be in it for the long haul.
3. Reward yourself
We’re not really a fan of (always) rewarding yourself with junk food post-run, because that kind of defeats the purpose, right? But why not reward yourself with a new piece of running gear after successfully completing a training program for a specific race? Or why not save up one dollar for every run you do, and spend your savings on a running vacation or race entry after a year?
Whatever you decide to reward yourself with, make it worthwhile and conducive to your own long-term running success. Because you deserve it.
4. Enlist help
Even the most disciplined and dedicated runners sometimes have an off day. Or week. Or month. So instead of single-handedly trying to claw your way out of a running rut, enlist some help. Make a standing appointment with a buddy to meet you for a trail run once a week. Because no-one wants to ditch a buddy, right? Or, if you have some money to spend, why not hire a running coach? A real life coach that waits for you at the track a few days a week and lets you have it if you don’t show up. Sometimes you just have to schedule your way to not skipping any runs.
And if a blabbing buddy or nagging coach is the last thing on earth you want to share your runs with, why not enlist the help of a four-footed friend? Many runners agree that a dog is just about the most committed, enthusiastic running buddy you’ll ever have. Always eager to hit the road or trails, and always eager to spend time with you, your trusty canine will make it really hard for you to skip a run.
5. Use your mind
Your mind is so much stronger than you think. Use it.
A mental strategy commonly utilized by runners to ensure consistency involves simply reminding yourself how good you’ll feel after your run. And how bad you’ll feel if you skip it. It’s true: The hardest part of any run really is that first step out the door. So if you can trick your body into doing that, you’ve already won. Plus those post-run endorphins… Need we say more? The chances are really slim that you’ll ever regret heading out and getting it done.
Another mental strategy you can use is to stop overthinking things. Because the more you dwell on just exactly how freezing those winter temperatures are, the more inviting a snuggly blanket and cup of hot chocolate will become. Stop thinking about it, gear up and run.
So whether you’ve been running for ten weeks or ten years, remember these tips and tricks the next time you’re low on motivation. Sure, it won’t eliminate the effort required to actually lace up and run, but it might just do the trick to get you out there when you least feel like it. Because, let’s face it – we all need a little push sometimes.