Whilst running is one of the best, most enjoyable activities, it can sometimes be difficult to find motivation.
Feeling tired, having little time, a rainy day, a bad experience, procrastinating with an easier activity like TV or social media, or a lack of inspiration, are often cited as reasons for runners feeling demotivated.
“It won’t happen to me. I love running, and I’ll never be demotivated.”
We like to think we won’t become demotivated, and that we’ll stick to our running routines like terminator machines with no problem. Unfortunately, being demotivated can happen to all of us.
Tragically, some feel so demotivated to run that they fall into bad habits. They miss a training session here and there, start running on rare occasions before finally, they’ve given up running altogether. It doesn’t have to be this way!
Having low motivation can be difficult for a runner without knowing ways to maintain motivation.
Low motivation is not a good place to be. I’ve been there a few times, and I’ve spoken and trained with many others who have experienced low running motivation too. Without some tricks and tips on how to maintain motivation to run, it can be difficult to get back into your stride…
Low motivation can be overcome
When you have the right tricks in place, you will be incredibly motivated. Not only that, you will be excited to run and realise the issues with motivation can be overcome or are just simply part of the fun running journey. Either way, it really helps to know them.
Without further ado, here are 9 ways to maintain running motivation
1. Have a powerful reason why you are running
When you have a reason for why you’re running, with significant meaning and emotion attached to it, you can use the reason to motivate you any time you need it.
Motivation is defined as “a reason or reasons for acting or behaving in a particular way.” In other words, every action we take is attributed to a reason.
You’re motivated to work for financial reward and a chance to develop new skills, you’re motivated to cook for a tasty meal, you might play the piano to be like one of your musical heroes, and you study for an exam to achieve a fantastic grade.
Without having a compelling and powerful reason to act, the likelihood of you doing what you know you should do is very low. Therefore, you need a powerful reason to run.
Remember, the reason must be relevant to you with significant meaning and emotion attached to it.
Popular reasons people run are:
- Charity– You could be trainingto take part in an event, to raise money for a charity close to your heart. It could be a charity whose work you believe in or even a charity who has cared for a loved one when they needed it.
- Physical fitness– Perhaps you’ve struggled with weight or health issues in the past, and you’re running to improve your physical fitness and never go back to that place again. You could attach more emotion to this reason, by setting a picture of your old self-being out of shape as your mobile screen saver. Whenever you don’t feel like running, look at your phone and remember why you’re running. To improve your physical fitness and maintain a healthy weight.
- Challenge– Some like to run because Some like to run because they like challenges. Pushing themselves out of their comfort zone, exploring their capabilities, pushing themselves to the limit. Climbing a steep hill, a tricky trail course, or setting the goal of a marathon, are examples of the many challenges running entails.If a sense of ‘challenge’ is your reason for running, make it more compelling by using the Anthony Robbins quote “if you’re not growing, you’re dying”. In other words, if you’re not challenging yourself, you’re not growing and developing your abilities!
- Making new friends– The running community is incredibly diverse, welcoming and a great space to be a part of. Some cherish running because of the opportunity to make new friendships and develop them over many months (sometimes years) of running side by side in a club, communal and casual runs. If you’re lacking motivation, think of the friendships and social able experiences you’ll be missing out on.
A powerful reason for ‘why’ you’re running in the first place, will help put some context into your life and you’ll find it easier to slip the shoes on and head out.
2. Optimise your environment for running
Arrange the environment you live in so it’s easy to go for a run. Neatly organise your clothes, line up your shoes, keep all your accessories in one place. The key is to remove any possible issue you may encounter before going for a run. With fewer decisions to make and less time to think, and make possible objections, it’s more likely you’ll go for the run.
It’s a proven fact that the more decisions we must make, the less willpower we have at our disposal on any given day.
For instance, Barrack Obama and Steve Jobs wore plain, dark clothing throughout their careers to limit the amount of time and number of decisions they’d make when selecting clothes. Instead, they focused their mental resources on the important stuff. Running a country and one of the largest corporations in the world. It worked for them and running follows the same principles.
Imagine if you woke up feeling semi-motivated to run, and then immediately ran into problems. Your other running shoe is nowhere to be seen, your earphone cords are tangled into oblivion, you spend 5 minutes with an arm submerged in your rubbish tip of a wardrobe for a training top.
These obstacles are annoying, time-consuming and incredibly frustrating. In this situation, you might think it’d be easier to forget about the run all together and slip back into bed or do something else.
Don’t let that happen! Optimise your environment for running.
Make it easy to gather clothing and accessories for the run beforehand, so you have less time to re-consider the run and don’t come across any issues.
It’s even worth selecting and laying out running gear the night before. Doing so means all you need to do is slip on the gear, then go for the run. No effort or decision making required.
Give it a go, you’ll feel the difference and be much more motivated to run.
3. Have a role model
Having a role model to look up to can be a powerful motivator to run.
Role models are someone you admire, look up to, and respect. They’re often calm, positive and confident, and have a good work ethic and determined attitude. For instance, I look up to Mo Farah, Steve Prefontaine, and The Brownlee Brothers, when I need some running motivation.
Okay, you and I won’t be training to compete at the Olympics like these individuals, but their values and attitude to training is the motivating part we’re after.
Alistair Brownlee was quoted to say “I don’t believe in rest days” whilst Mo Farah praised running as a sport to love and enjoy. When I need a burst of motivation, I look up to these determined athletes to find it.
Though it’s preferable to have a running role model, yours can be anybody from any wake of life. If it’s someone you look up to, find inspiration from, and believe in, you’re good to go.
4. Watch and read motivational speeches or stories
Though this may be the cheesiest method on this list, watching and reading motivational stories and speeches is surprisingly effective.
Having a carefully written, powerfully narrated pep talks occasionally, could just be what you need to keep going. Such speeches and stories contain important messages, with wise and intensely spoken words. Think of the narrators as being like a coach, motivating you to run.
They’re effective because they’re cheap, easy to consume, and have deep messages which really hit home. Get motivated to run today, with some motivational speeches or stories.
5. Reward yourself when you do well and go for your run
Don’t tyrannise yourself into running by being overly harsh on yourself when you slip up and then not have a reward when you succeed. It’s tempting to be demanding, denying yourself rewards and pushing yourself to the limit, but such tactics can be counter-productive.
Instead, reward yourself each time you overcome a lack of motivation and put in a run.
Every successful run is a small victory. Sure, you might not be as fast as you want to be or able to run as far as you want to in one session. At the end of the day, each run is a small victory. It’s only right you should congratulate yourself.
When you reward yourself, you experience a pleasant sensation because dopamine is released in the brain. This is known as positive reinforcement.
You become more motivated to run because you anticipate the pleasant experience of being rewarded. Therefore, regular and sensible rewards can increase motivation to run over time.
We’re not talking about counter-productive rewards like unhealthy foods and excessive alcohol consumption.
Make sure the reward is something you enjoy but is not something that could hinder your progress.
You could say I’m being boring and square but rewarding yourself with unhealthy foods and drinking loads of alcohol will unwind all the hours of grit and sweat you’ve put into training. We don’t want that to happen, under any circumstances.
Watching an episode of a show you enjoy on Netflix after a strenuous 5K or playing your favourite song on the guitar after a long run, are great ways of rewarding yourself to stay motivated.
6. Join a social running group like parkrun or a club
If you’re struggling to maintain running motivation, joining a sociable running group can do wonders.
There are loads of communal running groups that meet at least once a week, whatever country you’re in.
Examples of running groups are:
- Running clubs
- parkrun (a free weekly 5K on Saturday mornings). Find out ‘why parkrun will optimise your running life’ here.
- Sweatshop 5K and 10K runs
- A running group you’ve set up (consisting of friends, family, colleagues etc).
Running with others means added reason to go for your run.
When you’re tired and uninspired, it’s easy to not slip the shoes on and pace out the front door. It’s only yourself you’re letting down, right? True.
However, joining and committing to a social running group means a new pressure to don the running shoes. It’s one thing letting yourself down, but when you have others depending on you to turn up and take part in the group activity, it’s different.
Suddenly, you’ll be more motivated to run because you won’t want to let the group down or appear to be taking the easy route out whilst the group puts I hard work and trains hard without you.
Joining a running group is also good for making new friends
An added benefit of joining a running group is making new friends. The running community is one of the most diverse, interesting, and welcoming groups out there. You’re sure to make plenty of friendships that will last many years. What an incredible opportunity.
7. Think of how good you will feel after your run
Right now, you’re probably not in an inspiring place. You’re probably tired, cold, lacking motivation, and can’t think of anything worse than going for a run. Fair enough.
Visualise yourself having completed the run
To ignite a spark of motivation, close your eyes and visualize yourself in the future having completed the run. Think of how much better you will feel after you completed the run, put in the hard work, instead of sitting in watching the same episode of The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones, out of sheer boredom.
“When you visualize, then you materialize.” – Denis Waitley
When you create an image of where you want to go and what you want to achieve, you’re more likely to act and make it a reality. To up the stakes, attach massive emotion to the visualisation.
Think of the powerful biological effects exercise will have for you. Your brain will release endorphins, serotonin and dopamine, and you’ll have a feeling of accomplishment because you didn’t procrastinate.
Imagine how bad you will feel if you take the easy option, and don’t go for your run
Then flip the visualisation on its head. Think of how annoyed, down, and how little energy you will have when you don’t go for your run and take the easy option. It won’t be a good feeling.
Maybe you have a training plan you’re not completing, perhaps you have a weight loss target to reach, or maybe you’d just feel a sense of disappointment in yourself.
Use powerful visualisation techniques to imagine a positive you, having completed the run, thirty minutes in the future. Think of how happy you will be.
8. Remember that failure is part of the journey
If you’re letting a bad running experience put you off, remember that some failure is part of the journey to becoming a seasoned runner and achieving your goals.
Maybe you had an injury, it started raining on a run and you had a thin top on and got soaked, perhaps you got lost during a long run, maybe you felt so out of breath last time you decided (in the moment, of course) running wasn’t for you.
Whatever your failure, don’t let it put you off and demotivate you. Runners face difficulties all the time. Being motivated to overcome the difficulties is what really matters and will make you a better runner.
Nobody ever achieved anything worthwhile, without encountering some difficulties along the way.
“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” – Robert F. Kennedy
Mr Kennedy was correct when he made this bold statement about the importance of failure. In the depths of failure, our true personalities emerge, and we discover the most about ourselves. It’s important to remember that failure is part of the journey.
Failing obviously means something isn’t working, and it needs to be fixed before you can become successful.
Failure is necessary, so you can refine what you’re doing, and improve yourself.
Think of all the famous people who failed famously, before succeeding:
- Walt Disney was fired from the Kansas City Star in 1919 because the editor said he lacked ideas and creativity.
- Madonna had a job at Dunkin’ Donuts in Times Square, New York, only to be fired on her first day before she made it big.
- Oprah Winfrey was fired on one of her first evening news reporter jobs because she was apparently too emotional during broadcasts.
- Elvis was told by a concert hall manager he’d be better of forgetting about singing and returning to driving trucks again, before his big break.
- Thomas Edison famously failed hundreds of times before working out how to make a commercial light bulb.
- Steve Jobs was fired from Apple (his own company) after his ideas were too out of the box, only for the company to beg for him back later.
The point is, nobody in the history of the world achieved anything without a degree of failure and difficulty. It was thanks to these failures, they learnt how to overcome their difficulties and improve their self, which helped them become successful.
This is what you need to understand and apply, to stay motivated to run. It’s incredibly important and necessary.
If you can find a way to pick yourself up and overcome the failure, you will get a lot of enjoyment out of the running and experience a successful training session.
9. Have a passion for running
One of the easiest ways to stay motivated is to have a passion for running. Have a lot for the sport, enjoy the process, and take each training session as it comes.
Think about why you love running. The freedom of the outdoors, positive feelings from the exercise, the sociable aspect, the challenge, representing a charity, competing with others, and so on. Make sure you enjoy the sport.
Whilst we all lack motivation occasionally, it shouldn’t feel like the world biggest chore to go for a run, and you certainly shouldn’t have to push yourself hard to get into the running shoes and out the front door.
“If you ain’t enjoying it, you wake up in the morning and you feel like you’re doing it just because people expect you to do it, then it’s not the right thing. You have to do it because you want to do it, and still, have that drive.”
Mo uttered those famous words in a documentary about his love for running, and they are true.
If you’re not passionate about running, it might a good idea to stay active with something else.
Swimming, cycling, football, tennis, cricket, badminton, and rugby are all great examples of other sports you can do either alongside a running routine or in place of one.
They’ll keep you active, and there’s a chance you might enjoy one of these sports a lot more than running, hence you’ll be more organically motivated to train. You won’t need to push yourself too much. It might seem completely counter-productive, but if you really don’t enjoy running, it’s probably not the sport for you.
If you need detailed suggestions for other sports, read the blog post here.
There you have it. 9 Ways to maintain running motivation. If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with others who might find it useful.
For special running motivation, check out the ‘Life Lessons’ series here:
- 5 Life Lessons From Mo Farah
- 5 Life Lessons From The Brownlee Brothers
- 3 Life Lessons From Steve Prefontaine