3 Tips for Staying Motivated to Run

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It’s true that it can sometimes be hard to find the motivation to keep running. We all experience highs and lows, it’s normal and a part of being a runner. In this post, I’ll share three quick tips for staying motivated to run.

What is ‘motivation’?

Motivation is a reason, or reasons, for behaving and acting in a certain way. If you have a lot of motivation, it means you’re motivated to do something and continue doing it. Unfortunately, as runners often find out, it can be difficult to find bundles of motivation and keep it in high supply over the course of training and competing.

Why do runners experience problems with their motivation?

It’s natural that we find running a hard habit to maintain at times. Here are three of the main reasons which can explain why we sometimes experience problem with our motivation to keep running.

The first reason some people have trouble staying motivated to run, is that running can be an uncomfortable experience, particularly if you’re just starting out and your legs feel like jelly after each run. Regardless, there will always be times when running puts, you through some uncomfortable physical experiences such as breathing heavily, getting a stich and (hopefully not) going through an injury or two. If you ask the average person if they want to experience discomfort, the answer will be no so of course the uncomfortable feelings association with running are a cause towards being unmotivated.

Furthermore, running is mainly done outside which means that the weather can inspire a loss of motivation in some people.  Sure, you can run on a treadmill in a gym or on an athletics track but – in my opinion – it’s just not the same incredible experience the outdoors.

Because running is best done outdoors, it means your vulnerable to the elements. Yes, the elements can be nice sometimes with plenty of sunshine and clear skies, yet they can also be treacherous. Wind, rain, fog, sleet, snow, lightning, and extreme heat are all weather scenarios I’ve trained and competed it and I can say from experience that these haven’t been the most fun times in the world.

Finally, I think an important reason for people not staying motivated to continue running is that there are literally 1,000s of other things that you could be doing instead. We live in the 21st Century, in the world of social media, Netflix and the world wide web.

Everything you could ever want is available at the touch of a button. Want to binge watch that new series? Not a problem. What about ordering pizza for delivery in 15 minutes time? Go ahead, it’s easy. We have an infinite number of choices for filling our time. Why go for a run when you can be entertained by watching Breaking Bad from the comfort of your own home? I think the huge number of choices we have available to us makes it incredibly difficult to find, sustain and grow running motivation.

Is there a solution to the lack of running motivation problem?

If you’re reading this, thinking that you’re someone who struggles with motivation to either get starting with a running habit or simply continuing an already existing one, you’re in the right place.

There are many tips for solving a lack of motivation to run. Below, I cover my three top tips which I believe that – when applied – will ensure you stay motivated to run and continue for the long-term. Without further ado, let’s get into them!

1. Have a clear reason for why you are running

By far the most important way to stay motivated to run, you must have a clear reason for why you are running. Most people have a faint idea in mind for why they want to run, but for most this isn’t clearly defined or understood in detail. Why is this is a problem, to not have a reason clear and defined for running?

Long story short, humans don’t do things nothing. All action and behaviour is motivated by a reason. When you want a good grade in an exam, you study for hours and hours to achieve it. If you want to get a promotion at work, you’ll put in extra time and effort into your projects. Perhaps you want to learn a new language for being better able to communicate with a friend or significant other.

All of these are examples of real human behaviour, motivated by a reason. It’s the same in other domains of life and it’s the same in running. If you don’t have a clear reason to do something, you won’t do it. If you don’t have any definitive justification for why you want to run, it won’t become a priority and you’ll start to get lazy with your workouts.

If you want a running habit, you’re going to need a clear reason in mind. Why bother going to all of the effort and sacrifice of going outside in the pouring rain and covering 5 miles on a Saturday morning when you could be in bed? Your clear, defined reason will help answer these questions.

My principal reason for running is to ensure I am constantly challenging myself so that I develop mental toughness which I believe will help me in other domains of life. For example, after having ran a marathon (something I never thought possible for me), I now have more confidence in myself to overcome other obstacles in life.  Whenever I am lacking motivation to get out and run, I remember this reason and ensure that I keep running so I can develop more mental toughness.

This is just my reason. Everyone’s will be slightly different. Popular reasons include losing weight, living for longer, having more energy, exploring new places, starting a hobby with someone close to you and so on. It really doesn’t matter what your reason is. What does matter is that you have one and it’s clearly defined in your mind.

So, how to ensure you have a clear reason in mind for why you are running? Personally, thinking deeply about your reasons and then writing them down with pen and paper is the best way to crystallise your reasons for running. Personally, I have written my reason clearly on the first page of my notebook. To do this properly, you’ll need a few questions to get you thinking.

What benefits are you expecting to gain from running? Why should you be putting in effort, time and sacrifice? What will life look like when you make running a regular habit and have lots of motivation to continue it?

After having thought about and written down responses to all of the answers to these questions, you will be able to pull them out of your ‘mental bag’ whenever things get tough and you need a burst of motivation.

Top tip: Read your reason for running at least once per week to make sure you stay reminded of it and it’s rigidly fixed in your mind. I

2. Run in new, exciting places

An excellent way to ensure you stay motivated is to run in new, exciting places.

Something I often say is that variety is the spice of life and this applies to run. If you run in the same places, day in day out, with no novelty or variety in your routine then running will quickly become bland. Don’t let that happen to you. Ensure you stay motivated by running in new places.

Humans naturally like exploring new places. Exploring gives us the sense that anything is possible, it leads to knowledge, understand and the gaining of perspective on the world. Exploring is a joy which can make running

Experiment and find new places nearby. It doesn’t matter where you live in the world, there’s bound to be a new location just on your doorstep you haven’t explored. You could run through an unexplored neighbourhood, find local nature parks, or run in a new direction and see where you end up. I find it’s always a good tip to ask older friends and family who have lived in my town for a few decades as they have wracked up plenty of wisdom as to where the nice and scenic places are.

Alternatively, you could be more adventurous and travel further afield. Why stay in your hometown or city when there are virtually limitless places to go running in the world? Take a trip to another city, a faraway beach or participate in running events in other states and provinces. Your possibilities are literally endless!

By exploring new places, you’ll be motivated to continue running due to the associated joy with discovery and adventure. Something that is on my bucket list is to run the Paris marathon with some friends. Not only will it be an incredible experience in a new, undiscovered place for me, it’ll also help me stay motivated to continue training and ensure I enjoy the sport.

If you need help planning new routes to run, try out Strava’s route builder. The feature is only available for summit (paid-for subscription members) but you can try it out on a 1-month free trial here.

3. Combine running with an exciting activity

Though I said the first point was the most important, this point is definitely my favourite.

The problem lots of people have when they try to find motivation to start and then continue running as a habit, is that they don’t find it fun. It’s as simple as that. Who can blame them? Personally, I think running can become fun if we associate it with a fun activity.

What does this mean, exactly? If you start to do something you find fun at the same time as running, over time you’ll start to associate running with positive emotions you have for the fun activity.

For example, if you love learning languages and you can’t get enough of foreign language podcasts then be sure to listen to these whilst you run. Maybe your someone with a passion for classic literature who can benefit from listening to Charles Dickens, Shakespeare and other marvels of the written world whilst pounding the pavement. It could be that you enjoy music so you decide to power your way though runs with the help of your favourite rock band in your ears.

It really doesn’t matter what your ‘fun thing’ is. What’s important is that you have a fun thing in mind of which you can do at the same time as running so you can at least get some joy out of running, if you’re struggling with motivation.

I advise all runners to experiment with different fun things to combine with their running and to always mix it up a bit.

Whether you like listening to podcasts, music or learning something new, doing something you love whilst running will eventually allow to associate the sport with fun over time. You know that when you run, it’s a chance to reap the benefits of listening to something engaging as your fun, interesting activity.

Before long, you’ll be rearing to go for your next run with plenty of motivation in the knowledge of ll the fun you’ll be able to have during it.

This may seem unrealistic to you right now, I know, but trust me. This is my main method for making running more fun and I can honestly say it has been the most crucial method for me to increase my motivation levels. Give it a try and see what you think.

If you’re interested in finding out more about combining running with exciting activities, check out the following posts.


If you have any more suggestions, I’d love to hear them.  If so, don’t hesitate to send me an email at info@runnersfirst.co.uk

Thank you for having read my article and happy running

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