Most days, you probably love running. Particularly when the weather's nice. When you feel good. When everything's going well in your life.
Then there are the other days. Days when it's pouring buckets of rain. Or below freezing and snowing. Or maybe you've put on a few pounds. You're feeling depressed. You're bored. You're tired. The last thing you want to do is lace up your shoes and head out the door!
Guess what? Everyone who runs has had those feelings at one time or another. Even those elite, speedy athletes who win big races and get paid to run. No one's immune to a lack of motivation. It happens to the best. So, the first thing you must remember when you start having these feelings is: you're not the only one! It helps to know others out there have experienced the same feelings, and have worked through them. You can, too!
Set a Goal
Think back to what first got you running. Something motivated you, didn't it? Maybe you wanted to lose weight. Or you made a bet with a friend that you could run a 10K. Or you ran in school and wanted to recapture that feeling. Whatever the reason, your motivation pushed you to succeed. You disciplined yourself to run be-cause you had a goal.
Any runner will tell you that having a goal is the best motivation. World and national class runners usually have goals relating to racing. They want to run a personal record (PR) or they want to win a championship race. Gordon Bakoulis, former editor-in-chief of Running Times and a four-time Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier, motivates herself to do workouts by thinking about "why" she's doing the workout.
"I focus on my race goals. I don't do hard workouts just for the sake of doing them; the purpose is to prepare for racing. I always have a goal race or a series of races on the horizon that are my reason to train hard."
Have Some Fun
Four-time New York City and Boston Marathon winner Bill Rodgers focuses on races, but for different reasons.
"About the Big M - motivation," he says. "With me, it ebbs and flows all the time. Sometimes positive and sometimes negative. But I've learned to always get something positive out of every race. It's seeing other runners and renewing friendships. You know, the goodwill and good vibes going on at every race!"
If you race, you, too, have various goal-setting options. Perhaps you've always raced strictly for fun. Maybe now's the time to pick out a race a few months down the road and train hard for it. On the other hand, if you usually finish well in your age group, take some pressure off yourself and do some races just for the experience of enjoying the run. Sometimes it's difficult to keep yourself "pumped-up" to train hard so you can race hard all the time. Back off and learn to enjoy running again strictly for the "good vibes" Rodgers talks about!
Run with Others
If you've been running for a few years but have never raced, training for one will be just the motivation you'll need to get disciplined! Try training for the race with other people. In fact, running with other people is another key motivator. Steve Scott, American record holder in both the open and Masters mile, says training with other people gets him out the door. "Now that I'm no longer racing for records and money, my day-to-day motivation comes from having a training partner," says Scott. "When you have a partner, you're both accountable. You'll show up if you know someone's waiting, and they'll show up if they know you're waiting!"
Ken, a runner from Maryland agrees. "The best running motivation is to find someone who runs at your pace and either train with them or run races together or do both," he insists. "For many years, I prepared for marathons by doing long runs by myself. After 10 years of this, I was beginning to lose the desire to train for marathons. However, after joining a running club, I met a group of people who were interested in training for a marathon. Those weekly long runs now became enjoyable because of the camaraderie of the group."
By joining a running club, you'll not only discover renewed motivation to run, you'll make life-long friends. Caroline, from Hartford, Connecticut adds, "For over 20 years, the women's division of the Hartford Track Club has held Saturday breakfast runs. They meet at someone's home at 7 a.m., run three, five or six miles and then enjoy coffee and breakfast. As many as 30 runners appear faithfully in rain, sleet, snow and heat. We are housewives, teachers, attorneys, clergywomen, physicians and businesswomen. We are truly a celebration of fitness, running and life!"
Join a group, or start one of your own. Many running clubs are online now, and most of them have message boards. Put the word out that you're looking for someone to train with. Chances are, you'll get lots of takers!
The 10-Minute Rule
But what about the days when you aren't running with someone else? What if you live in a small community with no other runners around? How do you get yourself out the door on the not-so-good days?
Try the "10-Minute Rule." Tell yourself before you even leave the house that you'll only run for 10 minutes. You'll find that, at the end of that 10-minute run, you feel fine and ready to run longer. If you don't, at least you've done 10 minutes.
There are several other simple ways to motivate yourself day-to-day. Try one of these the next time you need a boost.
- Find a new route. Simply changing where you run can make a big difference. Running the same route day after day can get boring. Mix it up a little.
- Run where you enjoy running. Steve Scott says, "Make an effort to really enjoy where you run. I used to live at the coast, so I could run along the ocean. Now I've moved farther inland and I've learned to enjoy running on trails. If you don't feel good about where you run, you won't want to run."
- Reward yourself. Promise yourself if you run for two days in a row, you'll go out for a nice dinner. Of if you stay on schedule and run four days a week for a month, you'll take a weekend trip.
- Play mind games. Practice visualization when you run. One day, pretend you're winning your next race. The next day, see yourself as a gazelle or a deer running fast.
- Remember how lucky you are. Think about people who can't run, or can't even walk. Keep in mind how special you are. You're a runner.
- Remember why you started running in the first place. Think back to how good it felt, and how proud you were. Recapture the feeling: you felt great both physically and mentally. Feel it again!