Even though I love running, I often find it hard to motivate myself to go and do it. You’d think that when a window of opportunity arose within a chaotic, busy life that I would just grab it and head out the door. While this is often the case, there are plenty of times when I don’t go. Days when I put my running kit on in anticipation of a run at some point and I’m still in them at bed time, and I haven’t run a step, even though I could have created a space for it if I’d tried. Finding the motivation to run, day after day, week after week isn’t always easy. Some people find it easier than others. You know you’ll feel better afterwards but sometimes that just isn’t enough.
“The hardest part of any workout is putting your shoes on.”Kathrine Switzer
Consistency is key when it comes to running and regular running will bring the most health benefits. So, how do you stay motivated? Here are some of my tips from 13 years of trying to get myself out the door!
- Find your why. Figure out why you run. What is your main reason for having running in your life? Is it to keep you fit so you can be active with your kids? Is it to ensure you age healthily and keep a good quality of life? Is it to have fun? To challenge yourself? Is it for headspace and good mental health? Reflecting on what running means to you can get you back on track when you’ve strayed from the path. It may be as simple as needing to run today to fit with a training plan for an upcoming event. But why do you want to do that event? Why is it important to you? Just relying on ‘I should’ isn’t always wise. It can help to look at the bigger picture that is very personal to you.
- Don’t procrastinate. Overthinking things just gives you time to talk yourself out of it. You’ll quickly come up with a reason not to go and in that moment that reason will feel very valid. By the time you’ve considered it all you might have missed your opportunity to run. If the notion to run comes into your head, throw your kit on and go. This is particularly true first thing in the morning. If you’re aiming for an early run then don’t engage your brain. Get out of the door before you’ve had the chance to wonder if it’s a good idea. It always is.
- Schedule your runs. Make an appointment with yourself. Build your runs into the week ahead. If you’ve blocked out time for a run then you’re more likely to go. You’ve identified that that is your best time to run so use the slot. When life is busy these are often the first things to disappear from the diary but try to remember that if you’ve had a run you’ll be in better shape to fulfil all your other obligations. Running is self-care not self-indulgence.
- Seek inspiration. When you’ve watched the London Marathon on TV or spectated at a race, doesn’t it always make you want to run?! What stirs you inside? Fill your life with daily inspiration. This might be someone’s social media feed, a book, podcast or TV documentary. We have endless sources of inspiration available to us at the press of a button now.
- Run for ten minutes. Just tell yourself you will run for ten minutes and then see how you feel. If you don’t feel good and it’s not happening for you, you can come home. I can almost 100 per cent guarantee that as long as you aren’t ill, after ten minutes you will just want to carry on. Giving yourself a get out clause can make something seem more attractive when will power is weak. And if you do bin it after ten minutes, it’s still better than nothing so it’s a win-win.
- Run commute. Make running part of a journey that you have to do. It might be going to work, the way back from the school run or seeing a friend. The focus isn’t on the run itself, it’s on the activity and running is just a means of getting there or back. Setting days that you do this helps too. ‘I run home from work every Wednesday’ is better than ‘I’ll run home from work one day this week.’ It’s just what you do.
- Run with others. Probably the most powerful tip is to make a plan with someone else. This is my go to method! Knowing someone is turning up on your doorstep at 8am on a Sunday morning will get you up and out. Equally, being part of a running club is perfect for this. You become accountable to others plus you have an endless source of motivation and inspiration from other runners who no doubt often struggle with all the same lack of motivation that you do.
These tips really work for me but remember, it’s also OK not to run. Sometimes we get so caught up with pushing ourselves regardless. There may be days you had planned to run but don’t want to. Keep a healthy relationship with running. Only run because you want to and not because you feel you should. Sometimes it’s just one thing too many. It takes time to figure out what’s an excuse and what’s a valid reason. Listen to your body but listen to your mind too – it can play tricks on you.
What is your experience of staying motivated to run? Do you struggle? What works for you? I’d love to hear – you can leave me a comment here or on social media.
There’s more about motivation and getting the balance of running right in your life in my new book Run Well: Essential health questions and answers for runners. Published by Bloomsbury and available to buy now.