motivate yourself to run

Motivate Yourself to Run: 7 Tips and Tricks

Motivation levels jump up and down more than the stock market. It’s an inevitable part of running. You just finished a race with a personal best, and you’re determined to continue this upward trend. No work is needed to motivate yourself to run, it’s pushing you out the door. You choose your next race, start getting a training plan together for it, you might even pin it to your fridge!

Then the motivation monster sneaks in and robs you of that fire in your belly. Your world turns cold and gray. Moving your legs to walk around your house seems like a chore, how will you possibly run?! Ugh, the thought of it just makes you cringe. “I really don’t feel like doing my run today,” you say to yourself. So you sit, staring at your running shoes, who are only laughing at your misery – and beginning to fall apart.

However, there are some things you can do to help motivate yourself to run. And some of them are surprisingly simple. You’ll see, by making a few adjustments to your routine, you will have your motivation back in no time.

Run with a group

Motivate yourself to run with a group

It’s difficult to lace up your shoes and get out the door daily. The grind of hitting the trails and training, or just getting exercise, will eventually wear even the highly-motivated down. And that’s natural. We need stimulation, and our motivation is going to ebb and flow.

A great way to combat this is to have people know you’re accountable. In other words, a group. By being accountable to more than yourself, you’re more likely to meet that commitment of showing up for that run. It’s easy to tell yourself that you deserve a day off, and you should sit on the couch, feeling proud of yourself for your work while eating a tub of ice cream. Your group, however, won’t let you off that easy. And they definitely won’t let you off without sharing.

In addition, you have the added benefit of having people to converse with while running. This helps in a couple of ways.

Pace

You have probably heard the old saying that you should run at a pace where you can converse. And this is good advice. Many times, runners will go out too fast or too hard. However, do this repeatedly, and you’re gonna run yourself into the ground.

One of the main contributors leading to a lack of motivation is often just a lack of energy. You’ve been pushing yourself hard in training (which is a good thing, it’s good to be dedicated), and your body wants a break. It’s natural.

Keeping yourself at a conversational pace will help keep your heart rate low and will reduce the strain on your body. Running at a lower heart rate will allow you to run more frequently, too. Which is excellent for your cardio and your overall running fitness.

Great conversation

One of the things I look forward to most is the conversations that I have with my running group. We cover many wide-ranging topics, and I learn a lot in the process. I get to hear their different perspectives on different issues, or I’ll hear a wild story about a trip through North Korea and Mongolia.

Regardless, it’s great to just have people to talk to and connect with. I know that my group runs will never be boring, so it helps keep my motivation levels up as I have something to look forward to.

Read/listen to a book or podcast

A podcast or ebook are excellent for your runs

This is a big one for readers or curious minds; this will interest you as well. Given the effect that reading has on the brain and your imagination, it’s not hard to figure out why putting on a book or podcast will help transport you out of the monotony that running can become sometimes.

I treat my runs as my audiobook/podcast listening time. It gives me something else to look forward to when I’m not feeling running. I love to learn, and a nice book or podcast is a great way to get into that thinking space where your mind has drifted away from your run, and your legs are on cruise control.

Audiobooks

I plan on doing a future post for more of my suggestions, but here are a few that I think to pair with running well.

  • The Rise of the Ultra Runners by Adharanand Finn
    • I mentioned this book in my top ten books list, but it’s worth mentioning again. Hearing Finn’s stories about his ultra races and the amazing people he met will keep your legs churning while it occupies your mind. It helps the narrator does an excellent job with his reading.
  • Yearbook by Seth Rogen
    • A recent feature in my monthly book club, I’m admittedly a fan of Seth Rogen. Not that I think he’s the greatest actor (he isn’t), but I enjoy his work, and he makes me laugh. The same is true for his audiobook, which he reads himself. Telling the hilarious yet awkward stories of going through adolescence and adulthood that everyone can relate to, Seth is sure to have your lungs heaving in a good way.
  • Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art by James Nestor
    • For runners, your breath is important. You could say it’s vitally important. So understanding a bit about how it works, what we are doing correctly and incorrectly, and ways we can improve. James Nestor does an excellent job at covering this subject in his aptly named book. Maybe a bit too science-heavy for the average listener at times, but he does a great job of providing concrete examples to relate to.

Podcasts

Same as the above, this will be covered more fully in a future post as there are many podcasts to keep you occupied during your runs. I won’t mention the big-name podcasts that I like (like The Joe Rogan Experience), and I will try to focus on some lesser-known podcasts. Here are some of my favorites.

  • The Science of Ultra by Shawn Bearden
    • This is my favorite podcast on running, period. The information that Shawn Bearden provides for runners is, in my opinion, an absolute treasure. And runners should be digging for this treasure as much as they can. While he focuses on ultra-related information, much of the information he provides is great for runners of any type and any level. This is one you should definitely give a listen to if you’re interested in bettering your training.
  • Hardcore History by Dan Carlin
    • Not running-related, but yet another gold mine if you’re a history fan. Dan Carlin, admittedly not a historian by training (despite being a respected voice on history topics), gives a unique look into various historical times and places in a format and perspective that few can provide. This includes the Mongol Empire, Ancient Rome, the Eastern Front during WWII between the Germans and Russians, the Apaches, the Achaemenid Persian Empire, and Japan from the Meiji Restoration up to and through WWII. And I still left a lot out. History buffs (if you haven’t heard of it already) would be remiss not to subscribe to this podcast.
  • Stuff You Should Know Podcast by Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant
    • As the title suggests, this is stuff you should know! SYSK puts out a podcast every couple of days. Josh and Chuck also have built chemistry which helps keep the episodes entertaining. There will surely be a topic that will pique your interest, considering they have over 1600 episodes. Here are some recent examples:
      • SYSK Live: Koko, the Gorilla Who Talked
      • Short Stuff: Sulfanilamide Disaster
      • The Sad Story of William James Sidis
      • Selects: Are good samaritan laws effective?

Think of a bad race

Remembering a bad race can help give us motivation

If you’re cut from a competitive cloth, then this will be one that can help drive you forward. There’s nothing quite like having that taste of disappointment in your mouth – which is impossible to wash out, to fuel your runs toward your next event.

Personally, I hate losing. If you gave me the choice of “Do you love winning or hate losing?” It’s that I hate losing, ten out of ten times. Ask anyone that knows me, and they’ll nod vigorously in agreement.

However, when it comes to running, I don’t mean it as losing a race. Do I compete in races to win? Of course. But running is a unique sport because a large part of it is competing against yourself. That’s the loss I’m talking about. You trained hard for a race, you feel you did everything perfectly, then race day comes, and it seems like none of it mattered. That often hurts worse than a loss to a competitor.

Any runners reading this right now are also nodding vigorously in agreement.

Put reminders around your house

While I agree it’s a great idea to put the disappointment behind you and move on. I think there is something to holding that slight grudge as fuel to draw on later, especially in your next race.

So put up little reminders to yourself so that you can work towards it not happening again. I’m not saying to belittle yourself or to put any negative talk in your head. However, there are positive things you can do:

  • Write your goal time for your next race with your previous time next to it
  • Use small quotes that inspire you or mean something to you in a personal way
  • Write the name of the race that you did not do well in just to keep that fire inside you burning

There are ways to go about this in a positive and inspiring way. Then there are ways to go about this where you’re being negative and only pounding your confidence into the ground. One race is just one race. You have plenty more where you can improve.

Run the same race again

Hey, they say you need to face your fears, right? Well, go back to the source of where it all started. Use that disappointment in that race the previous time, and focus on working toward besting it. Knowing that you are staring down the barrel of that same challenge again helps put you in that zone on race day.

You remember that feeling the last time. You’ve had time to realize where it went wrong. But you’re not letting it happen this time. This time, you’re gonna make that race your b**ch.

Sign up for a race

A race is a great way to add motivation

This is one that I often use. Not feeling the motivation to train? Well, there’s nothing like a 50-kilometer (31 miles) race coming up in a few months to really kick my ass in gear.

I like to give advice: “The more suffering you do during training, the less you will do on race day.” Now, whether this is true or not, I have no idea. But it sounds nice. And it makes sense on its face. I’ve suffered in races I did train for. I don’t want to imagine the misery of a race that I didn’t train for.

So, sign yourself up for a race and give yourself a concrete goal in the future to work toward. It may give you that little boost you need.

Aim for a distance that is challenging yet realistic

You don’t want to get in too far over your head. Be realistic about your fitness level and where you are. Choose a distance you can achieve but will push your limits as well.

Signing up for a 100-kilometer (62 miles) race when you’ve never run farther than a half marathon may not be the best idea. Without a doubt, I still believe that most runners can complete an ultra if they train, fuel, and race properly. But that’s a big jump to make.

On the same note, don’t sign up for a race that’s too easy. This may cause you to slack in your training, which will only add to your lack of motivation. “Oh, it’s only a half marathon. I can train tomorrow.” Well, that “I can train tomorrow” is a sure sign of a lack of motivation. If you know that you can go out and do it tomorrow (not necessarily your best effort, but completing it), you’re less likely to take it seriously.

Change your scenery

Switch up your scenery to keep things fresh

Oftentimes, just changing your running route will provide that rush that you needed to bring your motivation levels back up. Running the same route repeatedly, seeing the same sights over and over, isn’t going to bring much joy to your run as these things become normal.

However, if you travel somewhere new for your route, that novelty comes back – and you begin to notice things that you took for granted on your normal route. You don’t even have to leave your city to do this, just choose a different route location.

You’ll notice yourself pointing out little things. “I’ve been in this area and never noticed that playground before. That will be great for the kids.” When you begin exploring a new area on foot, the enjoyment of running seems to come back along with it.

Before you know it, you’re looking forward to those runs that you were dreading before.

Use a map to find a route

There are loads of options to use to find a new route. Many of them exist as apps. Use these to your advantage and explore an area. Some great options are:

  • Google Maps
    • Easy enough, everyone knows how to use Google Maps. Take an aerial look at your city (or your destination city, if you’re traveling) and map out a route. You can check online to see if there are any areas people recommend.
  • Strava Heat Maps
    • My go-to for route creation. Strava Heat Maps aggregates all of the runs by users of its platform, then develops a heat map. It’s a great way to see where others are running and may lead to some routes you didn’t even know were there.
  • AllTrails
    • This is geared toward trail runners and a great resource for finding new trails to run on if your usual trails are getting a bit dull. A bit limited if the area you live/visit is not a well-known area.

Change your exercise

Try new exercises!

Sometimes it’s the exercise you’re doing that gets tiresome. For runners, you may just need a break from running and try a different exercise type. If I get tired of running, basketball is an activity I will turn to. Explore and find out what you like best. You may find an entirely new activity you didn’t know would enjoy!

Not only will this give you the mental break you need, but it will also allow you to exercise different muscles. By switching up your activity, you give the muscles you use regularly a vacation while telling your other muscles it’s time to pick up some of the slack.

Or, you can just try running uphill! Sometimes just the terrain change from flat to running uphill makes all the difference!

Try a new activity

One sure way to get some motivation is to try something you’ve never done before. Something about making a complete fool of yourself makes us want to not look like a fool. Enter motivation. Suddenly, you’re finding yourself thinking about the activity a lot. You feel the joy coming back into your body. You’re actually enjoying the exercise you’re doing.

This type of energy reverberates into other areas of your life as well. The passion that you had lost for other hobbies starts to come back. You’re enjoying work more. You’re enjoying working out more – you’re enjoying life more.

Learning something new sparks that inner, curious child that we all have. We just have to tap into it.

Take some time off

Just relax and take some time off

I put this one last, but this may be one of the first things you should do if you’re feeling burnt out. On occasion, your body and mind just need that break from your activity. It’s your body’s version of a day at the spa.

You may not realize it every day, but you’re putting your body through significant stress by consistently running for a long duration. That stress is going to add up.

Imagine you’re filling up a glass of water. Each day you run, you’re adding a bit of water to the glass. Eventually, that water is just going to spill over. Deciding to take a short break is the equivalent of you going to get a bigger glass to begin filling.

Just make sure that the glass doesn’t stay empty for too long.

Immerse yourself in other hobbies

Get yourself away from any physical activity and do other things that interest you. This can involve reading, playing chess, collecting rocks, and any other hobbies that someone might have. Getting that mental and physical break will rejuvenate your motivation and allow you to enjoy things that aren’t running or exercising.

Running can take up a lot of time, and you don’t often realize how much time you dedicate to it until you stop and do something else. So freeing yourself of that obligation – no matter how long – will give your body much-needed rest.

Conclusion

Motivation is a tough thing to keep your grasp on. One moment, you’re so full of it that it’s coming out of your ears. Fast forward a couple of weeks and you can’t find a single cell in your body that has it. That’s just a part of the cycle.

There are ways to get it back, however. Switching up your route, listening to something fun, or just adding some friends will do wonders. But don’t overlook the signs that you’re overtraining. After all, breaks can help lead to great improvements if done correctly. And who doesn’t enjoy a nice, clear schedule from time to time?


I hope these tips were helpful for anyone that is struggling with motivation. I understand the frustration of knowing that you should be training, but just not having any urge to do it. Let me know in the comments how you deal with a lack of motivation. What are some warning signs that it’s coming on, and what do you do to stop it in its tracks?

Resources

6 thoughts on “Motivate Yourself to Run: 7 Tips and Tricks”

  1. Great article… On our weekly runs i now really look forward to the conversation and social element on the trails.. almost to the point where i dont even notice those damn hills!! OK i do still notice those hills – but the great thing when running in a group is i can complain about them real time and sometimes i even get a little sympathy… lol…

    1. Agreed, Pat!

      Everyone is going to be different, but it’s finding that method that helps you the best.

      Thanks for your comment!

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