No matter how much you love to run, there are days when it can be tough to get out the door. Maybe the weather is cold or wet and uninviting, or perhaps your life and work schedule are overwhelming mentally and emotionally.
While everyone needs time off to rest and recover, it’s easy for one unplanned day off to turn into multiple days or weeks, and suddenly you’re back to starting from scratch. So, how can you maintain your motivation to train?
Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation
Motivation plays an important role in so many of the things we aim to accomplish each day. When you’re motivated, everything feels easier, and you’re ready to tackle any challenge head-on.
The most influential and long-lasting motivation is intrinsic, meaning it comes from within. Intrinsic motivation is your “why.” It’s the thing that gets you out the door even when life or weather conditions conspire against you.
While there’s nothing wrong with promising yourself a post-run latte or a new running shirt, that external or extrinsic motivation tends to be short-lived. Intrinsic motivation has a deeper pull because it’s more personal. Maybe you have a big goal race that you’re training for. Or perhaps you’re trying to set an example of a healthier lifestyle for your kids.
Take some time to establish your why and think about what you want to get out of running. Write it down and refer back to it when needed. Having that intrinsic motivation to fall back on can be an excellent resource when training becomes challenging, or you’re struggling to get out for your run.
Motivation vs. Discipline
While motivation can wax and wane, discipline is something you can practice and improve upon. If motivation isn’t cutting it when it’s 39 degrees and raining for your long run, discipline is your best bet to get you out the door. Sometimes you just need to remind yourself that skipping a run is not an option.
Think of discipline as a mental muscle: The more you use that muscle, the stronger it becomes. But you also can’t expect to move mountains if you have never flexed that muscle before.
Don’t be afraid to start small. Get out for a 30-minute run in weather that feels uncomfortable or promise yourself to start your run, even when you’re feeling more tired than you’d prefer. Over time, it gets easier to fall back on discipline when motivation isn’t enough to get you running.
5 Ways to Make Running Motivation Easier
Running requires a long-term commitment rather than short-term hacks to see its true benefits, but there are certainly ways to make your training a little easier. As with any new habit, it takes time to establish a routine.
1. Make Running a Priority by Scheduling It
Just like you would put an important meeting on your calendar, it helps to do the same with your workouts. By blocking off a set time in your day, you’re more likely to fit in your runs. Although not all of us are early birds, running first thing in the morning can help ensure you get your training in before the day gets hectic and your motivation wanes.
2. Just Get Out the Door
Even when you’re motivated, sometimes the first mile just doesn’t feel all that great. This can be especially true if you run early in the morning, before you’re mentally and physically warmed up. Give yourself a grace period to just get out the door and through the first mile, then evaluate how you feel. Sometimes, the runs that start a little rough end up much better than you expect.
3. Plan Your Downtime
We all need downtime and days off. Rather than taking them haphazardly, try to schedule a regular day off (or more) each week, along with a longer stretch of time where you train minimally or take a break from running entirely. Pre-planning your downtime makes it more effective, rather than going long, unplanned stretches without running. Knowing you have planned time off will help you keep your motivation higher on the days you do train.
4. Make Each Day Easier
No matter how motivated you are, some days feel like a grind. To help you get out the door, prepare for your run by laying out your clothing, gear and food. Plan to meet a friend for runs when it’s dark or you have a hard workout. And if your schedule allows it, aim to run during the best part of the day to make weather less of a factor in your motivation.
5. Track Your Progress and Stay Accountable
Watching your progress over weeks and months can be motivating. But focus on how you feel in addition to numbers like pace and mileage. Know that progress isn’t always linear, and it will be easier to see over the long haul. A coach can also help you make continual progress toward your goals, as well as providing someone to hold you accountable to your training.
Running has the power to do so many good things for both our bodies and our minds. But some days will be tougher than others, and you may not always feel excited to get your run started.
By finding your intrinsic motivation and using techniques to keep you motivated, you’ll be able to keep your training on track and reap the benefits of consistent running.
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