How to Rekindle Your Running Motivation
Because sometimes chasing miles is hard AF.
Running tends to go two ways for me: I feel like I can run for 100 miles (even if I typically stop short of 10) or my legs feel like big bricks and my mind has to mentally carry them every. single. step. Lately, my runs have only been the latter-and I don't think I'm the only one. Lots of people share their struggles on social media about difficult long runs or the every-a.m. battle of choosing sneakers over bed sheets. (Is that one of the 13 signs you're officially a runner?)
Whether you're a seasoned runner training for a marathon or you're fresh to the mileage scene, you'll always have days (maybe even weeks) when just getting started feels harder than climbing Everest. But that doesn't mean you have to give up and put the kibosh on running a mile nonstop, finishing your first 26.2, or whatever your run goal may be. All you have to do is heed this advice from two top run coaches-who, BTW, also lose their running motivation sometimes-and find the power to just keep on going.
1. Take small steps.
First things first: If you're a running newbie, don't be afraid to start super slow in both pace and distance. It's a smart idea to start with a walk-run-walk method, suggests Christy Vachal, a run coach at Mile High Run Club in New York City. Run for two minutes, then walk for one, until you work your way up to 30 minutes. "Be realistic with your goals, but also challenge yourself to push outside of that comfort zone," says Vachal. (Example: Try this treadmill workout from Mile High Run Club.)
2. Climb slowly.
Don't try to kick your mileage up from a half-mile to three in just two weeks. You'll get burned out quickly, which will really deter you from getting back on the road. "The biggest mistake is trying to do too much, too soon-too fast a pace, too many miles, too intense," says Gordon Bakoulis, New York Road Runner editorial director and run coach. "This will not only quash your motivation, it will also greatly increase your risk of getting an injury, which, of course, will force you to take time off and start all over again once you recover." (Here's how to prevent the most common running injuries.)
Use the talk test to make sure you're not overdoing it-that means you should be able to have a conversation while running. If you can't speak, slow it down. "If you can't breathe and are struggling with every step to maintain a running pace, that is not going to be fun or enjoyable and you'll lose motivation to continue," says Bakoulis. As the memes say: You're going faster than the people on the couch.
3. Follow a plan.
Even if you're not signed up for a race, Vachal recommends following a training plan. It'll help you stay on track. "Just don't fret if you have to miss a run or you feel burnt out," she says. "I tell my runners that training plans are used as a guideline, not an ultimatum. Push to hit each mark, but know life can get in the way, so don't beat yourself up over missing a few runs, especially if you're a beginner."
4. Believe in the power of positivity.
"The most motivating thing you can do when beginning a running program is to surround yourself with positivity-from within and from the outside," says Bakoulis. "Love yourself for what you are doing-even if you haven't taken a single step. It's very hard to even shift your mindset from sedentary person to aspiring runner, so give yourself credit for making that mental shift." It's the little successes that lead to major payoffs. (Marathoner and body-pos activist Candice Huffine has more mental running tips that'll help you out.)
5. Plan a date.
Find someone who will be your run buddy-even if you have to meet them halfway through your run-then get a coffee (or beer!) after to celebrate your miles, says Vachal. It'll give you something to look forward to, someone to hold you accountable, plus you'll have a good catch-up sesh to pull you through bouts of achy muscles or heavy breathing. (Here are more tips on how to run and race with a friend.)
6. Think of the pros.
"We all struggle with motivation. No one-not even Olympic champions and world record-holders-feels motivated for every single run," says Bakoulis. "Reminding myself of that and giving myself permission to feel unmotivated sometimes does the trick to get me out the door. I'll actually say, 'Shalane Flanagan has her ugh days too, it's okay!'" (Don't believe it? Just read what she was thinking during the 2018 Boston Marathon.)
7. Revel in the aftereffect.
Not many people regret actually going for a run. So despite how hard it might feel to get started, you'll feel like a rock star afterward-and you should often remind yourself of that. "I ask myself, 'how will you feel at bedtime tonight if you don't run today," says Bakoulis. "The answer is, 'I'll feel like I should have run.' When I do, I make sure to give myself a little pat on the back at bedtime, because I did find that motivation."
8. Take notes.
Vachal keeps a running journal to track how each of her runs went and how great she felt afterward. "Going back to those written notes and reminding yourself of that feeling can be the push you need to get out the door," she says. It's also a good idea to write down your goals in the same spot. That way, they're top of mind when you're feeling not-so-inspired to chase them.
9. Remind yourself of your strength.
"You can do hard things" is Vachal's favorite mantra. Not every run is going to be easy-some might seriously suck-but then others will make you feel like you're the toughest woman on earth. "We are all stronger than we think and just sticking to positive thoughts and pushing out negative energy can make you go that extra half-mile, and leave you feeling strong and empowered," she says.
10. Be patient.
If only you could see progress overnight, you'd probably wake up sprinting out of bed. But alas, getting more comfortable with running (and running farther and faster) takes time. "You have to respect the process," says Vachal. "Remember you don't have to be a fast runner or run multiple marathons a year to consider yourself a 'runner,' so don't compare yourself to others. Just focus on how running can improve your happiness."
11. Download a podcast.
When you need to zone out and tune into something other than your thoughts of aches, pains, and fantasies of finishing, cue up a podcast. Vachal prefers true crime podcasts to keep her attention on the mystery. (Seriously-it's a strategy marathoners use to power through long runs.)
12. Share your badassery.
Post both a before and after shot of your run on social media, suggests Vachal. The pre-sweat pic will help ensure you'll actually go for the run, then the post-run selfie will provide the proof-and possibly some cheers. "The encouragement and feedback from friends helps boost your confidence and can also motivate others to get out the door and get their run done," she says. Might as well empower the people while succeeding yourself.
13. Take a break when you need it.
Occasionally, you might require some time off from running, especially if you're overtraining-and it's 100 percent okay to skip a run when you need to. Bakoulis says to check your training log when you're feeling particularly tired. You might realize a day or two of recharging was all you needed to regain your motivation to take the streets. (See: This Influencer Wants You to Know It *Is* Possible to Regret a Workout)