We could all use some running motivation tips when inspiration runs low and fatigue sets in. So if you find yourself coming up with endless excuses not to run, you’re not alone. Plenty of would-be runners need a little motivation from time to time, especially in winter when it’s dark outside and the temperatures have plunged.
The good news is that with a bit of planning and the right mindset you can find yourself actually looking forward to going out for that run and forgetting about the excuses. Including a few sessions of strength training for runners wouldn't hurt either.
The answer lies in these 10 tried and tested running motivation tips. Whether it’s plugging the best running headphones and listening to some great tunes or changing the way you think, you’ll soon be springing out of the door week after week. And as any runner will tell you, the bragging rights once you’ve achieved your run will make it all worthwhile!
How to get started with running
According to Ilene Winters, a Level 2 CrossFit coach and endurance coach, who has trained hundreds of runners to run races from 5k to marathon, it’s no surprise that it’s hard to get motivated to run.
"Running is the most demanding physical activity as you are supporting 100% of your body weight when you run", Ilene says, "In cycling and rowing, for example, you are supported by a machine. In swimming, you are buoyed by the water. With running, it’s all you."
The second obstacle is the challenge of finding others who can run at your pace. "It’s a lot easier to cycle and row with others than it is to find someone that matches your exact running pace," she adds.
Finally, there’s the issue of your natural inclination. "People are either internally motivated, or they aren’t", Ilene suggests, "It helps if you generally LIKE running."
For all the challenges with motivation, though, Ilene passionately believes that it’s worth overcoming them: "I have used running over the years to explore new places, clear my head, and challenge myself. All you need is a good pair of shoes - no fancy, expensive equipment."
Happily, with our 10 running motivation tips, you too can enjoy the benefits of this versatile form of exercise.
10 running motivation tips
1. Curate your playlist
It’s a scientific fact that listening to music can help with running motivation. In a 2020 analysis of 139 studies on the link between music and exercise published in the journal Psychological Bulletin, researchers found that music had a positive effect on how people felt when they exercised (both the rate of perceived exertion and how positive they felt about working out).
Choose your favorite tunes or go for playlists with a specific tempo. A study in 2014 published in the journal Psychology of Sport and Exercise found that the preferred tempo of music for runners on a treadmill was between 123 and 131 bpm and Spotify can help you find songs with your chosen beat.
2. Play a podcast
If you pick the right podcast, going for a run can be a fantastic opportunity to listen to something entertaining or educational. Use your time on the trail to learn a language, catch up on comedy or listen to other runners and you will change your internal narrative from seeing running as a chore to treating it as welcome me-time.
3. Think yourself keen
The power of the mind is well established when it comes to athletic performance - elite athletes routinely use visualizations, and a study published in the journal Neuropsychologia showed that mental training can even be used to achieve strength gains.
Harness this powerful tool to increase your motivation. Imagine in detail how you’ll feel after you’ve achieved your run, right down to the feeling of the shower on your skin, the relief of taking off your running shoes and the smile on your face as you reflect on your achievement.
4. Don’t Worry, be ‘Appy
Whatever your running goals, there’s sure to be an app that makes it more rewarding. For beginners, Couch to 5K is a popular tool for building up your fitness. Old favorites such as Strava (great for competitive types) and MapMyRun (useful for route planning) are still going strong, and CharityMiles is motivational if you’re supporting a good cause.
According to Winters, running apps can improve your running by introducing variety. "Running apps help you vary your training. Without them, people tend to go out and run a 9 minute mile pace for several miles, rinse and repeat."
5. Buddy up
There’s a good reason why you see so many people running with friends - buddying up is one of the best ways to motivate yourself to get out for your run. In one study published in Frontiers in Psychology, researchers found that the expectation of social interaction was a strong motivator to exercise in volunteers embarking on a one-year exercise program.
If you don’t have someone to run with, consider joining a running club. Most cater for all levels of fitness and experience and you don’t have to get involved in races.
6. Find your why
What do you really enjoy about running? If you focus on what you love about it, you’re more likely to keep coming back.
Is it the sense of achievement from racking up the miles? If so, track your progress with a running watch or fitness tracker and sync it with a running app. If it’s being in the moment, leave your watch behind and notice your surroundings - the sounds, sights and smells, and find some beautiful trails (even cities have great routes).
7. Mix up your route
There’s nothing more likely to make you give up than getting bored with your run, be sure to mix it up. Choose a variety of routes, or if there’s only one that works, do it in reverse.
"Destination running helps with motivation," said Winters. "Try leaving your car somewhere and running to get it. Or meeting a friend for breakfast or lunch and running to the appointed spot."
8. Don’t just jog
"If you do the same thing every time you go out for a run, you will tire of that quickly," said Winters, so keep your running routine varied.
If Monday was a long, slow jog, make Wednesday an interval session. "I tell everyone to go to a track and do speed work and interval training," said Winters. "It helps you become a better runner, and it mixes up your running experience."
9. Goals are good
Set some specific goals - there’s research to show this will help you stick to the plan. A study published in the International Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology revealed that participants who set goals for their exercise were more likely to stick with the program than those who did not.
Don’t be too ambitious. "I started running by doing one lap around a track," said Winters. "Every so often, I would increase it by a lap until I was running a mile. Then I felt ready for the streets. I often tell people to start that way, or by walk-running. Walk a minute, run 30 seconds. Then, in time, you can walk a minute, run a minute. You get motivated by your increasing distance."
10. Reward yourself
Plan a treat for after your run . This doesn't need to be huge - anything from a cookie to a trip to the movies will do. You can use this to keep yourself on track both before your run and if you’re tempted to give up halfway through.
Once you’ve got in the habit of running, reward yourself for a great month or quarter of running. "Set a goal of 50 miles of running for next month," suggested Winters. "When you meet the goal, buy yourself something you’ve been wanting - or even some new running shoes. They wear out quicker than you think!"
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