Stacey Margaret Jones: How To Get Motivated to Run

How to Get Motivated to Run – A Guide

I must confess I’m more “reluctant” than “athlete” these days. I need to get un-de-motivated.

Now that “training season” is here, I’m finding it difficult to do my prescribed runs to prepare for the Memphis half-marathon in December and the Little Rock full marathon in March. I’m doing (most of) them, but without real zeal or joy, and the still-hot-weather bike rides I’ve been doing to supplement or substitute for the long runs haven’t been any easier, psychologically.

Let’s face it: Sometimes you just don’t feel it. You know what you want to accomplish – a personal record, a new distance or racking up medals – but your heart’s not in the day-to-day workouts. I know enough about training to know I won’t always feel this way. After all, I’m not sick or injured; I’m just coming off summer into a busy fall graduate-school and work schedule, and my energy and verve just aren’t there.

I’m already making sure my biggest “de-motivator” is neutralized by getting out my exercise attire and gear the night before any planned activity, whether it’s for Pilates, treadmill or road running or for cycling or Jazzercise. It seems like a small thing, but pawing through clean laundry piles, and the less-than-organized fit wear in my workout drawer at 5:15 a.m. is so soul-killing to me, I would rather skip a run than get up and be frustrated by not finding what I need.

For more help through this motivational trough, I decided to ask some athletic friends whose accomplishments I admire how they “un-de-motivate.”

I talked to:

  • Deb, a 63-year-old central Arkansas lawyer, who finished two marathons within four months in 2011, and has had some “ups and downs” this past year. She describes herself as “not a speed demon,” saying she runs the races, but is always in the back of the pack with the people dressed like the Statue of Liberty and Gumby.
  • Sarah, 39, an associate director of college admissions in Minnesota, who trained for 11 events between April and October of 2012, the only months it’s feasible to be outside. Her activities ranged from 5ks to a marathon, several triathlons and the Tough Mudder. This year, she’s focusing on stepping back to spend more time with her family and less money on entry fees.
  • Jon, 43, a civil engineer, who, in 2012, ran four marathons, one ultramarathon, several trail races longer than 20 miles each and quite a few 5k/10k races as part of the Arkansas Grand Prix. He says he could be accused of being a running addict, but he insists he’s “not as bad as some of the people” he spends time with.

“My motivation went haywire after [the marathons], and I lost whatever it was that I had for a long damn time,” Deb recalls. But sheHow to get motivated to run copy says since August 2012 she’s gotten back on track. In the last year, she’s done four half-marathons, a 15k, a 10k and a couple of 5ks. She has a trainer for the gym who helps keep her energized.

“She helps me with nutrition issues and running advice in addition to pounding me into pretty darn good shape in spite of myself.”

Clearly, Deb demonstrates it’s possible to get through the doldrums and find your motivation again.

One of the things Deb, Sarah and I agree is one of the biggest motivators is committing to a specific race. Deb and I both sign up for the race distances we aspire to and then have no choice but to train for them.

When I was training for my first marathon, friends would praise my motivation for getting up at 4:30 a.m. to get in long runs before sunrise in the summer. I assured them, it wasn’t willpower or self-discipline; it was complete and utter fear of not being able to finish the event that got me out of bed in the dark every morning.

Sarah says events motivate her training because she wants to improve her times and performances each race.

“The high I feel after finishing an event with a new, personal-best time is unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced and highly, highly addictive,” she says. “The memory of that feeling gets me out the door 75 percent of the time.”

Jon and Sarah also rely on training with friends to help them meet their goals. Sarah says, “There are times when you could talk yourself out of a workout, but if a friend is counting on you, you go anyway. Not all peer pressure is bad.”

Having my wife catch the running bug has been great also,” says Jon. He relies on her strengths as a dedicated organizer, setting and following training plans. “When I see her sticking to her plan it makes me realize I need to put in the time training also.”

 “When I really don’t want to go, I make myself do something,” Deb says. “Thirty minutes on the treadmill or stationary bike, core workouts, or something that can get me in the mood, and then I’ll do more than I started out to do.” Sarah agrees, saying that telling yourself you’ll just go one mile, at least gets you moving, and often she finds herself ready to do the whole workout once she gets going.

Sometimes you have to listen to your de-motivation. Deb gives herself permission to “be a slug occasionally, even for a week.” She says as a woman in her 60s, she can tell when her body needs downtime to recharge.

“I have discovered that I really don’t lose much at all when I take these breaks, and it makes getting back to it more fun and challenging,” she says. “I try to run the race I’m in, try my best to stay mindful of the moment and be grateful for the whole experience – even the misery – because it’s just really, really fun.

Jon agrees: “When you’re tired from not enough sleep and hectic days at work, it is OK to listen to your body and allow yourself to miss a few training runs.” But he cautions that slipping into that pattern makes it difficult to move mentally back into consistent training.

Sarah, on the other hand, doesn’t like to do what her demotivators say: “The only time I listen to my demotivation is when I’m really sick, like when I shouldn’t be more than 10 steps away from a bathroom.” She’s trained through colds, bronchitis and headaches because she thinks she feels better after sweating out some of the sickness. “No matter how tired I am, my day is always better if it includes a run,” she says.

Here are some final tips for athletes trying to get motivated to run:

Sarah says:

  • Don’t compare your results to others. No one else in the world has your unique muscle make-up, the same demands on their time, the same strengths and weaknesses. Whether you ran a 16-minute 5k or finished in 35 minutes, you’re amazing if you did your best.
  • Cross training can be your best friend. After being a runner for more than 20 years, I started training for triathlons four years ago. Not only did I love the variety it added to my workouts, I found it made me a better runner because it increased my overall strength.

Jon says:

  • The hardest part of training sometimes is starting your run. I’ve found that putting on your running clothes almost guarantees you’ll head out the door. Making that small commitment is all it takes sometimes.
  • I know a lot of people say it but I always feel great after the runs that I had to force myself to start. Whether it was fatigue, stress or whatever that was making me feel unmotivated those feeling is gone by the time I finish my run.

Stacey says:

  • I treat myself with something special, like a new song on my running iPod, bringing a dog along on the run, or getting a new running top or some new running gear.
  • For runs I really have to do, I plan my week around making time for them, put them in my calendar, and prioritize them.
  • If I’m really in a funk, I’ll choose my favorite place to run and get myself there, even if it’s out of the way.

Tags: , , ,