Consistency is imperative for maintaining and improving fitness and remaining injury free. While it should be as easy as simply lacing up every day, physical training is only part of the equation. Daily motivation, what gets you out the door, is a mental game, and one that needs constant attention. There are three main types of motivation: intrinsic, extrinsic and self-motivation. Intrinsic motivation is your desire to do well. Extrinsic is driven by external stimuli, think of the energy at a race, the feeling you get when you cross a finish line or the rush from standing on a podium. While similar to intrinsic motivation, self-motivation is more complex. It’s the ability to do what needs to be done, no matter how tempting the distractions or how hard it seems. And face it, that’s no easy task.
Once you recognize your mental gremlins—I don’t have enough time; I’ll start tomorrow; I can’t do it; It’s hard; The weather is miserable; What’s the point—you can identify ways to work around them and maintain your enthusiasm throughout the year. To help you on your way (and remove the first obstacle!), we’ve put together eight tips based on anecdotal successes and insights from Steve Portenga, a Performance Psychologist at iPerformance Consultants in Englewood, Colo.
Portenga says the first step when motivation is lagging is to consider why you want to run? What’s important to you and what do you hope to get out of it? Write down the answers to all three questions and keep them handy as a guide. Refer back to your thoughts whenever you begin to wonder, “What’s the point?” Also make sure your goals are in line with your reasons for lacing up in the first place.
Set several goals
Choosing and working towards a goal will definitely keep you inspired. Even better, select a mix of short and long term goals, so you have the opportunity to make confidence boosting achievements on your way to a bigger goal and beyond. Portenga suggests asking yourself: What do you want to achieve? How do you want to improve and what do you need to do to make this happen? Then create a plan. Keep it interesting by thinking outside the box when it comes to setting your goals. Sure, you can train to complete a half marathon or a marathon. But also consider things like setting a PR, organizing a beer mile, running for charity or trying trail running for the first time.
Grab a friend
When you run alone, it can be easy to settle into a routine, be it your route or your pace. Running with a friend will help push you outside of your pace and distance comfort zones. You’re also less likely to flake if you know a friend is waiting for you. Plus, conversation helps the miles to fly by and stimulates you mentally.
Up the ante
Increasing the cost to flake out on your plans and goals can be a powerful motivator according to Portenga. “Too often the cost of skipping out is in the future, making it easier to ignore it in the moment.” Maybe you put $5 in a jar for someone else every time you skip a run. Maybe you ask your running partner to call you out on social media. Or perhaps using a workout tracking platform that automatically alerts your friends will do the trick.
Join a running group
Not only will a running group hold you accountable, they make running more fun. A group provides support and brings community to what can be a solitary sport. You have running partners, post-run beer or coffee partners and people to help with your training and gear questions at the ready. Investigate groups in your area to make sure you find a good fit and that they offer run times to work with your schedule.
Go somewhere new
If you always run the same 5-mile loop, in the same direction and at the same time of day, try mixing it up. Run it in the opposite direction or in the morning instead of at night. Alternately, map out a new route or two, head to a trail new to you or hit the track.
Plan rewards for achieving certain steps/goals
What’s your biggest running dream—maybe a destination race or a running vacation? Perhaps it’s buying a quiver of shoes or a new kit. Portenga recommends setting up a reward system as you determine your goals, so there’s something fun to achieve on the horizon. Maybe a month of no missed workouts warrants the latest headset, or booking a trail running camp with your favorite ultrarunner can count as both a reward and a step towards your first trail race. Remember, running is supposed to be fun!
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“Always get prepared the night before, no excuses,” Portenga says. Whether you’re running in the morning, at lunch or after work, have your gear ready to go before you go to bed. That way you can simply lace up or grab your gym bag and go. The easier you make your run, the more likely it is to happen.