I’ve been running for near on two years now and that’s a mere scratch on the surface of some of my fellow runners who can count dozens of years on their running back catalogue. During that short period of time I’ve engaged with various social media groups and have seen a lot of people achieving great things but also seen a lot of people struggle to maintain their efforts with a loss of motivation.
I thought I would put down my thoughts on this, what keeps me going, and share some of the feedback I have collected from willing participants through various Facebook groups.
Mojo, motivation, drive, encouragement – the same beast with a different name
So we all need it, some of us more than others, and some of us don’t realise it, but something gets us out the door each time we run. Something generates that need to train or workout. However, for some, this can be buried deep sometimes, hiding behind many other things (fear, self-consciousness, worry, anxiety … ) and if you can’t uncover it that can be enough to stop you from opening that door and making the first step. Many of us have experienced this in some form, sometimes every run starts with a mental battle with ourselves. Sometimes we win, sometimes we don’t. And when we don’t there can sometimes be a cumulative effect, resulting in that motivation getting buried deeper and deeper. Sometimes reaching a seemingly irretrievable depth.
Loss of motivation can be enough to put an end to a running hobby. It can end all the good work and potential that running has and can bring. It can sometimes be a hurdle that simply appears to big to break down.
Below I’ve put a few thoughts and ideas about what a motivator might be, what can help overcome that feeling of loss of encouragement.
Why did you start
Sometimes it’s all too easy to forget the reason that got you out in the first place. We all have a reason that meant we once stepped out the door and tried to run. In many cases there is a fitness or health reason. Just remembering this can sometimes give you another nudge to get out the door. It is great to use running to achieve a goal, but sometimes this can be forgotten, and the benefits lost reversed overtime, slipping back to where you were before you started. Recalling that initial trigger point and the reasons you felt you needed to go and run, can bring it all back and be the motivation you need to go again.
Fitness and Weight Loss
Many of us run for fitness and weight loss. Either through a fear of being unfit or gaining weight, or as a driver to improve our fitness or lose excess weight. Running is a great mechanism for this, but often needs balance with diet. It really can build fitness and help with weight. Sometimes it can be quick and people will see a change pretty quickly and sometimes this isn’t the case. It can be frustrating to try and lose weight through running and not see any great progress. Keeping motivation in this case is tricky. But it’s fair to say that giving up the running won’t result in the desired benefit. Perseverance will win out. Keep at it and consider adjusting diet to help reach the desired result!
A lot of people that gave me feedback for this blog said that running gives them ‘me time’. There are many reasons why this is useful. Whether it’s busy home life or work life, struggling to understand the complexities of modern life, politics or the general madness that might be going on around you, running often creates a little bubble in which you are able to operate outside these normal pressures. I for one find the destressing benefit of a run (be it 5Km or 26 miles!) is immeasurable and I just don’t find another way of getting this space to myself.
If you are lucky enough to have access to areas of historical importance getting out and running through them can often get you mind thinking. If only these paths could speak! I often run on the Ridgeway National Trail route in Oxfordshire. It’s one of the oldest paths in the country. The thought that I’m walking/running on a path that has seenthousands, maybe millions of people over its lifetime is really cool. What were they doing, where were they going. They could have been Romans, Soldiers, famers etc. It’s great to consider that you are building part of the history of such a route.
A contributor said:
We’ve walked this land for thousands upon thousands of years and discovering ancient paths (or ones that give all the hints of being ancient) is just so special. There’s always that drive to look round the next corner or to check out that patch of old yew trees up ahead. I love reading about the history of the land where I run (and looking at the old maps) and already, I’ve discovered so much!
All runners achieve great things. Sometimes you don’t realise, or can’t see it, but just running is a great achievement. The fact that you might struggle with motivation might suggest you don’t see this. Look around you. There’s oh so many people that didn’t manage that first run, that haven’t even reached the point of realising a run is a good idea. You’ve managed that – that’s a great achievement – well done!
Achievements come in many forms. Running itself, that first 1Km without walking, a 5Km run, 10Km run, a PB etc the list is endless. All of these can be motivators.
Entering an organised event is an achievement as can be completing your first event.
The one big thing to remember is that runners come in all shapes, forms and abilities. You are you and not somebody else. Your achievements are yours specifically and so just because somebody else runs 5Km or 10Km without breaking a sweat and for you it takes every ounce of effort doesn’t matter. Compare yourself with your past only and aim for your future only, don’t compare yourself to other runners!
Time with friends
Often runners are either lone runners or group/community runners. Whatever works for you, but sometimes running with others is a good reason to run, and can be a motivator to keep it up. Running needn’t be a chore. It can be a social activity with others. Keeping fit whilst spending time with friends sounds like an ideal way to spend your time. Sometimes you might feel that running with others might be embarrassing or show you up as a poor runner. But scroll back, its friends, you are all in it together and if they are friends then everyone will be supportive! Go on you might just realise how great it can be!
A lot of us live in cities and major urban areas. Surrounded by concreate, buildings, people and cars. If you can get access to the countryside you can often find a new world out there to explore. And with countryside comes nature. A lot of people find swapping the city for the fields is enough of a reason to get out and run. Swapping the sound of cars for the sounds of larks, thrushes and kites brings motivation. The smell of fields full of crops and the sight of deer and other wildlife gives a run a real mechanism to drive you forward.
Experiencing new destinations
For some, running can become boring. Tedious, running the same streets and routes, seeing the same sites and feeling that you are just going around and round (sometimes literally!). Running is one of the best ways to explore. There are many tools online and apps for your phone to help you explore when you run. You can plan a route that’s different to normal, follow other people’s running through Strava or Garmin Connect etc. Or you can drive thirty minutes away from home and run somewhere totally different. Almost everywhere there is a gem of a running destination within your reach that you have never seen. Adding variety of location and sites in your running gives you a great excuse to put the trainers on and go out and about.
Structured training plans
As already suggested, running can become routine and repetitive. For many running involves going out the door, running for an amount of time, or along a particular route, and then getting to your destination. Its understandable that doing this every time could seem monotonous and dreary after a while. So why not make your runs have a different purpose. These needn’t be complicated, but again, a bit of variety can maintain interest.
I always look to follow a training plan that is structured. I run a good number of events and so I am often training for an event and find myself almost always following a training plan.
What can you do to create variety?
It can be quite easy to be honest. There are a whole load of different run types you can adopt. Im planning a blog outlining a whole load of run types with some detailed explanation but in general these are some good ideas:
- Run some of your runs easy – not pushing too hard, feeling that you could try harder if you wanted to.
- Run some of your runs with a gentle warm up, a period of harder effort and then an easy cool down.
- Run intervals or fartleks – short periods of real hard effort interspersed with slow paced /walking recovery (i.e. 30seconds hard effort and 2 mins recovery, repeat this 3, 4, 5 times as you see fit)
- Keep runs mostly short in time (and distance) but throw a longer run in once a week or fortnight as best you can (maybe 3 times the normal length of run)
- Put hill running in. maybe a run every now again includes some hill ascents 0 doesn’t need to be Everest like but just an incline – don’t worry about pace, just chieve the climb.
This sort of variety benefits you in two ways. It adds variety so avoids the feeling of runs becoming too boring! These types of runs can also help you become a stronger more accomplished runner, often helping you achieve better endurance and speed – if that’s something you want to look for!
The support of the wider community
One final point I will add is that the running community is huge. Facebook in particular has a large number of groups for runners. Some are targeting trail runners, or particular running clubs, or older runners etc. sometimes these, like any Facebook group can be a bit rubbish. But in my experience, many are incredibly supportive. They have a huge collection of runners all going through the same journey, all trying to achieve their goals and many struggling to maintain the motivation to make it happen.
You are not alone, we all struggle at times and all find it hard to make some of our runs happen. But keep the faith, look for ways to recover that drive and remember that you are achieving every time you step out the door to run.