There are many reasons why runners go through temporary periods of low motivation. Whatever the reason may be, there are many ways to overcome this mindset and get your running mojo back. Obviously if you are reading this article, you have a desire to motivate yourself so you are already ahead of most runners suffering this problem.
There are many suggestions in this article on how to become motivated again. Start off slowly and don’t try to implement these all of them at once. Start with one or two, evaluate the effectiveness of each and try a few more suggestions once you are ready. This way, you can filter through many suggestions, implementing the ones that help and discarding any ineffective ones along the way.
The reason I encourage you to choose suggestions to implement is because every runner is different. What motivates one runner may not motivate another. You know yourself the best so I can’t really give you advice on what specific suggestions to implement.
Before reading any further, take some time to figure out the reasoning behind your lack of motivation. Often, identifying the reason why you don’t want to run will assist you in choosing the best suggestions to find your running mojo.
Important: Always go with your gut instinct. With any suggestions in the article, only take it as face value because every runner differs with what works for them. I will try to identify both the advantages and disadvantages of each suggestion. If one has some very strong disadvantages, but you still think it sounds like a good idea, choose it. There is nothing to loose by doing so and you might soon realize the disadvantages were not as bad as you expected.
Find Your Running Mojo with Goals
Make a list of everything you wish to achieve with your running. This could include running a marathon, loosing a set amount of weight, qualifying for a race, running a distance in a specific time or improve your fitness for other sports. Many runners find it easier during their training if they are working towards a specific goal. If you are out on a long run and question yourself “What am I doing?” you will be able to give a clear response “Training for a marathon!” or something similar. Don’t worry about setting difficult goals (or goals that seem unrealistic). If you don’t set a deadline on these goals you will be surprised at how much you can achieve.
Don’t set goals
While setting goals has a clear advantage, it’s not the best option for all runners. Many people run for relaxation and its more of an interest than something they take competitively. Running is more like meditation to these people. Setting goals has the potential to make running stressful rather than just a fun activity to do. Goals exist in every other part of these runners lives, such as employment, family, relationships, businesses, financial among others, and running would just add to this.
Use a training log
Having a training schedule is a great way to ensure consistency with your running. The more consistency you have with training, the more you will get out of it and the more motivation you will likely have as a result. If you do not use a training schedule, many runners think “I don’t feel like running today. I will just have a rest day today and get back into it tomorrow”. A training schedule helps with this problem as it provides a clear distinction between running and rest days.
You will also know in advance when you will run. For example, you might get home from work and realize you have not run in a few days and feel unmotivated to run. This rushed decision can often lead to lack of motivation. Having your workouts set out means you will go through the whole day thinking “Today is a running day, so today I will run”. Knowing that you will run, no matter how exhausted you are after the day, you just know you have to get outside and run.
Don’t use a training log
Some runners enjoy the fact that running is something that is unplanned and random in their life. Setting a training schedule just sets a framework and doesn’t enable you to enjoy the activity as much. If you have been unsuccessful at following a schedule previously then perhaps you should just embrace a schedule-free training program.
However, note that this time might not be the best time to set a flexible training schedule. Running on your own terms has a lot of personal responsibility involved. Perhaps it would be better implemented when you are high on motivation. You have the danger of getting into the mentality of thinking “I have no schedule, I don’t want to run so I won’t”. Soon days turn into weeks, weeks into months and you will still be stuck in a slump.
Run with others
Running with others has many benefits apart from being good when runners lack motivation. If you skip a workout, not only are you letting yourself down, but also the people you run with. It’s also a great way to meet new people and enhance your training with advice from fellow runners. It’s important to run with people around your same fitness level or run with groups that accommodate all fitness levels.
Don’t run with others
For some, running is a very individual activity and training with others takes the fun out of running. If you have ran with others before and not enjoyed the experience, this may not be the best option to improve your motivation. However, if you have disliked group training in the past, perhaps you haven’t found the right people to run with yet.
This sounds much easier than actually putting it into practice. This involves going into a meditative state during your workouts. When you loose your focus you will not be thinking how far you are running, how painful you are finding it and how much longer your workout will go for. This is much easier in longer runs as it takes a while to get into this trance.
Run for charity
Consider entering a charity run or just running a normal race for charity. Not only will you be more motivated for your daily workouts, but you will be able to raise money and support a good cause. It’s best to choose a charity which you believe in or generally want to make a difference by raising money. More often, a group of runners run for charity rather than just an individual. Finding a group of charity runners can also improve your motivation in terms of training with others.
You may find it difficult to work towards a goal without a specific reward when you complete the goal. Running across the finishing line at a race may not be enough motivation for you. Instead, a combination of finishing the race and a specific reward may be best. The reward does not have to be running related either (though who doesn’t find it motivating to pull on new running shoes). It could be anything from a post-race party with friends to a running holiday.
Make your goals public
If your goals are not public, make them public right now by telling your friends, family and people you work with. Also sign up at various online running communities and make your goals public there. Post your goals on your Facebook, Twitter and other online accounts and provide regular updates about your training. By having people follow your progress, you will feel a obligation to continue training to avoid disappointing your followers. It can also be good for encouragement along the way.
Use negative feedback in a positive way
When you make your goals public, there is a high chance you will receive negative feedback some point during your training. Instead of taking these statements personally, use them constructively towards your training. By attempting to prove these people wrong, you will likely put a better effort into your overall training. However, always have other ways of motivation. You will likely burn out if all your motivation comes from negative feedback alone.
Set a deadline
Setting goals is not very useful if a deadline is not set. If there are no time limits to your ambitions, you will likely keep making excuses not to train or come any closer to achieving your goals. By setting a deadline, there will be more urgency to your training schedule which will hopefully increase your motivation and allow you to completer your goals sooner than later.
Stop setting deadlines
If you are motivated enough to achieve your goals, why have the extra pressure of a deadline to meet? As long as you are continually working towards the goal there is no need to set a deadline. However, only implement this suggestion if you believe you can still achieve your goals without knowing when exactly it will happen.
Don’t set unrealistic goals
It can be very discouraging to set a goal and only realize later that it was unachievable or just not possible in the deadline you gave yourself. You may find it better to set smaller, more achievable goals that will accumulate to give you a larger result. For example, instead of setting a goal to run a marathon in 6 months, aim to run a half marathon in this time and then move on to a marathon only after this goal has been completed.
Set unrealistic goals
If you set unrealistic goals, knowing they will be difficult to achieve can make you do better than if you only set easy goals. Only use this suggestion if you acknowledge that the goal will be difficult to achieve but at the same time will do everything you can to get as close as possible to the goal and still be pleased with the results, whatever they may be. In addition, you may be surprised at the progress you make. Goals that you perceive as unrealistic, may in fact be realistic.
Try other types of exercises
The reason behind your lack of motivation may be boredom. By trying other types of exercises, you will be able to add more variety to your workout routine In addition, the exercise you do will likely have positive effects for your running. Consider cycling, swimming, weight lifting and any other exercise or sport that interests you.
Stop doing other types of exercises
If you currently do other types of exercises, focus only on running or at least give more of your focus to running. You may not be spending enough time on your running to get the most benefits from your efforts. By focusing only on running, you will likely see an improvement in your running fitness level and the distances and speeds in which you can run. However, choose according to your situation and weight up what is more important out of your running and the other exercises you do.
Patience is one of the most important trait of a runner. Improving your running and achieving goals is a gradual process and you should not expect immediate results. If you put in a consistent effort and be patient with your results, you will eventually get to a stage where you are surprised with your results and the goals you have achieved.
Learn to enjoy variety in your training. It’s unrealistic to think every training run you do will be in perfect conditions and that you will be perfectly satisfied with your performance. Some days will be cold and unenjoyable, others will be hot and unenjoyable. Some runs you will feel great and run great, others you will feel sluggish and not be able to complete the distance. Learn to enjoy the variety of experiences and think of the training year as a whole rather than specific workout.
Running can be an unenjoyable experience when you are either hungry or are not eating sufficiently. Pay extra attention to your regular food intake in addition to what you eat before running. Ensure you are getting plenty of complex carbohydrates on a daily basis and stop eating crap foods. There is plenty of information around the internet for runners. With proper nutrition you will have much more fun during your workouts, feel as if you have more energy, will get fitter faster and make more progress with goals.
I’d really recommend the No Meat Athlete Cookbook.
Stop being strict with eating
The diet of a runner is extremely important. Getting the right amounts of complex carbohydrates, proteins and fats will have great impacts on your running routine. However, you should not be too strict on yourself. If you regularly eat healthy, treating yourself every now and again is perfectly fine. Moderation is the key and you should not completely cut out foods you like eating that may be unhealthy, just decrease your intake or how often you consume these foods.
Get the right gear
Running can be unenjoyable without the correct gear especially in weather extremes. Having the correct gear in summer will keep you cool, allowing you to enjoy yourself more and improve your performance. Having the right gear in winter will keep you warm during your runs and will also improve the quality and enjoyment of your runs. If you have not already, purchase the right gear for running and you will probably be more motivated to run and likely enjoy your workouts more.
Runners experience the best results when their training is consistent. This does not mean training every day or training the same days per week, it is about not having large gaps in your training. Unless you have ran a significant distance, injured yourself or participated in a race, you generally should not have a gap of 2 or more days in your training. Getting better results from your training will likely improve your motivation.
Set weekly, monthly and yearly goals
Goals have already been explained above, however not in this format. Achieving smaller goals this week will motivate you to train into next week, achieving your monthly goals will will motivate you to train through the year and achieving yearly goals will motivate you to run for many years to come. The smaller goals do not need to be significant either, for example a weekly goal could be to do a 10km run or even just run 4 days out of the week.
Having a regular racing schedule can be great for motivation. Consider joining a running club just for this aspect alone. Running clubs usually hold regular races for runners of all experience and fitness level. Many runners find that competing against their own time, or other runners on a regular basis will motivate them with their day to day training.
Stop being so strict on yourself
This is more in regards to your general mentality about running. For example, if you are halfway through a training run, feel sluggish and are not enjoying the run, don’t force yourself to finish. Likely, if you finish the run early you will be more refreshed for your next training run, even if your confidence has been slightly reduced by this experience.
Be more strict on yourself
Taking the same example of the training run, if you force yourself to finish, next time you find yourself in the same position you will likely have the mental strength to push through. In addition, the extra fitness gained by completing the run will reduce the likelihood of yourself feeling sluggish in your future training. However, this is not always the best option as being strict on yourself may lead to running not being fun anymore.
Make time to run
Running can often feel like a chore if you are a busy person. It may seem as if there are better, more important or more productive ways to be spending your time. Set time aside for running, just as you would with any other essential daily task. You should also convince yourself that running is just as important as your other tasks and it will ultimately make you perform better in all aspects of your life.
Also, if you are really busy and cannot or don’t want to trade off time to run then it may be a matter of creating time to run. For example, instead of driving or using public transport to go places, run instead. Consider running to work, running instead of walking your dog, running to get mail from the post office, using a treadmill while watching television or running to get the morning paper. Try to be creative and identify opportunities to create running time rather than trading off other tasks.
Start being proud of your achievements
Take time to stop thinking about your current running goals and reflect on your achievements to date. Many runners are constantly focused on the future rather than the past. By being proud of your achievements, it will give you motivation for your current and future running goals.
Expect plateaus in fitness
Every runner should expect plateaus in their fitness at some stage. It can be tough to break through these plateaus. However if you identify that you are experiencing a plateau and don’t expect any immediate results, it will be easier to get through this period, both from a motivation and training point of view.
Remind yourself that you are challenging yourself
Any goal that you are trying to achieve, will challenge you in some way, wether this be physical, psychological or a combination of both. Often by reminding yourself of this simple fact, your motivation will improve because you will actually realize what you are doing. A challenge requires patience, persistence and a lot of hard work and acknowledging the challenge will likely make you more open to these three factors. Also remind yourself that the accomplishment means nothing without the challenge and it will be worthwhile in the end.
Stop making excuses
It’s very easy to find excuses not to run, especially when you don’t feel like it. Keep in mind that the same excuses always exist, you just ignore them when you are motivated. Learn to identify when you are making excuses and try to either ignore them or remind yourself of the reasons why you are running. The excuse of “I don’t feel motivated to run today” will hopefully become irrelevant after reading this article.
Stop timing yourself
If you time yourself when you run, consider other indicators of how well you have performed. For many runners, timing runs and being unsatisfied with the results is a major blow to their confidence. There are better ways to measure your running such as distance or how good you feel when you finish. Try choosing one indicator and only concentrate only on this. Timing yourself is ok in this situation if you don’t record the distance you run.
Find a mantra
A mantra is simply repeating a word or sentence over and over, usually in your mind. Finding a mantra you like will be a matter of personal choice. It’s best to choose something short and simple. It can be a line from a quote, song or just a few simple words that will motivate you to keep running. Always keep your mantra positive and even completely untrue mantras tend to work. For some ideas, check out this discussion.
Imagery is a common technique for those seeking motivation in any area of life, including running. An example would be to picture yourself crossing the finish line of a race you are training for. Imagery can be used just as effectively in training than in actual races. Other examples include picturing yourself overtaking a runner in front of you or meeting friends or family at the finishing line.
Change your running habits
Your current running habits may be why you are currently experiencing low motivation. Running habits could include your warm up routine, where you run or what time of the day you run. For example, if you are trying to get up at 6am every morning to run but can’t seem to find the motivation to get out of bed, stop fighting yourself and try running later in the day. I know I would not be motivated to run if I attempted to do this.
Stop running continuously
There is no rule that says a workout has to be performed without stopping. Consider taking short walking breaks, stopping at a park to stretch, stopping to do pushups or chin-ups off a tree or even just laying down in a grassy area briefly. This process can make running seem less boring and add some variety to your workouts.
Stop under-challenging yourself
If you don’t take your running very seriously or don’t challenge yourself enough, your workouts can soon become boring. Try going to an athletics track or park to do sprints or find a challenging hill to run up. In addition to your regular, less intense workouts, these more challenging workouts can boost your running motivation while having a positive effect on your fitness and running strength.
Make your runs more scenic
Running is always more interesting when you are running new routes or more scenic areas than usual. Try to find some new routes in your area or find some other way to make your runs more scenic. Instead of running out and back from your house, consider using transport to travel away from your house and run back in the one direction. This way you can venture further away from your house while still running the same distance.
Write down the reasons why you are running
Make the reasons you run physical by writing them down on paper or saving them on your computer. Make a list of reasons so when you are running low on motivation, you can refer back to this list. Try to list as many reasons you run, including the advantages it has given you. Examples include to relieve stress, release endorphins, connect your body and mind, feel more complete, loose weight, achieve specific goals and to use the self control running brings to other areas of your life.
Upgrade your tools
For most of us, recording our training uses two simple tools: pen and paper. Consider using more modern tools available for runners. This can be anything from an excel spreadsheet, an online tool to record your data, an iPhone application or even a GPS running watch. These tools may motivate you to run as you want to improve and add to your data. In addition, some tools allow you to share your results and gather some interesting data from your training.
Add to your collection of running books and movies
There are many books, movies and documentaries that can be great for a temporary boosts in motivation. Some even leave a lasting impression with either quotes, stories or visuals that you can refer back to when you lose your running mojo. There are many choices of books from offline retail stores and an even larger range online. As for movies and documentaries, you may have a best chance of finding something suitable searching online. You can find a list of my favourite running books here.
Common excuses not to run
“I don’t have the time to run”
If this is the case, you need to find time to run. You should not be too busy not to be able to spend half an hour running each day. If you are, you are not making your training a high enough priority. Consider the benefits of running and how much happier and more productive you will be when doing other tasks during the day.
“Running is boring”
Find a way to make running interesting. There are many suggestions above to choose from, it’s just a matter of deciding which strategy will bring the most fun to your training. One of my favorites is to join an online tool for tracking your workouts. Choose one that allows you to interact with other runners and post your results publicly. This way if you miss a workout, you are not only letting yourself down, but also your online network.
“I’m just not feeling motivated to run”
The above strategies are a mixture of short term fixes and long term strategies for continuous motivation. If you do not feel motivated, choose 2 strategies from above that you will believe will bring you the most motivation in the short term. As soon as you have implemented these, take some quality time to choose several more strategies to ensure your motivation stays constantly high for the long term.
“It’s too cold/hot outside”
Many runners experience their lowest points of motivation during the winter months of the year. There are various strategies to ensure winter running remains as enjoyable as warmer conditions. Buy the correct gear and clothing, run at the lightest and warmest parts of the day, consider training indoors, try new types of exercises and sports but most importantly, don’t expect the same performance as you would during better weather conditions.
“I’m too busy with (insert reason here)”
I would be surprised if you seriously had zero time for running in your daily schedule. You could have been out running instead of reading this article! Keep in mind the reason you believe this statement is true is because you lack motivation. Make time by sacrificing other areas of your schedule in order to find time for your running. Soon, once you have regained your motivation, you will most likely realize that being busy is no excuse not to run.
Whatever helps you to find your running mojo, please share it with us on Twitter. We’d love to hear what’s worked for you.
Affiliate Disclosure: Running Unlimited is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Jim has been running since he represented his local running club aged 13. Thirty years later he is still finding new ways to stay ahead of the pack in from 5k races through to Ultra Marathons. He started Running Unlimited to share his knowledge of the sport and to keep a record of what’s worked and what hasn’t.