I’ve been asked a fair number of questions since I started running, but the one that comes up the most is always «how do you stay motivated? » I wanted to write a post on running motivation for a while, but the truth is I didn’t feel motivated. My running motivation had dropped and I wanted to know why. For the last months, I thought about what keeps me going every day. I train 4-6 times a week, all year long, including vacations. The truth is I LOVE it. I also love routines and habits. I love how running makes me feel. To say that I am always motivated to train is not true though. In this post, I’d like to share with you what works best for me. There are several tips that you can find everywhere on the internet and in psychology books, which I will call “10 Classics.” I’d love to share more about what keeps me running, more personally, which is what I will call “Self-Kindness.”
- Having a specific goal. Research has shown that you are more likely to stay motivated if you have a goal, in the short term or the long term. It is even better if it is specific and you have planned how to attain it. For instance, I am racing a half-marathon September 24, 2017. I have a training plan, on Tuesdays I have a tempo run, on Thursdays I have a speed workout, on Saturday I run 30 minutes and on Sunday I have my long runs. On Mondays and Wednesdays, I cross train (yoga, swimming) and I foam roll and stretch every night. Friday is a rest day. It is a lot easier to follow a plan than to wake up and decide what you will do that day. Obviously, when I have nothing planned, chances are I’m staying in bed watching YouTube videos… If your goal is to be healthier and happier and to lose weight, that’s fine, but I don’t think it is specific enough. You need to have milestones to be proud of.
- Have a consistent routine. This is essential for me. My focus right now is sleep. Sleep hygiene is so important for your health. Sleep has been related to obesity, the endocrine system (which regulates hormones, such as cortisol), emotional regulation, academic performance and so much more. Going to sleep and getting up at the same time each day will have a positive impact on your life. Also, try not to use screens (iPhone, computers, TV) in your bed and 30 minutes before sleep. Moreover, I try to schedule my runs so that I know that I have a run planned and that I can prepare mentally and physically (what I will eat before, when, etc.).
- Find new routes. I get bored easily and I have a fairly good memory so I remember exactly where are the HILLS. It’s a good thing to go explore your neighborhood and find new routes. It is also much more secure I think, because nobody can predict where you are on your run and when.
- Find a running partner or a running crew. For accountability, find someone who can motivate you to go. Also, it’s much more difficult to tell someone you don’t want to go running than just not go.
- Write in a journal. (#journaltherunproject) I suggest you check the journal the run project that Jayme (The Pacing Life) started. Writing down your goals and your runs can motivate you so much.
- Join a run club or find a coach. Learning how to run changed my life (seriously!). You can significantly improve with a coach and other runners. I love working out with other runners. Let’s not forget that when we pay, we’re less likely to give up.
- A good playlist. I love to run without music, but let’s be honest. Sometimes a good playlist is exactly what you need.
- Being able to handle silence. Learn to be mindful while running. Listen to the birds, the cars, your own body. Stay in the present moment, in the kilometre you’re in. Find a mantra, such as “I can do this.” When it gets hard, repeat it in your head (and believe it).
- Treat yourself. New workout clothes, a Starbucks iced tea or a slush at the end can work wonders on your running motivation, in the short term ;).
- Have realistic expectations. When we have unrealistic expectations, for instance running superfast every single workout or hitting a PB at every race or even losing XX pounds in XX days, the not-good-enough feeling is around the corner. It can be hard when you don’t achieve your goals, which leads me to the next part.
I am a perfectionist. I tend to have high expectations. When they are not met, the first thing I feel is that I am not good enough. You might have noticed this in my last post. I know I’m not the only one thinking that way. How many times have you heard someone say “I run but I’m not a fast/real/good runner” or worst “I run, but I don’t have a runner’s body, I run just for fun”? Last week, I caught myself saying, “I only run half marathons, and you know, I am a slow runner, I don’t run fast.” I was joining a group run at Wanderlust Tremblant and I felt I had to justify myself because I thought I did not meet other people’s expectations of what is a runner. I realized the expectations I thought other people had are the ones I created and learned myself. I had to shift my very own perception if I wanted to keep running without shame.
I decided to include self-kindness and self-compassion in my running. I am doing the best that I can. This is enough. Of course, I love to run fast, to PB, etc., but in the end, I run for fun. I run because I love being outside, I love moving. I feel free when I run. I can feel this even if I take walk breaks or if I run a half marathon in X hours. I can be a runner even if I don’t “run fast,” anyways who decided the pace to be a “real runner”? I can be a runner even if I weight X pounds. What’s the link between being a real runner and weight? I’m not going to lie, it’s hard. I’ve been conditioned my whole life that athletes are lean, have 6packs and are not normal humans. I work hard to notice when I justify myself for being a runner and change my thought patterns from “I am not enough to I deserve to be here.” This helps so much. Honour yourself for showing up, for doing the work.
To not always give 100% of your energy in your runs is always a key to stay motivated. If you always run at your fastest pace, you will burn out or end up injured. Not having easy days and rest days is not a good idea. Less is more. This is also true for your “mental” energy. You can’t work every day and be happy and productive. On some days, I work super hard at school/work or I drive for hours and I am mentally dead. Some days, I just don’t want to go running. Most times I know I will feel good afterwards and I go anyway, but sometimes I just don’t go. Burning out is real. I prefer to add a rest day in my week or cross train and to be excited for my next run.
Modify your goals depending on how you feel and what’s going on in your life. Let go of the all-or-nothing kind of thought. A 5k is a race and a half marathon is not just half a marathon, it’s 21,1 km. I’ve heard people saying that if they ran, they would run a marathon, otherwise it’s not worth it. I strongly disagree. You can learn a lot about yourself training for a 5k or a 100m. There is always another race and running is the best sport because it will always be there when you need it. I am so grateful that my body allows me to run every week and that I am healthy. I know that even if I was training for a short distance, running would change my life is more ways than I could expect.
Find YOUR why. Why do you run. Think about it, really.
You may have noticed that I think motivation is deeply rooted. Not being motivated can be caused by fear (hello long runs!) and mostly, the fear of not doing/being enough, the fear of failing. Know that running a kilometre, a mile is enough. Every little step you do is better than nothing, and sometimes less is more. I am a firm believer in self-actualization, self-development, self-kindness and self-compassion. I think running should be fun and that when you get to experience a run when you can truly enjoy it, it is a 1000 times easier to stay motivated. Know that you are doing the best you can and that you are enough.
If what I wrote resonated with you, I highly suggest you check out the work of Brené Brown. I am currently reading her book of The Gifts of Imperfection, and it truly transformed my running. I also absolutely love the yoga girl podcast, and look forward to it every week.
Happy running xx