10 Tips for Maintaining Your Motivation to Run

By: Nathan Chandler & Sara Novak
Woman outdoors, alone.
The desire to reach the summit may be there -- but the motivation to lace up those shoes may not.
Digital Vision/Thinkstock

In modern times, motives for hitting the pavement have become, for the most part, purely for leisure. We run for fitness, for competition and for sanity.

It's one of the most efficient, inexpensive, and effective ways to burn calories and stay in shape. Consider that the average women burns 105 calories running a mile, while the average man burns 124 calories. Compare this to walking the same distance: Women burns 74 calories walking, and men burn 88 calories [source: Burfoot]. But even though we know running is effective, it's still extremely easy to resist. Motivational dips cause declines in regularity, distance and pace, and finding the drive to strap on your sneakers is a constant psychological struggle. Fortunately, seasoned runners have several tools for maintaining the inspiration to run.


10: Buy New Shoes

running shoes
Even the most sedentary person couldn't resist the allure of shiny new running sneaks like these.

Dedicated runners know that there’s something special happening every time you lace up a new pair of running shoes for the first time. These unsoiled, new-smelling shoes are like a clean slate and a new start, and another opportunity to surge towards your running goals.

What’s more, they are the protective gear that will help carry you for hundreds of miles across the landscape. So unless you’ve taken up trendy barefoot running, these two shoes are the one constant partner you’ll have on every single run. New shoes, then, are a bit like a new friend.


With those ideas in mind, don’t simply visit the nearest shoe store and grab the first pair of shoes you see. Take the time to find the right shoes. If you do a lot of trail running, research the best-rated dirt and rock shoes you can find online. You can put the same effort into finding a pair of lightweight racing shoes, or shoes that best fit your high or low arches.

In the end, you’ll have a more comfortable pair of shoes and have the satisfaction of knowing they’re the best for your style of running. And when you have a brand-new pair of shoes sitting by the front door, they are a constant reminder that you need to go outside and get them dirty.

9: Set Goals and Be Accountable

We're creatures of habit, so it's best to embed running into your schedule in the same way you would brushing your teeth or taking a shower. Choose a regular running schedule, and be honest with yourself. If you're a zombie in the morning, chances are you won't pop out of bed at 5 a.m. for a jog. If you're just starting, running 5 miles each day isn't very realistic. In any case, try to fit running into your day, whether it's in the morning or evening. Set your cloths out the day before, and set up little reminders around the house, including pictures of your favorite runners or posters of upcoming races for inspiration.

After setting goals, account for them in a running journal. Your journal could include distances, pace and side notes about your chosen route that day. After writing for a few weeks, set weekly goals to push your pace and distance. Your goals may periodically include signing up for a race. Not only is an actual race a motivator for keeping up a schedule, but surrounding yourself with other avid runners reminds you why you started running in the first place. And let's not discount the adrenaline rush that comes from having fans cheering you on from the sidelines.


Read on to learn more about adrenaline pumping races.

8: Register for a Race

blurred image of people running a marathon
You, too, could be one of these happy blurs if you sign up for a marathon (or a race of any kind).
Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock

Whether you're a seasoned competitive runner or a novice who has never toed the starting line, races are one of the best motivational tools you'll find. They are a sure way to get you moving, because they involve goals in both the short-term (training runs) and long-term (the race itelf).

Start by finding a race that fits your schedule. For example, if you're just getting started with running, you'll need at least three months to prepare for a marathon. But you don't have to commit to such a long distance if it doesn't appeal to you. You can opt instead for the quicker paces of a 5K or 10K, or try a half-marathon.


Once you sign up for a race, print out a calendar of all of the days leading up to the big day. Plot out each and every training run on this calendar; then pin it to a wall where you'll see it daily.

Not only is it a visual reminder of your training runs and your ultimate goal, but it serves as a functional tool that lets you adjust your mileage and daily runs depending on unexpected scheduling conflicts, soreness and tiredness, or other variables. For example, if a severe thunderstorm interferes with your Monday run, you'll know exactly how many miles you'll need to make up the rest of the week, and you can quickly plan a way to distribute those miles to prevent overworking your body.

As your training builds mental momentum and physical strength, you'll see that race date fast approaching on the calendar. And when you finally reach the finish line, you'll feel the satisfaction of your commitment paying off.

Read on to learn about running happy hours and other social outings.

7: Run with a Buddy (or Several)

Running with friends allow you to have fun and push each other to new heights at the same time.
Running with friends allows you to have fun and push each other to new heights at the same time.

Running isn't usually a team sport, but that doesn't mean that you won't want to be around other runners. For most of us, a daily running partner isn't practical unless your significant other or best running pal has the exact same schedule. But running with a friend once or twice a week keeps you honest. It adds a little more guilt when you decide that sleeping in or sipping on a glass of wine seems more appealing than hitting the trail.

Take social running a step further by joining a running club. You're more likely to keep it up if you're around others driving toward the same objective. Submerge yourself in a running community by planning activities around your runs. Plan a weekend morning run followed by brunch, or celebrate a jog in the afternoon with happy hour. Frequent your local running store and meet other runners. Running store owners and employees usually have a genuine passion for the sport and are ideal motivators.


6: Try Zen Running

man running in field, ominous sky in background
This dude doesn't seem too concerned about progress or pacing (or the weather, for that matter). He's just enjoying his run.
Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock

Although racing is a great way to stay mindful of goals, it's easy for many runners in training to become overly fixated on numbers and statistics. Hit a popular running route and you'll observe people constantly glancing at their GPS-enabled watches, heart-rate monitors, and other stat-spewing gadgets.

These tools are great for tracking training regimens – they also often make you forget why you took up running in the first place. If you feel burned out on the minutiae of lap times, interval training, tempo runs, and other clock-driven running styles, it might be good to disconnect from your watch and just enjoy the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other.


Some people call this meditative or Zen running, but no matter the moniker, it centers around the idea of being present in the moment and not agonizing over a few lost seconds here or there. Instead, you can focus on the sound of your breathing and footsteps, feel the air moving in and out of your lungs, and concentrate on a fluid, hypnotic pace that makes you think less about mileage and more about the beauty and freedom of simple movement.

Zen running may also help you step back from your obsessive pursuit of a personal record and just appreciate the fact that you're able to run at all. Many people have disabilities, injuries, and other obstacles that prevent them from taking up the joy of running.

If you're one of the fortunate people who can enjoy running but feel encumbered by all of the trappings of expectations and statistics, meditative running may be the perfect way to connect with your inner Zen master.

Read on to see how changing it up burns more calories.

5: Change It Up

mature Asian man in swimming pool
Who knew swimming could make you a better runner? This guy, apparently.
Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock

Keep your body and mind guessing. Clock a variety of routes so that you're not running the same one every day. Choose different distances and terrains. Consider a 5-mile run in the neighborhood one day and a 3-mile trail run another. Vary your pace by alternating shorter, faster runs with longer, slower runs.

Change it up with cross training. Cross training uses different muscular groups and pushes your body in new ways. Yoga for running classes can stretch out the body, preventing injury on sore muscles. Swimming or fitness classes can give your exercise regimen a good balance. Choose cross training activities that work on a wide range of muscles while continually increasing your cardiovascular health [source: Marathon Training].


4: Go Exploring

woman running in field of grass
She's definitely running the path less traveled …

You already know that changing up your routine can reenergize your running habits. And you may realize by now that the joy of running isn't always about race records and personal bests. What you might not know is that turning your daily run from an exercise activity into an adventure can totally change what your running is all about.

Your two feet are among the best tools ever for exploration. It doesn't matter whether you live in a densely packed city or a rural outpost, there are always new places you can explore and investigate. Even if you've driven a particular road 1,000 times, you'll see things in a very different perspective when you're on foot.


Experienced runners know that it's easy to get stuck in rut with regards to routes. You may have four or five runs that you use regularly, and their familiarity can be comforting. In addition, finding new routes is often problematic and frustrating, as you learn to deal with new traffic patterns, congestion, and hydration stops.

But there are ways to jump-start your explorations. You can search online for running routes in your area. Other dedicated hikers and runners likely have already posted many other routes you never even considered.

You can build new routes yourself, too. Check out online satellite and topography maps for clues to interesting new places. Don't settle for a bird's eye view. Really zoom in on the details to see more about the world around you – and then lace up your shoes and go out and see it with your own eyes.

Read on to learn how 2,000-meter record holder Haile Gebreselassie came out on top.

3: Listen to Music and Use Other Motivational Gadgets

Let the beat move your feet.
Let the beat move your feet.
Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock

Music fuels the fire on a number of levels. It alleviates boredom while distracting you from exhaustion and muscular pains. It allows you to sink into a deeper state and let go of any resistance. According to Peak Performance's Lee Crust, Ethiopia's Haile Gebreselassie set an indoor world record for the 2,000-meter as his favorite tune bellowed from the loud speakers at the Birmingham Indoor Arena. After the race, Gebreselassie commented that the song's beat helped him take home the victory.

For some of us, running is a relaxant: The sound of breathing and the addition of some soothing music centers the mind. For others, running is fast-paced and focuses on burning calories or beating your best time. In this case, choose music that psyches you up and gets your adrenaline pumping.


Many seasoned runners prefer sprinkling their routine with podcasts focused on running. But others simply prefer the sound of their own breath and nature to the tunes of an iPod.

Read on to learn why if you don't love yourself, you'll never be a runner.

2: Reward Yourself

Running to the ice cream parlor can make a jog extremely satisfying.
Running to the ice cream parlor can make a jog extremely satisfying.
Jupiter Images/Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock

Constantly reward yourself for sticking to your running regimen. After you've set a weekly or monthly goal, treat yourself for reaching it. Keep your feet looking pretty with a monthly pedicure, or have someone give you a pat on the back with a soothing sports massage. Pick out a running outfit for every race you complete, or grab an ice cream cone after your weekly 10-miler.

Rewards have a twofold benefit: They put a carrot stick in front of you, and, even more importantly, they tell you that you're worth it. Self-worth leads to taking care of yourself and enjoying life. For some, the biggest reward may be a much needed break. If you stick to your running schedule all week long, make sure that you take a day off at the end of the week.


1: Give Up Running

Really. Just give up running entirely.

Burnout and mental fatigue almost always kick in when humans overdo a particular activity. Put another way: If you do something too frequently, you'll simply get bored with it, no matter if you're a casual jogger or an elite long-distance runner.

As evidence, take a look at Kilian Jornet, who grew up on a mountain in the Catalonian Pyrenees. At only 24 years old, he's already a three-time winner of the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, a 103-mile (166 km) event that's considered the hardest footrace in Europe.

Although it might seem odd, Jornet doesn't define himself as a runner. Instead, he consistently tells interviewers that he is a mountaineer. He loves all mountain-based activities, from hiking, to skiing, and of course, trail running. And from October to April when running races are rare, he switches entirely to skiing, which keeps him in top physical condition until spring. The change of pace prevents him from developing overuse injuries and refreshes him mentally and emotionally, too.

The point here is that you don't have to doggedly stick to running a certain number of times per week, especially if you find those runs agonizing or just boring. Follow your passion and focus on what's important, which is keeping your body in shape to the benefit of your mental and physical health. You may find that you like cycling exclusively for a few months out of the year, and then decide that you dearly miss running, at which time you can fully embrace the fun and excitement of hitting your favorite trail once again.

Lots More Information

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More Great Links

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