Recently, I was talking to a friend who said she was trying to get in the best shape of her life by her next birthday. She’s working out regularly, eating healthy, tracking her food and steps every day, but she was having a tough time motivating herself to stay on her running schedule. She knew that keeping up on her runs was a critical part of her fitness goal, but she felt blah about it. Maybe it’s due to winter weather, being off race season or just hitting a plateau, but sometimes it’s tough to find your running inspiration.
When we start running or when we’re training for a race, inspiration comes from all over the place. We’re motivated and inspired because we know we’ve got a race date looming. We’re inspired by the results we’re seeing. We’re eating, sleeping and thinking “running.”
But when training hits a lull or running becomes routine, that inspiration can become fleeting. We may feel lackluster about our runs. They no longer make us feel energized and excited. We may have distant goals in the future, but nothing that’s pushing us to hit our miles.
So, how can you figure out what motivates you and recapture your running inspiration? Is it a matter of reading some quotes on Instagram or beating yourself up mentally until you feel guilty enough to run?
No, running inspiration needs to come from somewhere deeper. Running is tough and requires a certain mentality to push through the hard part. To get that mentality back, you need to find your motivation. You need to discover what drives you and embrace your source of running inspiration.
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How to Find Your Running Inspiration
1. Reflect on Past Runs & Wins
Think back to your peak performance. When you finished a race, PR’d, hit your goal weight or simply were in your running groove, what was it that took you there? Find photos, a medal or your bib from that time period and tack them up somewhere you can see them regularly. Was there a story that inspires you? Did you have a role model you looked up to? Get out their photo again and tack it on your wall.
Also, take some time to reflect on your emotional state and headspace at the time when you were really crushing your running milestones. What was that time like for you? Where you proud of your performance? What steps can you take to recreate that emotional environment for yourself.
If you’re new to running, think back to another success you had. What was it that drove you during that time? When you felt strong, why did you feel so strong? Get yourself into the headspace to kick butt. Maybe it means looking at your tight jeans that you can’t squeeze into anymore. Maybe it means looking back at photos when you were super fit. Or maybe it was when you did something else that required mental or physical stamina. If you rocked it then, you can rock it now.
2. Set a Weekly Mileage Goal
Set a big goal. Where do you want to be in three months? Six months? Do you want to complete that half marathon? Are you hoping to run four miles in half an hour? What does your BIG success look like?
Then take that big success and use it as your running inspiration. Work backwards. What does your weekly mileage need to look like, if you want to hit that big number or final outcome? Break it down into mini-goals. Mileage is often easier to track than time and/or speed.
You see, when you set weekly goals, it’s much easier to course correct, should you fall off track. If you just look at that big lofty goal, it may seem far off but setting measurable action steps to get you there, will put it within your grasp.
3. Track and Reward
Track your progress and reward your gains as you go. You don’t need to create a complicated spreadsheet–even jotting down your workouts on a calendar will help you see your progress and keep a handle on your progress. There are plenty of apps that can sync with your tracking device, or like Runkeeper can be used on their own.
As runners, we might forget to give ourselves props when we achieve small goals. Maybe you ran every day you’d planned to this week or hit your mileage goal early. GIve yourself a pat on the back and do something nice for yourself.
Running isn’t about punishing your body into submission. Running is supposed to be a rewarding way to stay healthy. Many runners forget about the rewarding part, and we can only torture ourselves for so long before we lose motivation. Track your victories and celebrate each success.
4. Save Something Fun for Your Run
Believe it or not, some people find running to actually be fun! Now, not everyone runs for fun, but again, running shouldn’t feel like torture or punishment. Every run won’t be a joy, but running should be something that’s at least enjoyable. If it’s terrible, you won’t stick with it for long.
Make your run fun by really focusing on the good parts. It might mean saving a playlist of your favorite songs for treadmill-time only. Consider making a favorite TV show your running reward show you catch up on at the gym.
Many runners find that running indoors is a total drag, but find ways to keep your indoor runs interesting. Do speedwork on the treadmill or run in intervals (fartleks aka “speed play”). See if you can push yourself a little harder than you would outside by increasing your incline or speeding up your runs.
5. Run Outside Whenever Possible
Most runners agree, running outside is WAY better than running indoors. Whenever it’s possible to get yourself outside, do it! This might mean changing up your running time to a warmer part of the day. It could simply mean dressing in warmer layers to get you out the door.
When you’re outside, look for running inspiration everywhere. Take a photo each day on your phone to document your run (sharing on social media can be motivating and keep you feeling accountable).
Invest in a good pair of all-weather running shoes, like the BOCO AT 3 from Newton (our favorite running shoe company). Watch for water-resistance yet, a shoe that’s breathable and can perform on many different surfaces, especially if you’ll be running on wet or icy roads.
6. Break in New Shoes
What runner doesn’t love new shoes? But we all know, during race season, running in new shoes is a recipe for disaster. Your off-season is a perfect time for breaking those new kicks in. By the time you’re ready to race, your shoes will be prepped too. If you’re looking for running inspiration a new pair of shoes can get you pumped to hit the pavement.
New gear like running tights or a cool track jacket can also give you a little boost to get out the door and put your wardrobe to use. You don’t have to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe, but simply a new item or two that you feel excited about.
Running becomes routine, and so do our running clothes. While routine is great for building up habits and helping us become “regular runners,” occasionally mixing up your norm can give you a burst of motivation. When you have something new, it’s fun to put it to use.
7. Crosstrain to See Results
Maybe you’ve been running for a while and after an initial weight loss you’re not seeing the results you once were. Plateaus happen in weight loss and in running. When you hit a plateau for a while, it’s easy to get discouraged.
When you’re burning more calories than usual, your body sheds weight and shows the muscle you’re building. When you started running, chances are you saw awesome results. After a while, though, our metabolism adjusts to accommodate the new activity level. You will no longer see the same outcome.
If you want to get results again, mix up your routine and add cross-training to the mix. Weight lifting will help you build and lengthen lean muscle. Muscle also burns more calories at rest than fat, so if you want to keep your body running efficiently, you’ll want to build muscle, not just stick with cardio.
8. Run for a Reason
Find running inspiration by giving yourself a “why.” This can be done by signing up to run for a cause, reading stories of other runners who are running for good, or by exploring your own deeper reason for running.
Maybe you run because you want to be healthier…but if you look deeper, why do you want to be healthier? Is it so you can spend more time with your loved ones? Is it because you want to live longer? Is it out of a desire to have more energy and happiness?
Maybe you run because you enjoy the meditative quality or the solitude. Again, as yourself why? Is it to calm your thoughts? Is it because you’re looking for a way to clear your mind? Find your deeper reasons for running and focus on them to help you stay inspired. Remind yourself of how amazing your body is and how healthy you feel when you’re out on a run. These rewards help us feel motivated to continue.
If you’re looking for running inspiration, you can find it! It’s just a matter of adjusting your thinking and focusing on the amazing benefits of a great run. Get inspired and keep on running!