Find Your Inner Motivation, Make Running a Habit
Run your first race, be persistent, lose weight: Here’s how to get started on your big goals for the New Year.
With the start of 2016 less than one week away, many people are already considering their New Year’s resolutions. Hands down, one of the most popular pledges people make to themselves is to lose weight and become healthier. What better and more efficient way to achieve both those goals is there than by running? However, as with all forms of exercise, finding the motivation to get out the door every day can be the biggest challenge. Listed below are tips to keep your mental game strong and help you work through lapses in motivation.
Although it may be tempting to lace up your shoes on January 1st and tackle a 5 mile run, avoid doing so. Instead, start with short, attainable goals, such as completing a run-walk plan where you alternate a few minutes of running with short walking breaks. This technique, first advocated by Olympian Jeff Galloway, not only staves off injury, but also fights mental boredom and fatigue. By focusing only on a handful of short running segments at a time, you are able to tangibly reward yourself with a walk break while still getting in a great workout.
Run-walk plans can even be designed to help you complete any race distance from 5k to marathon. The mental benefits of starting small include helping you maintain daily motivation and feeling a sense of accomplishment. The number one reason people fail at their resolutions is the feeling of burnout or inadequacy. Jump starting your year with a big goal like running 5 miles continuously by the end of January can lead to feelings of regret and decreased motivation when running becomes painful. Instead, choose a conservative exercise plan that is realistic to help you maintain your inspiration throughout the year.
Set Process Goals
Avoid setting goals that are vague and uninspiring, such as “I want to get healthy in 2016” or “I want to run more.” These goals provide few tangible benefits and are difficult to work towards during times of low motivation. Instead, set process goals that will help you achieve an overall goal. Rather than saying, “I want to run more,” try saying, “I want to run 1,000 miles in 2016.”
This goal will help you stay on track, because with every mile you run, you will be able to feel the accomplishment of adding miles towards that final number. You can also set monthly goals to help you achieve your year-end goal, such as running a minimum of 20 miles per week. Mentally, it will be easier to get out the door to complete your run if you can visualize how not running will affect your year-end mileage.
Track Your Progress
Putting pen to paper to track your daily mileage, routes, weather conditions, thoughts, etc. can not only help you clearly see the benefits of your exercise, but keep you motivated to continue running. Establishing a routine of writing in a running log daily, such as before bed, has been proven by sports psychologists to help athletes stay on track with their goals. Knowing that if you skip your workout you will be forced to write a big “0” in the mileage column can drastically improve the likelihood of getting out the door. Additionally, it will be very fulfilling to go back each month and see the work you did to stick with your resolution.
Sign Up for a Race
If it is still difficult to push yourself to continue running, consider signing yourself up for a 5k, 10k, or even a half marathon. Doing so will provide a concrete reason to run, such as the feeling of not wanting to embarrass yourself or not be able to finish the race because you were out of shape. Setting a time goal for the race, such as finishing the 5k under 31:00, and sharing this goal with others can further help you stay ambitious and avoid skipping key workouts.
Enlist the Help of a Friend
Numerous studies have shown that people are more motivated to exercise if they feel that not doing so would let someone else down. Find a friend who is also a runner and make plans to meet for your next run. Even if the two of you are not the same pace, simply aiming to start at the same location can help you get out the door, for fear of not keeping your promise. Once you arrive to the agreed-upon place, your motivation will increase after seeing that your friend is running and expects you to do the same.
If unable to find a running friend, inquire with the local running store to find out whether any groups meet for easy runs. A running group can also have the same motivating effect, largely based on the concept of the “fear of missing out.” Even if someone is not motivated to run, knowing that a group is getting together to log miles and share stories can be all the incentive needed to decide to get out the door.
When running feels like a chore, create a “bargain” for yourself. For instance, if needing to tackle a 6 mile run but feeling the telltale lack of inspiration, create a series of rewards for yourself for accomplishing small goals. Just to begin your run, tell yourself you will purchase a small coffee from your favorite coffee shop if you can put on your running clothes and get started. If you make it through two miles, upgrade your reward to a medium coffee. If you run 4 miles, add whipped cream. Finally, if you complete the run, allow yourself to add your favorite syrup or flavoring. Other tactics, such as mentally giving yourself a dollar to spend for each mile you complete can also be helpful.
Above all, starting any new exercise regimen will have its ups and downs. Even elite athletes have days when motivation is lacking and they have to dig deep to find inspiration to complete a particular run or workout. Find the mental games that work best for you and do not be afraid to experiment. Perhaps wearing a certain outfit that makes you feel powerful can help you stay motivated, or treating yourself to a relaxing day if you can accomplish your week’s workouts does the trick. Remember that just getting out the door is an accomplishment, and you will be better for it in the end.
Knowledge is power. We all know this, there is simply no secret about it. Arm yourself with tons of knowledge and constantly strive to stay atop the latest happenings in running. There is always new information to digest as it is a fast-moving industry that regularly comes out with new information. New running shoes, new technology, new studies.
Yet behind the glamorous running shoes, bright colours, happy races and all of life’s problems, there is you, the one who has to understand why running is a good thing. Seasoned runners all know that running comes at the cost of pain. A monumental dream means that en route to the top, you’re certain to experience monumental hurts. That is just the price of bravery. Stay in the game. Life’s greatest endeavours and best experiences come with a dose of discomfort. But the feeling you get after managing to complete a 16-week running plan and a half or full marathon is explosively great.
You will find the motivation needed to keep going only when you start talking to yourself.
Understand that running is a dynamic meditation. The power to endure and to take that extra step when your brain tells you not to is within you. Find it. Delve deeper into yourself and think about your life from a completely different perspective.
Human beings are built to grow, evolve and progress. You are meant to shine.
Set off on a fabled journey. Go out there and run.