A little over a year ago, my running was progressing nicely.
I had a really good experience at my second marathon, and was training up to run the Little Rock half marathon in 90 minutes. I really felt good about how much faster I was getting.
Then something changed. My running motivation was just gone.
I stopped running for a couple weeks, and found myself making any excuse to not run. “I’m busy at work” was a common and popular excuse.
Don’t get me wrong, I was busy. But not so busy that I couldn’t have found time for a run here or there if I wanted.
I went from running 40 – 45 miles a week to running 10 miles a week. One month, I ran 4 miles.
I couldn’t seem to get back in the swing of running – I wanted to, I really wanted to – but I just couldn’t find the motivation to go running.
That was over a year ago.
I went through a lot of phases trying to figure out how to get motivated to run, and it wasn’t really one thing that did it. Different things helped here and there, but nothing really took. Until I figured out one thing .
It’s only been the last few weeks that I’ve regained my running motivation, have started to get back to daily running and, frankly, enjoying it as much or more than ever.
Let me share some of the things I tried to get back my running motivation.
If you’re in the same boat – trying to get motivated to run again – I hope that a couple of these ideas get you pointed in the direction you want to go.
8. White knuckle it.
On my first jump out of an airplane I was a “stick leader.” That means I was the first man out the door. I always thought I was petrified of heights. And then that jump door opened and I saw Mother Earth through the clouds below me and I got fucking scared.
But I was in it, now, and there was one way out. Step into the sky and get to the ground. I muscled through that experience, humming to myself over and over the words of a Johnny Cash song…”Don’t mean nothing, it don’t mean nothing. Drive on.”
That’s how it is with running sometimes.
You know the feeling – it’s dark outside, it’s cold, you’re tired and you don’t want to run. But instead of going back to bed you tell yourself “If I can just get out that front door and run a mile, my feelings will change and I’ll enjoy myself.”
Sometimes, I will just give myself an arbitrary ultimatum – I will run for 30 days and if nothing changes I’ll quit running. That worked with quitting smoking. I told myself I would try to run for 30 days and if I’m still smoking after that, I’m done quitting and will just be a smoker for the rest of my life.
Eventually, moods where I lack running motivation break. But sometimes that loss of the running motivation is bigger than just a temporary need for a break.
Sometimes I just don’t want to run at all. And my brain isn’t really interested in trying to find my running motivation.
7. Take a break from running.
Seriously, what’s wrong with taking some time off from running?
Our conditioning goes away pretty quickly, and we feel a little heavy and sluggish when we start back up, but that really should not stop us from giving our body a little break, and a little variety.
There was a reason that I was telling myself was the reason I wanted to stop running for a while.
Over the course of the last year, I just leaned into the feeling that I didn’t want to run, and stopped running for a while.
I figured that if my mood changed when I stopped running, then it really was the running that was bringing me down. If my mood stayed the same, then running was just an excuse.
In this case, my mood never really changed – I was still grumbly and still busy at work, and I soon found some other thing that I started to blame my mood on. I had to confront the fact that the “not wanting to run” excuse was just a way for me to avoid dealing with what was really bugging me.
As you’ll see below, in the end it was taking a break from running that helped me really figure out why I liked running. So, instead of having an excuse not to run, knowing my “big-picture” gain from running, I have a strong reason to go out and run.
6. Changed up those routine routes.
I’m sure I’m not the only runner who is a creature of habit. I have many routes that I run here in Little Rock, but they never really changed.
It was the same routes, week in and week out.
One day, just to break up the monotony, I ran one of my favorite loop routes backwards. The route looked completely different, and I found myself looking around at scenery that I had previously taken for granted.
What’s the point of being able to cover great distances on your feet if you stay close to home, and never go out to cover great distances on your own two feet?
5. Can new gear help?
I’m not saying to go on a shopping spree just to have a new and shiny toy. What I am saying is that maybe the lack of running motivation could be fixed by better equipment.
Here’s what I mean.
I had taken my own advice from Tip #6, above, and started exploring some new running routes. I’d pop on my headset, a podcast, maybe some P!NK (don’t you tell a soul), and run while listening.
Well, one day, something made me turn around – I had the feeling in my gut that something was going on behind me that I needed to be aware of.
It was a 90 pound German Shepherd, galloping after me like I was the rabbit he was meant to catch that day.
I dug into my pocket for the pepper spray (I wonder if that would really work on a dog), tried a few tricks to get away – quick turns down streets and alleys to lose him, sprinting uphill in the hopes it would wear him out (um….that wasn’t bright), and even threw a rock or two in his general direction. Finally, I climbed up a steep brick wall and called for a ride.
After that, I bet I didn’t run for 3 weeks. I knew I couldn’t run with headsets anymore – I would need to be able to hear what was going on around me to stay safe. Problem is, I really needed music and podcasts to keep my head from thinking on a run. Unable to figure out a solution, I just stopped running.
Then I invested in a pair of Aftershokz Trekz Air bone conduction headphones. These headsets enabled me to enjoy music and podcasts while running without having to give up my ability to hear what was happening around me.
By the way, if you are interested in buying an Aftershokz product, I have partnered with them to offer readers of “The Over 40 Runner” a special deal. Click here to Save $50 On NEW Bundles at AfterShokz Using Code “DEAL” !
4. Find someone to run with.
I’m not much of a joiner. Especially of offline groups. I tell myself I prefer running alone, but I’m not entirely sure that is true.
I have a friend who I look forward to running with twice a year at conferences we attend. And, when I’m traveling, I try to link up with fellow runners.
I look forward to running with those specific friends, so maybe it’s just a matter of finding a couple people here in Little Rock who I like to run with.
A regular weekly run with a friend here in town would do wonders for keeping my running motivation alive.
3. Try something new.
About 2 months ago, I was so burnt out trying to get back into a regular running rhythm that I decided to try something new.
I bought a bike and started riding.
I had not been on a bike since I was in grade school.
Two things hit me almost immediately.
First, I remembered how fun it is to ride down a hill with the wind in my face or look back and see the huge hill I just pedaled up. My mind started thinking that if I could get my feet to turn over while running the way they pedaled a bike – a smooth, consistent, circular pattern – I might be able to enjoy that feeling of wind in my face because I’d be running a little faster.
Second, when I was riding a bike, I had to look forward and scan around – take in the whole environment around me – or I would get hurt in a hurry. When I was running, I found myself looking down at the ground right in front of me.
How could I enjoy running if I didn’t take in the scenery all around me?
2. Run for something bigger.
A couple years ago, I joined the NDSS Athlete Ambassador team. This is a group of a couple hundred runners around the US who run to raise funds for the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) and raise awareness of Down Syndrome.
Running for someone else gave my running a sense of purpose, and a sense that I was a part of something bigger than just a running habit or hobby.
While I strongly encourage you to join the NDSS Athlete Ambassador team – it’s a great group of runners, triathletes, bikers, and other athletes doing amazing and motivating things – there are plenty of other ways to run for something bigger than yourself.
Make your next race a fundraiser for a favorite charity. Use the fundraising tools at sites like MightyCause.org to more easily collect the donations.
Or, sign up to run a big race for a charity. Most major events have charity sponsors you can run for, and typically have a small fundraising requirement. Not only will you join a community of folks running for the same purpose, but having to raise the money for a charity is a great motivator that can ensure you get out and run.
1. Reclaim your time (busy)
The Number 1 excuse I told myself to justify not running was that I was too busy. Things would ease up in a few weeks, I told myself. I can even use my running time in the morning to get more done faster.
In no time at all, I began using my morning running time to get work done in the hope that I would get through the “busy time” faster.
There was one problem. Work abhors a vacuum. The more time I freed up by knocking down that “to do” list, the more I found work that needed to be on the “to do” list.
It took some time, but I eventually realized I was just working my life away. My oldest was off to his first year in college. My youngest, who was recently diagnosed with speech apraxia, needed my attention learning to communicate. And my middle son – the one I’d played catch with since he was 3, and spent summers playing back-yard t-ball with, was playing varsity high school baseball and I wasn’t at any of his games.
And we had just moved into a new house and I was missing out on all the yard and gardening work that is a big part of what makes a house a home for me.
I was tired of a reality where work came before everything else. I wanted my life to be something I chose to do, not something I had to work to get through. So I looked for one thing I like – and want – to do every day, and started to slowly take back my life.
I like to start my day with running.
It invigorates me, and starts my day with positive endorphins. I never come back from a morning run feeling worse than I did before I left. So I paid myself first, and claimed the first 90 minutes very morning for myself. I pour a cup of coffee, meditate for 10 minutes, sit in quiet and do nothing for 10 minutes, and then out the door I go for a 1-hour run.
In the end, it turned out that to get my running motivation back, all I needed was a reason to run.