Even if you love running, you've probably gone through at least a short phase of dreading or even hating it. Some runners grit their teeth and get through it because they're determined and they know they'll eventually start to love it again. Others persevere because they have to (ex. they have a race coming up).
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Most runners, however, do have a choice. Every time you lace up your trainers, you're making the conscious decision to stick with it. If you need a push to get that spark back into your running routine, below are some tips from trainers and motivation specialists to help you stay on track.
1. Rely on Habit, Not Motivation
Remembering why you run — to train for a race, lose weight or boost your mental wellbeing — may get you out the door, but motivation takes effort to maintain and can lead to feelings of guilt if you fail to hit your goals. Because let's face it: Some days you just won't "feel" like running.
"By making running a habit, however, we set up a resilient pattern that persists even when we are distracted or overwhelmed by life," says Wendy Wood, USC psychology and business professor and author of Good Habits, Bad Habits: The Science of Making Positive Changes. Whatever your reason to start, habit is what keeps you going, so focus on building a positive habit as your new motivation.
2. Bet on Yourself
According to the pleasure principle, much of our automatic behavior is geared toward seeking out happiness and comfort and avoiding pain. The problem with motivating yourself to run when you don't feel like it is that the pain comes before the gratification.
Andrew Alexander, certified professional coach and author of Deconstructing Motivation: How to Effortlessly Motivate Yourself to Do Anything in Life, created a solution he calls The $100 Check Method:
"Write a check to a trusted friend for $100 and tell them you have to complete a specific task by the end of the day today or else they get to cash it. This could be a session at the gym or a run of a certain distance. Now that the pain of not running is more intense than getting out and doing it, your body's natural drives kick in and you keep running, even when you're not feeling motivated!"
3. Pump Up the BPM
Exercising to up-tempo music can help you run harder and last longer, according to a 2012 review published in the Journal of Sports Sciences. Aim for about 120 beats per minute (BPM), up to 150 to 180 BPM if you're syncing your songs to your steps.
Or try a song that may give your brain a boost along with your body. Tennis great Bjorn Borg worked with a trainer, a neurologist and a classical composer to create The World's Smartest Workout Song. Titled "Symphonia Exercitii Et Intelligentiae," the 123-BPM symphony lasts almost 10 minutes and can be found on Spotify. Some say it sounds more like a video game soundtrack than a workout song, but try it for yourself and see!
4. Run for a Cause
Charity races raise millions of dollars for good causes each year, and they're a great way of keeping you motivated with a virtuous goal in sight. Seeing that date on your calendar and knowing you're doing something good for others and not just yourself can help you train harder and run that extra mile.
Sign up with a friend, start a fundraising page and announce your intentions and progress on social media to hold yourself accountable and motivate you to hit even greater heights.
5. Find a Sweet Destination
When running stops being all about the journey, make it about the destination, says Jessica Hagestedt, a certified health coach and personal trainer. "Choose a destination to run to: your favorite coffee shop, bookstore, sweet-treat place, etc. This gives you the incentive that you will get something you love at the end of it."
6. Lose Yourself in a Story
Instead of listening to music, find a podcast or audiobook that sparks your interest and only listen to it when you run. You'll find yourself taking longer runs to find out whodunit? and you'll look forward to the next run when you're eager to see what happens next in the story.
Hagestedt suggests To Live and Die in LA, Dr. Death or Sword and Scale for fans of true crime stories, or podcasts like Rise With Rachel Hollis or Happier With Gretchen Rubin if you need a dose of positivity.
7. Mix Up Your Route
Why tread the same path each day when your smartphone has everything you need to plot a new course? Use Google Maps or a route-building app like Strava before you run so you have a good idea of where you want to go and how to get back. Route planners on sites like MapMyRun or the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy can help you reconnect with nature and rediscover your love of running at the same time.
Read more: The 6 Best Running Apps for Any Fitness Goal
8. Add HIIT to Your Run
Putting one foot in front of the other can get tedious. Change up your run with interval training, alternating 60- to 90-second sprints with a 30-second recovery, says Kaley Hatfield, a certified personal trainer and professional dancer. An app like Aaptiv can help you change up your run to work HIIT, busting boredom and guiding you through a new workout with every run.
9. Get a Buddy
"It's hard to get out of a commitment when you'll be letting someone else down if you do," says Caleb Backe, certified personal trainer and health expert for Maple Holistics. A running buddy can not only encourage you to run when you don't feel like it but can push you to go that extra mile or increase your speed. Together, everyone achieves more!
10. Change Your Perspective
If you're tired of running, you're probably thinking of running as something you have to do. But what if you think of it as something you get to do? Keep a running log that not only includes basic running stats but also includes at least two things you enjoyed about your run that day.
Add an emoji that describes how you felt before, during and after the run and how you felt when you went to bed that night. Remembering what you love about running, how running makes you feel or what drew you to begin it in the first place might be all it takes to get you out onto the trail.
11. Take a Break
Most people get in a rut when running starts to feels like a chore and they get mentally burned out. While pushing yourself even harder is an admirable test of your dedication, it's also okay to take a break and give yourself a chance to miss the things you love about running.
"Try a baby step of cross-training, such as riding a bike to the park or swimming for fun," says Dara Bushman, a Florida-based licensed clinical psychologist. "Take participating in running out of the picture for a period of time and integrate a mandatory day off every week." Who knows? You may end up missing it so much you want to go back sooner than expected.