It's tempting to hit the snooze button when your alarm goes off for your morning run. What will it take to get you to jump out of bed, throw on running shoes and head out the door? Different people are motivated by different things — from competition and commitment to a race to the physical and mental health benefits running provides. If you struggle with motivation — whether it's in the morning or at night — keep moving forward with your training program and find out what our experts suggest to keep you lunging toward the finish line.
1. Commit to a Race
Nothing can motivate a runner more than putting your money where your feet are. Whether it's your first marathon, a trail race, an obstacle race or mud-covered 5K — just go for it, says Doug Piller, owner and lead trainer of CrossFit Go Time in San Diego. "You've paid money out of your pocket and you've announced to everyone what you're doing," says Piller. "This means that, whether or not you feel you have time to train, or whatever the weather conditions are like, race day is coming." What's next? Start running.
Read more: How to Prepare for an Obstacle Race
2. Run With Friends
Peer pressure doesn't always have to be negative. In fact, if you commit to running with friends or a local running club, it will be more difficult to make excuses when you don't feel like running.
"The natural tendency is that they become your training partners, a source of support and accountability and a continued reminder of the upcoming challenge," says CrossFit trainer Doug Piller. The guilt and shame factor can positively motivate you to run when you run with friends, too. Think about what sort of person you would appear to be if you bailed or quit on your teammates, says Piller.
3. Vary Your Training
Many runners get bored with the same route or routine. Steve Canning, a triathlete and physiotherapist at The Whitehouse Clinic in Sheffield, UK, recommends varying your training runs. Use track sessions, hill reps and recovery runs to keep you motivated and entertained.
"Having a good variety of running types and routes keeps it interesting," he says. "You can also mix running outside with treadmill running to take away the potential boredom of training." Varying your training sessions can also help work a variety of muscles needed for endurance and strength. Interval workouts and strength training should be incorporated into your training schedule.
Read more: 12 Running Mistakes You Could Be Making
4. Utilize Technology
If your motivation to run is waning, get plugged in. Many smart phone apps provide timing and tracking functions as well as daily motivational tips and the ability to sync your music. According to physiotherapist Steve Canning, some phone applications have the ability to analyze and compare results, track pace and distance, and monitor your heart rate for optimal performance. A run watch is another way to keep you motivated while running. Many brands feature GPS capabilities to help you navigate new routes and trails while running.
5. Listen to Music
It's no secret that certain songs can bring you out of your chair and onto your feet. Why not incorporate music into your running routine to keep you moving? "Music has such an impact on how we feel and how positive we think," says Sylwia Wiesenberg, founder of Tonique Fitness in New York City.
Create a playlist that will help you to push yourself a mile farther. "Certain songs help you to go further and faster as they bring certain emotions and memories, and they can be great motivators," she says. "The tempo or certain beat of a song also can motivate you to go a little bit faster."
6. Improve Your Mental Health
Even though running can physically make you tired, it has the ability to energize your mental health. According to Scott White, certified nutritionist and fitness trainer at Personal Power Training in Arizona, running helps release stress, improve sleep, calm your mind and minimize depression.
"Your brain loves you when you run," he says. "It makes you forget about your daily stressors or your life, and it helps improve your depression and cures you from being down all the time." An improved mental well-being can be a powerful motivator.
Read more: The One Workout That Helped Cure My Anxiety
7. Visualize the End Result
If your goal is to lose weight through running, it helps to envision your favorite piece of clothing or a swimsuit you wish to wear again, says Sylwia Wiesenberg, founder of New York's Tonique Fitness.
If you always have that image in front of you, it will push you to keep moving. "You love that red dress or plan on going on your dream vacation and you want to look great — running will help you to look and feel better," she says. Envisioning your fitter, trimmer self is a major motivator, so imagine how fabulous a lighter you will look and feel.
8. Get Your "Me” Time
In a society in which people over-commit themselves to the extreme, it's often difficult to find some "me" time. Use running as an excuse to devote time to yourself. "Running may be the only time that nobody bothers you, and you can reflect on your life, dreams and goals," says Tonique Fitness founder Sylwia Wiesenberg. "It is like mediation in motion." Escape from the daily chaos and routine of work and family by hitting the pavement. "Running allows you to focus and reflect on nobody else but yourself," says Wiesenberg.
9. Reward Yourself
If your motivation is running low, it might be time to bargain with yourself. Offer yourself rewards for milestones in your training program, suggests Meredith O'Brien, certified personal trainer and Virginia-based running coach.
When you run 50 miles, you might get a T-shirt, or after 100 miles, a new hat or a medal. Treat yourself. "Rewards give runners an incentive and a chance to show the world their accomplishments," says O'Brien. "By rewarding total mileage, you encourage people to work hard without putting pressure on them to compete with anyone."
10. Give Back to the Community
Give back to your community and find motivation at the same time. Group races and exercise events that help raise money for charity can provide you with running inspiration and a fulfilled heart, says Jeanette DePatie, certified fitness instructor and author of The Fat Chick Works Out.
"Whether it is a nationwide, multi-day group walk or a local disco-a-thon to raise money for my church, I love that I'm helping myself live a better life while helping others," she says. Sign up to participate in a fundraising program that is based on the miles you run to help you achieve your personal goals while aiding local charities.
Read more: 10 Charity Races You Can Run for a Cause
11. Rely on Pride
According to California-based clinical health psychologist Melanie Greenberg, research shows that many runners are motivated by internal factors such as pride and joy in the activity and commitment to a personal challenge. Let your ego take control when trying to find motivation to run and train. Intrinsic motivation can be much more long lasting, says Greenberg. Those with intrinsic motivation are more likely to withstand the pain, injuries, boredom and need for continuous practice, she says. Take pride in your athletic abilities and don't be afraid to boast your successes to stay motivated.
12. Get New Gear
Just like a new suit or dress for a night on the town boosts confidence, new running gear can also encourage you to put your feet on the pavement each morning. New gear can help shape your environment to cue you to run, says California-based clinical health psychologist Melanie Greenberg.
"Leave your running clothes out the night before or post motivational messages and pictures of healthy runners on your bulletin board," she recommends. Wear that new gear like a champ and envision yourself as a professional athlete. In other words, act the part.
Read more: The Best Gear and Accessories for Runners
13. Improve Physical Health
Running not only helps people lose weight, it also assists with toning and shaping and overall health, says Scott White, certified nutritionist and fitness trainer. "These are all great motivators to run to achieve a certain goal," he says.
Whether you have been diagnosed as overweight or are battling diabetes or heart disease, the physical health benefits of beginning a running program often appear right away. Running can help ensure efficient flow of blood and oxygen throughout the body and can increase your metabolism. People of all ages can run to improve physical health, but before beginning any workout routine, consult your physician.
14. Find a Trainer
Sometimes all it takes to get running is a professional pushing you to your limit. Find your inspiration by working with a trainer, such as a local runner on a track team. Although it may be difficult to keep up with the pros at first, keep in mind that professionals had to start somewhere, too.
"If you break your routine, just gently guide yourself back to it, without beating yourself up," says California-based clinical health psychologist Melanie Greenberg. "Learning any new habit is difficult and you just need to encourage yourself." Rely on trainers to encourage you as well. When you are surrounded by runners with positive attitudes and passion for the sport, you can feed off their energy and get motivated again.
Read more: 9 Questions Your Trainer Wishes You'd Ask
15. Set Goals
Keeping track of your performance can be enough motivation to keep you running. When you set realistic and reachable goals and focus on the process of getting there, it inspires you to run, says Lorrie Beck, certified triathlon coach.
"Create a bucket list that involves running and keep track of your personal records," she suggests. "Seeing improvement over time and through continued training is a great motivation reinforcement for all ages." Make a log of your workouts so you can look back, note what works the best and better understand how short-term aims can help you fulfill long-term running goals.
16. Make Training Fun
Running should not become a job or a chore. Make it fun and ignite your workouts by incorporating games, exploring new places and splashing in puddles, recommends certified triathlon coach Lorrie Beck.
"Doing the same thing over and over again becomes boring," she says. "Change it up and change your perception from just logging in miles to having fun — more enjoyment equals better results." Try and conquer the harder workouts first, too, so you can save the easier workouts and fun games for later in the day or week.
17. Envision the Finish Line
Whether you are running through your neighborhood alone or finishing a race with thousands of other people, envisioning the finish line can help motivate you to keep running. When running or training alone, designate a finish line for each run based on your distance goals.
Help yourself celebrate a little by tying a balloon to a light pole to represent your finish line. "Think about the finish line before you train, during your training and in between training sessions," says Doug Piller, CrossFit trainer. Think about how you will feel in that moment, the thrill of hearing the crowd cheering and the rush of crossing the finish line. "Pain melts away and something powerful puts fire into your stride," Piller says.
- Steve Canning; Triathlete, Physiotherapist, The Whitehouse Clinic; Sheffield, UK
- Sylwia Wiesenberg; Founder, Tonique Fitness; New York, New York
- Meredith O’Brien; Certified Personal Trainer, Running Coach; Virginia Beach, Virginia
- Jeanette DePatie; Certified Fitness Instructor, Author; Los Angeles, California
- Melanie Greenberg; Health Psychologist; Marin County, California
- Mark Brown; Certified Personal Trainer, Fitness Author; North Canton, Ohio
- Lorrie Beck; Certified Triathlon Coach; Founder, YBFit.com; Williamstown, New Jersey
- Marty Beene; Running Coach, Owner of Be The Runner; Alameda, California
- Scott White; Certified Nutritionist, Fitness Trainer, Personal Power Training; Arizona