Shayna Schmidt | April 16, 2019

This is a truncated version of an article originally published on HVMN by Nate Martins.

Running is one of the most popular types of cardiovascular exercise because it requires no special knowledge, equipment or environment and its length and intensity can be adjusted to meet individual needs, regardless of age or fitness level. Check out this article for some of the benefits of adding running into your current fitness regimen. 

Now, what do you do if you know the value of running, but can't seem to find the motivation to do so? Or if you've started running, but have hit a wall? Having a playbook of motivational techniques is important for runners at every level who are fighting the same battle to log miles. Running motivation can come in different forms when the finish line isn’t in sight: new running shoes, a new training plan, or even joining a running club. But at its purest, motivation is the human desire to do something; unlocking that desire may be even more difficult than the task itself. In this piece, we’ll explore what types of motivational tools different runners can use, and how they can impact your training–and your life outside of running.

Motivation for Beginner Runners

As a new runner, it can be daunting to look at the miles ahead and know the only way to get there is with your own two feet. 

Set a goal

Begin at the end. Setting a goal provides something a runner can work toward. It can be a number of different things: maybe it’s weight loss, or picking a 5k race, or a certain number of miles a week, or even a half marathon. Whatever that goal is, keep it in mind each time you lace up those sneakers for a jog.

This will also help track progress. Write the goal down and place it somewhere you’ll see it every day, keeping markers of the steps taken to achieve it. After a few weeks, look back at the work accomplished and you’ll be able to see it actualized. See yourself achieving those goals and surpassing them.

Make it a habit

A morning run can ripple positively into the rest of your day. Acute aerobic exercise activates the prefrontal and occipital cortices in the brain, increasing “executive control.” This can help improve cognitive ability and can help control emotion. Morning runs can have effects that last into the night, like improving sleep quality. And it doesn’t stop there; studies suggest running can have overall health and cognitive benefits, especially later in life.

Besides the mental and physical benefits, there are less social obligations in the morning. You won’t get stuck at work or be tempted by a happy hour at 6am. Even if you’re not a morning person, you can likely train to become one. Pack all your running gear the night before. Set an alarm and place it across the room, forcing you to skip the snooze button. The more mornings you get yourself out of bed, the more consistent this habit will become. All it takes is choosing to run more times than choosing to snooze the alarm and sleep in. 

Ted Bross is a newly-graduated medical student starting his residency. He has participated in almost 30 ultra marathons, and developing a running habit helped him with medical school.

"Part of what helps me get through several of the mental stressors of medical school is pushing my body physically and relieving that stress. It makes me more of a disciplined athlete and is something that has given me a lot in my life." | Ted Bross

Develop a training plan

Checking boxes on a training plan can feel really good. It also answers some of the mental questions runners ask themselves before setting out: Where should I go? How long should I run? What pace am I aiming for? Just look at the running program, where it’s all outlined. Remember to develop your training plan in alignment with those goals you’ve set. And try to incorporate one long run per week.

 

Motivation for Intermediate Runners

There’s a fine line between getting into a groove and finding yourself in a rut.

Buy some new gear

Sometimes you need to pick low-hanging fruit. Purchasing some new running clothes, like a new pair of running shoes or running shorts, can provide motivation to run and test all that new gear. Depending on what you buy, it may also improve your training (like a fitness tracker).

New gear can also serve as a reward; small goals can be treated as important steps to accomplishing larger goals.

There’s also the “gear guilt.” Shiny new toys should be used instead of sitting in the back of a closet. Some may think using money as a type of running motivation is shallow, but there are few drivers in life like cold hard cash!

Introduce supplements

So much of success when running comes before (and after) feet hit the pavement. Nutrition should be looked at holistically, because supplements can provide a boost during the run and also help with recovery.

“Especially in the longer races, figuring out nutrition is something most people don’t spend enough time on.” | Ted Bross

Pre-run supplements include caffeine for energy, calcium for bone health and even creatine to reduce muscle inflammation. During-run supplements include sodium tablets, nutrition for fuel, and beverages for hydration! Post-run, focus on protein for muscle recovery and fish oil to reduce muscle soreness.

Cross train

We love this piece of advice here at Livekick! Many runners only run and never attempt strength or cross training sessions, which is a huge mistake. Ignoring this component of training inevitably means you're not unlocking a huge portion of your potential. Varying training can provide easy motivation to try a new sport–one you know can improve your running–and it’ll also keep you active on days you’re not running. It can also supplement during rehabilitation periods from physical injury, and improve overall physical performance.

Specifically, cross training can improve VO2 Max capacity (the measurement of the maximum amount of oxygen utilized during intense exercise). Swimming and cycling are great choices, but things like yoga can also increase flexibility and balance. Speed, agility, and quickness training (yes this is a real thing) can improve joint stability as well as reaction time and can finally get you to that elusive marathon PR!

By introducing strength workouts or cross training into your regimen, motivation can be found in presenting new challenges and accomplishing new goals.

Change up your location

Running on a treadmill can make you feel like a hamster on a wheel, just like running the same path multiple times a week can feel like Groundhog Day. The essence of running harkens back to being outside, and in a more spiritual sense, connecting with the space you're traversing.

It’s easy to feel invigorated by discovering a new place or hitting a new distance, so trail running or cross country running are always good motivators for the simple fact that they place you out of your element. The simple feeling of dirt under the feet and soaking up the essence of the trail provides an immediate lift and motivation.

 

Motivation for Advanced Runners

Advanced runners can have the most difficult time finding motivation because running is such a part of their life that it becomes an unquestioned obligation. 

Embrace the pain 

Stop and ask yourself: Why do I run? If running has become numbly intrinsic, this question can serve as a reinvigorating reminder to look within and remember why you fell in love with running in the first place. Additionally, reminding yourself that you’re accomplishing something difficult can inspire you to keep going because it means you're a wariror!

In a physical sense, powerful running comes from your core. So, in essence, you’re running from the gut. There’s something vulnerable about exposing yourself in that way, and showcasing the ability to be broken down (and thus built back up).

Ditch the tech (including music!)

Technological tools have forever changed running, giving anyone the opportunity to track pace and miles and calories burned. These also changed training by providing actionable targets to hit and measure performance.

But for you advanced runners out there, pick one day to run untethered by technology. It can serve as a great way to reconnect with the simple joy of running, ditching the gadgets to escape the metrics. Sometimes you have to operate on feel, and it can be motivating to find that energy within yourself instead of hitting a number on your wrist. Some of your best runs aren’t necessarily your fastest.

Many of us train with music, but that can act as a barrier between you and the world in which you’re running. If you’re participating in a race that doesn’t allow music, it’s especially beneficial to train without tunes and run to the beat of your own pace. A great technique for advanced runners is to try and pace yourself through breath. Elite running coach Jack Daniels, best known for his 1998 book Daniels' Running Formula is often quoted as favouring the 2:2 rhythm for his runners as it provides "the most efficient ventilation of the lungs." However, delving deeper into what Daniels actually says, this is his preferred rhythm for the majority of a distance race as runners may well switch to a 1:2 or a 2:1 rhythm at the end of a race in order to finish strong. Daniels points out that for slower paced easy runs, a 3:3 or even 4:4 rhythm may be better.

Improve your diet

Seeing results provides motivation to continue working. The results garnered from eating healthy show themselves in training. While carb-loading has been a staple of many runners’ race day routines, growing evidence suggests that a periodized approach to nutrition is optimal, especially for long distance races. For example, a marathon runner might undertake periods of training with a low-carb, high-fat diet, to boost fat burning followed by maximizing carb fueling for a race.

Exercise after an overnight fast can also increase fat oxidation, which can help with weight loss and, when the body gets better at burning fat, it can also help increase endurance. However, for anyone other than an advanced runner we'd recommend fueling up the night before a run. Listen to your body and see what works for you. One supplement that can provide some of the benefits of ketosis without the necessary dieting or extreme fasting is HVMN Ketone.

Even for those unwilling to make extreme dietary changes to benefit their running, there are incremental benefits to be had by cutting back on refined sugars, avoiding seed oils and getting plenty of omega 3s.

 

Motivation is an Endless Cycle

Remember: motivation comes and goes. But recognizing when you’ve lost motivation is almost as important as getting it back.

The struggle challenges all different levels–from beginner to expert runners. On the running journey, goals will be accomplished, routines will become stale, good habits will wane. This is all part of the process.

Finding the ability to motivate yourself won’t just improve your running. It’ll improve your life overall, and some of these strategies should translate to life off the running road.

Go forth. Run. And maybe find a bit of yourself in the process!