Can’t face going for a run? Here’s how to motivate yourself
Join a group and start a training diary and you’ll find getting going a lot easier
Diary date: there’ll be no snooze button on the alarm when a friend is waiting at the front door at 6am
An elite runner recently told me that she jumps out of bed each day looking forward to her run. Her morning is not complete without one. As a recreational runner I also love it once I get started, but I can struggle with the build-up.
Getting out of the door
I’m not alone. As a coach for recreational runners I spend more time motivating them to get out of the door than anything else. Many would admit that without each other’s support and the accountability of being in a group they would no longer be running. I’m no different. Having a group that is depending on me to turn up eliminates choice and helps start me running. Once I start I love it, but I certainly need a helping hand to get going.
The subject of running and motivation fascinates me. Why do some of us make excuses and postpone something that makes us feel amazing? Why do others run consistently and never procrastinate? I have a library of books on running, habits and fitness psychology that I happily read for fun, but I decided to delve further into the topic and go back to college to find out more.
Elite or not
I wanted to identify what more I could do to motivate my students, and myself, so I enrolled for a master’s degree in sport and exercise psychology. Most of the other students on the course came from elite-sports backgrounds and couldn’t understand why people didn’t “just run” if they enjoyed it. I couldn’t contemplate the level of focus, concentration and dedication these elite athletes were investing in tiny details of a golf swing or rugby lineout. We were clearly two different breeds.
More than 600 runners volunteered to take part in my research project, about the obstacles that women face in maintaining a jogging or recreational running routine. There were two clear differences between the consistent runners and the struggling or lapsed ones. First, lots of the consistent runners used diaries and training plans; struggling runners tended to run only when they felt like it. Second, many consistent runners said the accountability to a “real person” or the routine of meeting up with a friend or group was the key to keeping them committed.
The training diary
From their first beginners’ class right up to marathon runners, I ask all my students to keep a training dairy. Those who do so realise its value as soon as they need a little motivation. A diary reminds them of all their runs and charts all the lessons they learned. And as most people don’t want to see too big a gap develop in their diary, they’ll be encouraged to go on more runs. Set yourself up for success by investing in a paper diary or just creating a personalised spreadsheet on your computer.
The future diary
Choose a format that will be easy to read and simple to update. The starting point for the diary will be your running goal. Putting a training plan in place gives structure to both your diary and your running. Simply follow the plan, track your runs in your diary and watch as you create your running history. Updating your diary every seven days allows you to track your progress and plan for the week ahead. No longer do the weeks disappear. You start fresh each week as you plan the next batch of training runs.
The power of others
If your best intentions come to nothing you could enlist the help of a running buddy. You can run with a friend, join a club or even have a virtual running buddy. Having the regular structure of the meet-up gives discipline and routine to running. Most of us never make time for something that’s optional and flexible, but we will turn up if we’ve made an appointment. There’ll be no snooze button on the alarm when a friend is waiting at the front door at 6am.
Staying on track
Turning up consistently is what makes our running blossom and persist right through the good days, bad days and approaching winter days. Maybe I didn’t need to ask 600 people to confirm what I know already works for me and many of my students, but it is powerful to know that keeping on track is possible with a few simple supports that are all within our control.
Sign up for one of The Irish Times' Get Running programmes (it is free!).
First, pick the programme that suits you.
- Beginner Course: This programme is an eight-week course that will take you from inactivity to being able to run 30 minutes non-stop.
- Stay On Track: The second programme is an eight-week course for those of you who can squeeze in a 30- to 40-minute run three times a week.
- 10km Course: This is an eight-week course designed for those who can comfortably run for 30 minutes and want to move up to the 10km mark.
Best of luck!