Most mornings you may spring out of bed excited to start your day with a run in the cool air and sounds of chirping birds. There are days you probably can't wait for work to be over so you can lace up your shoes and hit your favorite trail. Hopefully, more than not, you are excited to go for a run. But, let's have a reality check. There are mornings you don't want to get out of bed and face the freezing cold. Or, work was totally stressful and the only thing you want to do is go home, sit on the couch and watch TV. As much as we love running, sometimes the motivation just isn't there and we choose not to run.
It's okay to have bad days, we all will and we can't run everyday. However, as most of you probably know, on days when you don't feel like running and you've still gone out, you don't regret it afterwards. Below are five useful tips to ensure you stay motivated to run even on days when everything is wanting to keep you inside.
1) Set a Goal
Having something to look forward to is a great motivator. Sit down and set a goal that gets you excited and offers a challenge. A goal could be trying a new race distance, setting a new PR, running a certain number of days in a row, or improving your overall speed. Whatever your goal, follow these simple, yet important principles ("Principles of Effective Goal Setting") to maximize your success in achieving what you set.
2) Get a personal or on-line running coach
Being accountable is one way to stay motivated. Having a personal or on-line running coach will make you accountable to someone for what you’re doing. A coach can look at what your currently doing, what your goals are, then put together a personal training plan to help get you there. Having a daily plan to follow gives you something to look forward to as well as the hope of improvement. A plan takes the guess work and hesitation out of training - you know what you’re supposed to run on a certain day and you’ve committed to doing it.
For help on finding a personal coach, visit your local running store and ask for suggestions. If an online coach would be of more interest, click the below button for options I offer.
3) Join a running group or get running buddy
Knowing you’re not going to be the only one outside running on that early, icy cold morning adds the extra motivation to get yourself out of bed and on a run. When you’ve committed to someone (or a group) that you’ll be on a run, it’s much easier to run. Check with your local running store and see if they offer group runs. Or, commit with a running buddy to meet up a couple times a week. If you need help finding a running partner, send a shout out to someone on Strava or start a virtual running friendship.
Running friends I think form some of the strongest bonds. It's amazing how much you can get to know someone in just a few short runs. Once you form some good running friendships, you'll most likely not be able to wait to go for your next run with them again.
I can't forget about our four-legged running buddies. Dogs can be some of the best running partners out there. Their excitement to go for a run is inspiring. I have a dog who loves to run as much or more than I do. Knowing I’m depriving her of a run, if I don’t go, is a great motivator to get out the door, even if I don’t feel like it.
4) Read an inspiring book
There are people out there that have done amazing things in life and running. Being able to read about their life's accomplishments or endurance through a trial, can give motivation to do better and be better. Even a well written fictional book has the ability to inspire and lift. One of my favorite motivational books is “Once a Runner”.
If you're not the type to sit down and read a book, you can listen to audiobooks. This gives you the opportunity to be doing other things while listening to books, like running. If you choose a good book and only listen while you run, this can help motivate you to run because you'll want to find out what happens next :).
Check out the list of books I have posted on my “Inspire” page for great options to start with.
5) Choose a reward
Nothing quite speaks to our hearts like a reward. Whether it be a bowl of ice cream, a new pair of running shoes or shorts, knowing you’re going to get a reward for achieving something can be a great motivator. Write out a list of rewards that will motivate you. Then, set a specific specific running related requirements you have to achieve to earn the reward. Requirements to could be running five days a week, meeting one new running friend, trying a new route etc.
How do I run faster?
Has this been a question you’ve asked yourself at some point? If so, you’re not alone. I think eventually most people who start running and those who have been running for a while want to improve and run faster. It may be to chase a title, set a record, or beat your personal PR.
If you’re new to running and haven’t been at it long, you will probably find your times steadily improving for some time, just from doing a three to five mile run, three to five times a week. However, at some point you will stop improving and eventually plateau. For those who have been running a long time and do nothing more than a regular run, of whatever distance, will stop seeing improvement to their times.
Some runners may not care about times and improving and are just fine running for the joy of it - that’s completely okay! For other runners who want to improve but find themselves plateaued and don’t know how to break through, it can be frustrating. I believe I’ve seen or heard a definition of frustration as “Doing the same thing the same way and expecting change.” In order to improve and run faster as a runner, you have to change what you’re currently doing and add speed and strength training into your weekly workouts. “Speed” work consists of Fartleks, Intervals and Tempo runs.
Before beginning speed work, you need a solid base of miles. For new and beginning runners I recommend having at least two to three months of nothing but long slow runs of three to ten miles, three to five times per week. Long runs are essential for distance runners who are training for races and want to improve - you should continue doing at least one a week throughout your training. During this phase of building base miles, throw in four to six 30 second sprints at the end of three of your weekly runs. These sprints will help introduce your body to speed and help improve leg turnover.
During your weeks of building base miles and as you begin adding in speed, I would recommend adding in strength training one to two times per week. Whether you use weights or bodyweight, focus on the main muscles used in running: shoulders, core, quads, hamstrings, and calves.
Fartleks, also known as “speed play” in Swedish, are periods of quicker running with periods of easy running. Fartleks do not have to be structured, they can be done during a regular run where you intermittently pick up the pace. It’s as easy as running hard from one telephone pole to the next then going slow to the next pole and repeating the process five or six times. Or, it could be picking out a landmark or sign and running hard to it, then jogging slow for a period of time while looking for another point or object to run hard to. If you listen to music while you run, you could run hard for one song then jog for the next and repeat. Run fairly hard on the longer periods, then run faster on the shorter periods. In the beginning try to get four to five minutes of hard running in. Gradually increase the amount of hard running to fifteen then twenty minutes. Have fun with these runs. Change up the terrain and places you do fartleks. Grab a friend and have them join you.
Intervals are more structured than Fartleks and are run with a bit more intensity. Intervals should be run at a high rate of effort (if 100% was a sprint, most intervals should be done in the 85-95% effort range) followed by a recovery period. For example, after a proper warm up, you could do a one minute interval followed by a two minute recovery jog and repeat that five or more times. Or, you could do a 30 second interval followed by a 30 second recovery jog and repeat that twenty times. The key with intervals is to do each one at the 85-95% effort range; so, you have to play with the amount of recovery time so that you are rested just enough to be able to give each interval the right amount of effort.
Most interval workouts are probably done on a track; but, they can be done on a road, path or trail. Some benefits to doing intervals on a track are: the track is a set distance (400m) allowing you to be consistent with each interval; no traffic, dogs, stop signs or stop lights to worry about; easy to have a water bottle placed to hydrate during recovery periods. However, with the help of a GPS watch, it’s easy to know how far you’ve gone, the pace your running and time per interval.
Tempo runs are longer than fartleks and intervals but are not run with as much intensity. Tempo runs begin with an easy warm up jog followed by a period of time or distance. This is run at a “comfortably hard” effort, followed by a cool down. “Comfortably hard” is not an all out effort and it’s not an easy effort. It should be an effort you feel you can sustain for 20-30 minutes but requires effort to do so. A good way to judge if you’re running at the correct effort is by speaking. If you can talk in full sentences while running, you’re not going fast enough. If you can hardly say a word or two, you’re going too fast. You want to be right in the middle, only being able to speak a few words at a time. This will probably be around 70-75% effort. Have fun with tempo runs as well. Change up the terrain, add in some hills and run with a friend. Tempo runs can be done separately or as part of your long run. If you do them as part of your long run, put in at least a mile or so before beginning the tempo portion and then allow for at least a mile cool down jog at the end.
How often should you do speed work? For new and beginning runners, start off by adding in fartleks once a week for three to four weeks and let your body get used to the quicker efforts. Then, change and start doing intervals once a week for three to four plus weeks. Also, start adding a tempo run in as part of your long run each week varying the time of the harder effort. For more experienced runners, who have already been doing some speed work, try doing a fartlek and interval workout in the same week with at least one easy day in between - do the tempo run every other week as part of your long run.
Don’t be surprised when after a few weeks of doing speed work you feel the pace of your normal runs start to pick up and your race times improve - it means you’re getting faster. Hitting new PRs and feeling fast is a great motivation to keep doing speed work; however, with anything run at a high intensity for a long period of time, things can break down and burn out. Eventually you’ll need to give your body a break and a recovery period. See my "Training Cycle for Runners" blog to learn more about when do do speed work and when to recover.
Think of the last time you were in a race or workout and felt yourself starting to get tired. What happened at that moment? Did you immediately start to slow down, cut the workout short or lose focus and talk yourself out of continuing all together? Or, did you push through and keep going?
I'm sure we've all been guilty of giving in when the little voice inside our head says "Man, I sure am getting tired" or when our legs start to feel a little heavy or we start feeling weaker. However, have you ever had the thought of quitting and continued on anyway finishing the race or workout? If so, you'll know that despite what your mind was thinking or your body feeling, you had more to give.
As a runner, it's important to learn the difference between being "Tired" and being "Done". Being tired is the natural occurrences from pushing yourself; such as feeling fatigued, heavy legs from lactic acid build up or your energy level dropping. Being tired is okay and should be expected; however, recognize it as just that...."tired".
Being "Done" is when you collapse because your body is spent and has nothing left to give (as demonstrated in the below video) or when an injury occurs and it's smarter to stop whether than continuing potentially making it worse.
With "Done" being portrayed in the above video, most runners have never hit that point whether in a race or workout. This means what's being experienced most the time, is just feeling "Tired".
Now that you can see the difference between being "tired" and being "done", what can you do when you start feeling tired so you don't end up calling it "done"? Watch the below demonstration to see what you can do to make sure you don't succumb to being "tired" and finish what you started.
As you saw in the above demonstration, just because you're tired doesn't mean you're done. With the right motivation (ie. "Dollar") Bryson was able to do more push ups. So what's your dollar? What is it that will motivate you to do push yourself onward even if you are tired? Take some time and do some soul searching and decide what you want your "Dollar" to be. Then, when it's time to spend it, pull it out and use it.