How to find motivation to run? Check out our 7 helpful tips

Sometimes the most challenging part of your run is the journey from the couch to the door. How can you overcome this obstacle? Learn 7 tips to motivate yourself to run regularly.

Sine wave of motivation

Just six months ago, you successfully adhered to your training plan, but today you’re opting for another episode of a TV show instead of going for a run? Or maybe – following the initial excitement – your enthusiasm for running has faded? This is completely normal.

Motivation isn’t something you acquire once and for all. When plotted on a graph, you’d typically see a more or less dynamic sine wave pattern. This is actually good news, as it implies that depleted motivation can be replenished.

First self-reflection, then motivation

At the heart of your motivation lie diverse needs, ranging from the desire to compete and seek excitement to issues related to belonging and personal development [1]. At different times, these motivations may manifest with varying degrees of intensity. Consequently, it’s difficult to come up with a ‘one-size-fits-all’ formula for motivation.

Moreover, individuals with similar motivational needs, such as competition, might opt for entirely different approaches to fulfill them [1]. One individual finds motivation in competing against themselves, striving to improve their performance year after year, while another finds fulfillment solely by participating in competitions with others. So, individuals may share the same needs but different ways to satisfy them. Motivation (and the needs associated with it) follow a similar pattern.

This gives rise to a simple conclusion. To motivate yourself effectively, you must first consider your own needs and ways to fulfill them. Our tips can help you in this endeavor, but their influence on your motivation will realistically be felt only when combined with your self-reflection.

Where to look for motivation

While understanding your own needs is crucial for motivation, it’s important to recognize that motivation doesn’t reside solely in your mind. Of course, your internal drive is extremely important, but motivation can also be derived from outside – from other people [2]. Grant yourself permission to engage in competition with others, enjoy praise, and draw inspiration from motivational quotes. Let your friends cheer you on during races and proudly share your successes with them. Join a running group, if you feel the need to.

Such external motivation can be extremely effective and quickly get you back on the running trails. However, experts suggest that this approach will only be effective in the long run when combined with an inner conviction that running is something you genuinely want, it brings you joy, and helps you achieve your personal goals [3].

In summary, while external motivators are important, if you want long-lasting effects, never forget about internal motivation. Here are a few ways to assist you in achieving that objective.

  1. Set yourself new goals

Albert Bandura, a researcher on motivation, argues that the key to success lies in a sense of self-efficacy [2]. If you believe in your ability to accomplish an ambitious goal, you’re less likely to be discouraged by setbacks – and more likely to maintain motivation until the very end.

Of course, your ambitious goal should still be aligned with your actual capabilities, so it’s a good idea to develop a new plan with your coach. Excessive enthusiasm may quickly lead to overtraining. This applies not only to the goal itself, but also to the number of training sessions. For example, novice runners should begin with 3–4 workouts a week [4]. Meanwhile, taken over by a surge of motivation, they frequently jump straight into daily runs. This is not the way to go – the small-steps method is known to be more motivating.

On the other hand, your goal should also evoke curiosity. If you enjoy long runs, you’ll likely find greater motivation in the challenge of completing a marathon than in attempting to break a speed record over a short distance.

In a nutshell, your goal should make you happy.

  1. Monitor your progress

Seeing progress is a great motivator, but identifying areas of progress isn’t always straightforward. That’s why it’s advisable to track various parameters, including your personal bests, body measurements, and even your overall well-being [3]. It may turn out that the best motivator is not achieving a personal record, but rather how frequently you experience a positive mood or observe a decrease in your stress levels.

You can document your results, take photos of your workouts, or record videos to help track the progress you make. To ensure that your motivation leads you toward your goals, you should have effective action strategies in place, such as a workout plan, dietary guidelines, stress-reduction techniques, and so on.

  1. Make your life easier

Don’t force it! If morning runs aren’t your thing, consider rearranging your workout schedule to a different time. Even a small change like this can boost motivation. Leverage every small opportunity that contributes to the logistics of running.

It might be a good idea, for example, to prepare your running outfit in advance. This way, you will have it ready and at hand in the morning or after work [5]. You can also keep your running shoes and clothes in the trunk of your car to make it easier to train before heading home. Opportunities abound, so seize them to enhance your motivation.

  1. Remember to reward yourself

Motivation is closely linked to the brain’s reward system. That’s why you should reward yourself for your accomplishments Moreover, dopamine, which plays a crucial role in the reward system, is released not only after encountering a rewarding stimulus but even in anticipation of it [6]. As a result, the expectation of a future reward will motivate you even during your training, and perhaps even during the planning stage of the run.

However, make sure to reward yourself wisely. What does this entail? First and foremost, reward yourself for achieving specific goals, rather than just for having ‘good intentions’. Motivational incentives should be clear to the brain. The reward should match the level of effort you put in. Sometimes a small progress requires a lot of effort – those moments are worth acknowledging and celebrating. However, be cautious not to overindulge in rewarding yourself. If your rewards become routine, the brain may stop perceiving such stimuli as genuinely worthwhile [7].

  1. Time to have fun

The human brain tends to resist change (which explains people’s love for the songs they know by heart), but keep in mind that passion arises when exploring new things and experiences that captivate your interest [7]. Applying this principle to running, you can find motivation by experimenting with different training approaches.

For instance, explore new running routes, incorporate trail running into your training regimen, or supplement it with quick treadmill workouts (if your routine already includes trail running). Or perhaps it’s time to go beyond running and explore the world of triathlons? The options are plentiful, and their common denominator is fun. Enjoyment will ignite your motivation.

  1. Cheering always appreciated

In today’s fast-paced world, finding motivation in your surroundings can pose a challenge. It’s not always possible to synchronize training schedules with your friends or invite them to participate in competitions. Fortunately, this doesn’t limit your possibilities. Keep in mind that sometimes joining online motivational groups or simply sharing a story about your progress and challenges with someone is enough [7].

  1. Take part in running competitions

This is a quick remedy that has helped many runners to regain their running mojo. Competitions represent specific goals with a fixed timeframe, which serves as an extra motivator (if you skip training, it will affect the result you’re aiming for). In this case, an additional motivating factor is announcing your participation, for example by telling your friends or sharing the news on your social media. By nature, most people want to be seen as true to their word, so making such an announcement serves as a promise to yourself to follow through.

Keep in mind that even the most excellent advice won’t be effective unless you first consider your needs and evaluate your situation. Here are some questions [8] you can ask yourself to get off to a good start:

  1. What initially inspired you to take up running? Why did you choose this particular sport? Try to remember what initially drew you to it.
  2. Is there any specific motivation driving you to stay active now (such as fitness goals or maintaining a slim figure)? How can running contribute to achieving this goal?
  3. What (specific and measurable) sports goals do you have? What aspirations do you seek to fulfill in sports? How can running contribute to achieving these goals?

As you can see, the questions prioritize the positive aspects rather than focusing on obstacles and limitations. Especially since once you find the motivation, you’ll likely overcome most of the obstacles without any difficulty. Good luck!