By Sarah Foote
Every runner has a reason. A why. Some motivator that gets them up and out the door, inspires them to cover miles week after week. The motivation is intrinsic, the reward is internal. For most runners, it boils down to joy. There are a myriad of reasons that running brings us joy -- physical, mental, social, emotional, progress, consistency, health, competition, and so on. When a runner genuinely enjoys the rewards of running they are motivated to do more of it.
So what the heck is happening when we find ourselves lacking motivation to run?
Why have so many runners lost motivation over the past year?
And how do we (please, please, please) get it back?!
First, let me say that a lack of motivation is not a bad thing. If you’re not motivated to run, perhaps you should take a break from running. If the joy has been zapped from an activity that normally brings you joy, give yourself some time and space. Guilt-free.
A lot of people have reached out over the past couple of months to say, “Help! I have no motivation to run.” With deeper conversations, I’ve realized a few common themes almost all related to pandemic-living. Our races and events were cancelled in 2020, travel plans shut down. We haven’t been able to connect with running buddies as readily as we’re used to, if at all. And pandemic-fatigue feels heavy as we head into a new running season with continued uncertainty about tentatively scheduled events. For many, the joy has been tampered. Maybe not extinguished, but definitely reduced. And with reduced joy comes a lack of motivation.
What can we do?
Spring is here! Often, by this time of year many runners can tell you what races they plan to run for the rest of the year. Big adventures are on the calendar. Goals are set, training is underway, and logistics are being worked out. But in this moment, much is still swirling in uncertainty.
The best we can do to rekindle some motivation is narrow our focus, shorten our timelines, and re-spark joy.
Start small. Whether you have an idea of what you’d like to accomplish over the next 10 months, or not, start with the next few weeks. Set a short-term, manageable, but challenging goal and get to work on it. Maybe you want to get faster; great, you need some speed workouts. Maybe you want to increase your mileage; great, create a plan and start building. Maybe you want to start running again after a hiatus; great, tie your shoes 5 days a week. Whatever it is, whittle your goal timeframe down to 4-6 weeks.
Now that you have a goal, how will you find the motivation to show up for yourself and work toward actually achieving that goal?
Find a buddy! Share your goal with at least one other person. Stating your goal aloud to someone else adds a sense of accountability. Your goal belongs to you, but sharing it with another creates camaraderie, companionship, and a sense of belonging. When it’s raining, you’re sore, it’s dark, and you’re hungry it can be much easier to get out for a run or training session if you have a buddy to do it with or check in with when it’s complete. Enlist someone to help you stay accountable to yourself. And offer yourself to a friend to keep them accountable as well. You can set similar or wildly different goals. Either way, having someone hear you say “I did that!” or “That was nearly impossible,” goes a long way in motivating you to get your shoes on and go.
Motivation is born at the intersection of hard work and joy. The spark belongs to you! Whatever your reason for being a runner, remembering what brings you joy and creating it in small doses will help you relight your fire.
Sarah is a running coach and personal trainer in Portland, OR. She offers group workouts, training blocks, and 1:1 coaching to women online and in person. Details for upcoming workouts and adventures can be found at www.gobyfoote.com and follow along @teamgobyfoote