How to Motivate Yourself to Run

Challenge yourself and motivate yourself to run without overwhelming your body and mind. Set reasonable goals and remind yourself how good you feel after a run.

happy dog running

I started running in high school. Though I was a good swimmer and rode my bike nearly everywhere as a kid, I was a horrible runner. Running made me pant for breath and caused my sides to hurt. Plus, I wasn’t very fast.

But I knew that learning to run, at least tolerate running, could help me get ready for a two-week bike trip slated for the summer before my senior year of high school. So, when workouts were held in a mall parking lot before school, I ran in circles, accompanied by new friends who encouraged me to keep going. At 16, I became a runner.

After mastered the basics, I decided to join my high school track team and compete in the two-mile run. Not only was the team a no-cut group, my chosen event was in its inaugural year and had limited competition. Showing up, then, meant that I could race, place in my event, and score points.

The experience was tons of fun. Again, I got to become part of team, part of something that was bigger than me.

Thinking back on that time and the past 10 years when I reinvigorated my running gives me ideas on motivation. Draw on your inner desire and keep moving forward with these simple tips to motivate yourself to run:

Make sure you really want to run

For me, the obvious motivation was that I really wanted to do well in the bike ride and was willing to commit the time to make that happen. But secretly, I had always wanted to be able to run. Getting prepared for a trip was a nice side benefit.

So having a true desire to run and be strong for its own sake is what can help you through a difficult beginning phase and keep you going as you progress in endurance and speed. Acknowledge your desire and hope, even it’s just to yourself. Then follow that feeling.

Set a goal

Having a goal has been essential to my persistence as a runner. I’d like to say that I can motivate myself just to run and have fun. I’m sure there are people who love to run just for the heck of it, or at least to elicit a runner’s high.

But having run 1) without a goal and 2) with a goal, I can attest that running with a goal is better for me. It’s easier to establish a consistent pattern of running when I have a specific purpose with a deadline.

Now, this goal doesn’t have to be lofty. It can be simple, like “I’d like to be able to run two miles without stopping” or “I’d like to run a 10K in less than an hour.” Having a target keeps you focused enough to set aside the time to run and push yourself to finish your workout each time.

Take it easy on yourself

Before I go on a run, I like to plan what I will accomplish. For example, I’ll decide that I want to run 4 miles or do long intervals after a mile warm-up. Often, these runs are dictated by a training schedule but sometimes by my mood.

But what I don’t do is overexert myself. I won’t go faster or further than I should. Not only does this approach protect me from injury but it also keeps me enthused. I can let myself get excited about getting a certain amount of work done without dreading the run.

Think about how much better you’ll feel later

Doing something now just to feel better later is not the easiest way to motivate yourself. But knowing that you can lift your mood during the run or immediately afterward plus feel stronger overall for days, months, and years to come can get you going.

I feel much calmer, happier, and more focused in the hours after a run, which definitely helps get me out of the house and pounding the street in my neighborhood or the paved trail along the greenway. Plus, I realize that running helps me build fitness in very little time.

Find a friend to help you

I often enjoy running alone now. But I could never have gotten started without friends by my side. After participating in a running program at my church, I can say that friends are not only powerful motivators, they are also great at encouragement.

After a 20-year hiatus from my high-school and young-adult running days, I am back. Knowing that I am no longer a horrible runner and can keep improving at nearly any age motivates me now.

I should mention that the community of friends who ran with me inspired me — not only as a teenager but now as an adult, remembering those mornings. I didn’t going around talking about how I was inspired or how those folks were an inspiration to me. All I knew was that if I showed up, someone would be there. And at least one person would be beside me. I think that’s all it takes for many of us: one person, beside us, showing up, day after day, smiling, encouraging. These early morning runs were the start of how I experienced Christian community.

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