11 Ways to Get Motivated to Run… Without Signing Up for a Race
Let’s talk about motivation. Motivation to run, specifically.
You love running. You feel your best when you’re running on a consistent basis. You want to run.
So why can’t you get yourself out the door right now?
Why do your trail shoes remain in the closet collecting dust, instead of some well-deserved mud and dirt?
I’ve been there. And I’m sure you have, too. Let me just start by saying that sometimes, your body needs a break. Sometimes your lack of motivation to run stems from your body telling you to just rest for a bit.
Are you coming off of an intense training cycle? Just finished a big distance goal? Allow yourself some time to rest or you could find yourself in danger of overtraining, both physically and mentally. Some signs and symptoms of overtraining include consistently sore muscles, diminished performance, poor sleep quality, and an overall lack of energy.
If this resonates with you and you want to know more about overtraining… the signs of overtraining, how to prevent overtraining from running, and how to fix overtraining syndrome, check out my blog post Signs of Overtraining: More is not Always Better!
If you haven’t been overtraining and you feel well-rested… maybe too well-rested… then may need a healthy dose of motivation to get you running again.
Out of ideas? You’re in luck… I’ve listed 11 ideas to get you from binging on Netflix with a double batch of popcorn (no judgment here if that’s what you’re feeling!) to hitting the pavement on a consistent basis again.
What’s Your Motivation Style?
Before you go through this list, something you may want to think about first is your motivation style. If you know your motivation style, you’ll be better able to pinpoint which motivation methods to try first.
When it comes to motivation styles, there are two major forms of motivation… Extrinsic Motivation and Intrinsic Motivation.
Extrinsic Motivation is when you’re motivated by factors outside of yourself.
Things like social praise (like Strava), money, or outside expectations. If this is you, having a running buddy that’s counting on you, or rewarding yourself with new shoes after a running streak could work as running motivation.
Intrinsic Motivation is when you’re motivated by factors within yourself.
Things like self-accomplishment, finding joy, and self-purpose. If this is you, setting exciting goals or trying out a different type of running may work for you.
Which motivation style sounds more like you? You’re likely a combination of the two. But it’s helpful to note which motivation type is more dominant for you.
Ready for some running motivation ideas? Let’s get into it...
11 Ideas to Get You Motivated to Run
Establish Running Habits
Have an Easy Trigger
Set a Goal that Excites You
Set Achievable Goals
Talk to Yourself
Make Small Commitments
Have a Plan
Join a Challenge
1. Establish Running Habits
Motivation becomes a heck of a lot easier when you don’t need any motivation at all. Wait… what?
Think about brushing your teeth… it isn’t exactly a fun activity. But you likely do it every day. Probably twice per day.
Why? Because it’s habit. You no longer need motivation to brush your teeth. You don’t think about it. You don’t constantly question in your mind whether or not you should brush your teeth today. You just do it.
So what if you don’t already have running as an established habit?
Pair your running with another established habit. One that you will do no matter what. This may be driving home from work. You’re going to drive home from work. There’s no getting around that fact unless you plan to sleep at the office.
So why not change into your running gear before you drive home? When you put on your shoes before you get home, you’re less likely to make up excuses. The run still seems far away, and putting on your shoes is an easy task to complete.
Then, when you get home, you head out on your run before doing anything else. It becomes habit. And suddenly, you find yourself out on a run after every workday.
If you’re working from home, get your gear on before the end of your day. Then it’s just a matter of wrapping up your workday and heading out the door on your run. This also works great for lunchtime runs as well. Next time you go for that coffee top-up, quickly throw the running gear on as well… unless you have a Zoom video call before lunch!
2. Have an Easy Trigger
What do I mean by “trigger”?
I mean that thing that you do that tells your body that it’s time to run. In the above example, it’s putting on your running shoes before getting into your car or the coffee refill.
You want your trigger to be something easy. Something that you won’t procrastinate or second guess. Because it’s all about getting started. You know that once you’re out on your run, you rarely need motivation to keep running. You just need to convince yourself to get started.
By the time you’ve engaged in your trigger, you’ve already begun your running routine. You’re more likely to continue with your running routine and actually get out the door.
An easy trigger could be a walk around the block with your dog to warm up. It could be a stretching routine that you do before every run. If you’re looking for more information on the types of stretches you should be doing, check out Stretching for Runners: The How, Why, and When.
Make the trigger to your running the start of your routine. That’s the thing that will require willpower, not the actual running. If you make your trigger easy, you’re more likely to have the willpower to begin (and complete) your running routine.
3. Set a Goal that Excites You
Setting a running goal doesn’t always mean training for a race.
Personally, I want to run 100 miles. I don’t feel the need to accomplish this goal as a part of an organized event. But the thought of completing my 100-mile goal gets the excited tingles flowing at my core. Ridiculous goals and races excite me and I have a lot of energy to throw around. I know that about myself.
So, what excites you? Not what excites me. Your neighbor. Your friend. Or that ultrarunner on Strava.
It could be a distance goal, a time goal, or a running streak goal. You may want to run all the way from your city to the coast. You want to run an entire section of the Appalachian Trail. You may want to run sub 20 minutes in a 5k. Pick something for you.
4. Set Achievable Goals
As much as I’m excited by big, audacious goals, that may not be your thing. If you’re looking for some sense of achievement to get you going, you may want to set smaller goals… or at least smaller goals that lead to your ultimate big goal.
This can easily be seen with distance goals. If you want to run a 50k, you may first want to tackle your first 10k race.
Whatever it is, setting a not-so-scary goal could be just the motivation you need to lace up your running shoes and get back out there! Over time, these smaller goals can add up to a larger goal that you otherwise didn’t have the motivation to train for.
5. Commit Socially
If you lean toward the “extrinsic motivation” side of things, making a social commitment could be a helpful method for you.
You could commit socially by posting a goal on social media and sharing your progress along the way. You could get a running buddy that’s counting on you to meet them every Monday at 7am. I mean, really, you don’t want to leave them standing out in the cold, dark morning waiting for you, do you?
If you lean toward the “intrinsic motivation” side of motivation styles, though, making a social commitment like joining a running group could also be a helpful method for you. That is, if you enjoy socializing, and joining the group brings you internal joy. If it’s something that you look forward to doing every week. If it fulfills you in a way outside of running.
6. Temptation Building
Temptation building involves pairing a “want” with a “should”. You’re tempted to do the “want”. Automatically tie the “want” to your “should” (running), and you are now also tempted to do the “should” as well.
Is there a podcast you’re really into? Only listen to it while running. Your “want” is to listen to the next episode of your podcast. Your “should” is running. You’re tempted to listen to your podcast, so you’re also tempted to go out for your run!
7. Talk to Yourself
Talk to yourself in the second person… out loud. I’m serious!
When you engage in positive self-talk in the second person instead of the first person, you’re more likely to follow through on your running intentions. You’re also more likely to achieve the performance goals you’ve set for yourself! 
So instead of… “I’m going for a run after work today.”
Say to yourself… “You’re going for a run after work today.”
Instead of… “I’m going to break 25 minutes in my 5k today.”
Say… “You’re going to break 25 minutes in your 5k today.”
Why not try it out? No one needs to hear this but you. You may feel a bit silly, but you’ll feel a heck of a lot better when you’ve gone on that run and followed through on the running commitments you’ve made to yourself.
8. Make Small Commitments
Try changing the commitments you make to yourself smaller.
Instead of intending to run 10k five times per week, commit to just getting out the door five times per week. It’s less intimidating in your mind. And when you get dressed and laced up, you’re likely to run close to that 10k anyway. And when you don’t? Your body probably needed the break.
An object in motion stays in motion!
Keep your “object” (aka your body) in motion and you’re more likely to keep it in motion. So commit to getting out the door. Commit to running at least one mile. Commit to completing your pre-run warm-up. Commit to at least getting dressed!
9. Reward Yourself
Calling all extrinsically motivated runners! You don’t need to rely on another person or social media to motivate you. You can still motivate yourself… with rewards.
So after you successfully run 20 days in a month, treat yourself to a massage. After you break 50 minutes in a 10k, buy yourself those new shoes you’ve been wanting.
How do you reward yourself?
10. Have a Plan
When you have a plan, you make it more difficult to back out on yourself. You eliminate the excuses. You eliminate the pre-run procrastination.
Having a plan can mean anything from planning out your route the day before, getting your clothes set out the night before, or even prepping meals ahead of time.
You’ve also already taken action toward completing your running goal for the day, so you’re more likely to continue with that momentum and actually go on your run!
11. Join a Challenge
Joining an online challenge, or even a friendly competition amongst your running buddies, can be another method of getting you out of your running rut.
Having this little bit of competition is more effective in motivating you to run than just social support . So it’s great to join online running groups and support each other in that way. But if your online running group is hosting a friendly challenge, jump on it!
Did you know there’s a bonus motivation method? One that hits on a few of these other methods?
Yep! Hiring a running coach!
A running coach can help you to have a plan, to set smaller and achievable goals, and to commit socially. Use your coach as a tool for accountability as well as finding new ways to motivate you when one method isn’t working.
Jillian Beckham is wife to Brent and knows that he is definitely intrinsically motivated. She’s a mix of the two… probably like most people. She’s also a Health and Wellness Copywriter. If you’re looking for someone to write blogs that help you get more organic traffic to your website, feel free to reach out email@example.com or check out her website www.beckhamcopywriting.com