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When Motivation is Missing

Lately, my motivation to run has seemed to drop with every degree that the temperature rises. I find myself using the heat and humidity as an excuse to cut things short, or not run at all. Add to that a schedule that’s been getting busier and busier over the past few weeks and well…I’m sure you can imagine where this is going.

So last week, I had a mission. I wanted to ramp up my mileage by running consistently through the week and doing a long run over the weekend. The scary fact is that marathon training is starting up again, and I’m feeling less than prepared. Every time I train for a marathon, I vow to keep that level of fitness up so I won’t have to start building up my base from the beginning again. And every time I find that taking a break from intense running and long runs seems so much more appealing than being in awesome long-distance shape year-round. But I digress…

In order to get through my week of running, I had to pull out the big guns. Here are some of the strategies I use when I’d rather hang out on the couch in my sweats than sweat outside on the run.

Fighting Inertia (i.e. How to Get Your Butt Out The Door)

Pack a bag and drive straight to the gym. If I set my car on a straight path to the gym instead of going home, I eliminate a lot of the excuses that crop up when I get home first. Excuses that often appear in the form of a wide-eyed furry face who is tired of being alone.

DSC_0002_2.JPGSee – he’s practically begging me not to run with those eyes…

Make a new playlist. Yes, you all know how much I love running with music. But what you might not know is I’m that person who makes one long running playlist, and then listens to it over and over (and over!). My current playlist has been cycling into my ears since the National Marathon (and even that one was almost the same as the I had made for the Hyannis Half in February). While it was a playlist powerful enough to push me to run my fastest marathon to date, after so many miles, it was getting a little tired. I hate to admit it, but even Mumford & Sons has stopped moving me as well as they once did (sorry boys).

So before I set out on my long run yesterday, I downloaded some new motivation-enhancing tunes. Nothing makes me more excited to run than a fresh set of songs to dance to run to. On the list: The Show Goes On (Lupe Fiasco), Hello (Martin Solveig), Party Rock Anthem (LMFAO), and Give Me Everything (Pitbull), along with some new Adele. I can’t have a running playlist without songs that speak to my emotions, can I?

dancersubway.jpgObviously this is exactly what I look like when I’m dance-running

via Jordan Matter

Go exploring. While my new neighborhood has more delicious food options than I’ve ever had before, the running options are less than stellar. Because of this, sometimes going out for a run seems so unappealing. On days when I’m really struggling to find the motivation, I try to change my perspective first. Instead of going for a run, I head out for a little adventure by foot. Running is my favorite way to explore, after all. So I strap on the watch, pick a direction and just run. Making up a new route as I go never fails to help the run go by faster.


Join a running group, or find a running buddy. Okay, so in the spirit of full disclosure, this is something I haven’t actually done yet. I have my eye on two local running groups to join, but have been a little nervous to take the plunge. I will join though (I’m writing it on the blog, so it now it has to happen!). Not only will running with faster people help me get faster, but it will also give me extra motivation to do speed work – something I never feel like doing when I’m not actually in training (and sometimes even when I am). I like running for the sake of running – speed work is just a necessary evil I need if I want to run fast. And in the summer, when things start heating up, my motivation to run fast drops even lower. So I’m determined to do something about it.

Sheer force. Yes, I know this sounds awful. But sometimes my lazy mind is way louder than my will to exercise….even when I know it is best for me.  And the only way to get it to stop over-analyzing or complaining is just to take back control and force myself out the door. I bargain with myself, tell myself I only have to do a mile or two, or give myself permission to walk if I’m really feeling awful. Usually I find that once I start running, I’m okay. It’s just getting out the door that’s the tough part.

And when all else fails, don’t run – try another form of exercise instead. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – there’s nothing wrong with taking an occasional break from running. I’ve been running seriously for 13 years now, and the only thing that has kept me going strong all these years is having times when I’m not stressed about my weekly mileage, or my mile splits, or getting in that long run. When I went to visit my family over Memorial Day, I didn’t run once. On a walk with my Mom, she asked me if I missed running when I took these mini breaks from it. I surprised even myself with my answer: NO. I love training. I love the structure, I love the progression, and I love watching my times get faster and my endurance get stronger. But sometimes I just need a break. Not feeling guilty for NOT running is what helps me attack my next training cycle with a renewed vengeance.

That being said, I’m ready. I’m ready to start following a schedule and increasing the intensity of my runs. It’s been a fun couple months filled with races and running for enjoyment but I’m starting to feel the itch to train again. Hopefully that will keep me motivated through the heat and humidity of the next few months.

30 Responses to When Motivation is Missing

  1. I’m having motivation issues too! Thanks for the post. I’m about to start marathon training, and I’ve been trying to get myself excited and it’s just not happening.
    Cyndi @ Weightless Life´s last post ..First Harvest

  2. I love exploring on runs….it’s a great way to have a run FLY by since you’re so distracted! (Read my Big Sur race report if you need to be convinced of that…)

    Definitely join a running group/team! I’ve met SO many people in this city through running, and I love that I know tons of people when I show up to races. Or, if I’m lacking motivation, I can put a call out on twitter and find someone to run with!

    Yayyyy marathon training! I can’t believe it’s that time again…
    Susan´s last post ..Mini 10k Race Report

  3. I admire you so much for not feeling guilty when you don’t run. And for respecting that down time is necessary. I think a lot of runners struggle with what to do when they’re not training, and guilt is such a common emotion.

    Good luck, Lauren! I hope you find your motivation somewhere. I have no doubt that you will :)

  4. Definitely join a running group! In Chicago, summer is marathon training season so all the running stores have weekly fun run nights. Nike sponsors a pace group that travels to each store, so technically you could run with a paced group 3+ nights a week! That’s a bit much for me, but it’s a great way to meet people. Running with other people makes me go so much faster.

    A new pair of running shorts doesn’t hurt either :)

    • That’s really neat! When I watched Spirit of the Marathon I was actually really jealous of all the group runs there seem to be in the summer/fall.

      And yes, getting new running clothes always does it for me too :)

  5. Packing a bag & driving straight to the gym is the only way I’ll go. If I have to stop home after work to change, that’s it – there’s no leaving the house again. I started bringing my bag with me to work and I’ve seen incredible consistency with my workouts. Apparently it’s the key to my success!

    I hope you get back into the swing of things soon :) Do you have any races in mind?

    • I’m doing a couple local races this summer (a 10 miler and a 1/2 marathon) and am doing MCM in the fall. I see that you are too!! This will be your first marathon, right?

      • That’s great you already have a few to get you motivated to train. Ah, I’m jealous of your summer racing! Way too hot here in Austin. MCM will be my first, if my shin splints don’t ruin it for me…
        Melissa´s last post ..They’re baaaackkk!

  6. This post seriously couldn’t have come at a better time! I snoozed through my alarm this morning with absolutely ZERO motivation to get up and run. As I laid in bed (which felt spectacular, by the way), I realized that little motivation has been a trend over the last week. I am strongly considering taking it easy and just running when the mood strikes me for the next week. I’m hoping that will help the motivation return! I want it back!!!!!
    Good luck to you with your motivation! The steps you laid out sound really effective. I will be using them if my current plan fails!
    Katie @ Life… Discombobulated´s last post ..Thankful Thursday

  7. These tips are perfect, Lauren, and your post has come at just the right time. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been making excuses not to run, mostly because of the heat and … mosquitoes (I know, lame! So what if the Northeast has been damp this spring??). I really am throwing up the most pathetic obstacles, especially since I love running. I’ve persuaded Peter to run with me for about 10 minutes once or twice a week (he hates running, but I think he’s liking it more now). Time to step it up, I guess :) I think the key for me will be to find some new music – I haven’t put anything new on my mp3 player for a loooong time.

    Thanks for the great list, Lauren! Have a fabulous week!!!

  8. I loathe building up my base again! That’s the one thing that will get my butt out the door between marathons!

  9. Great, Lauren! I am so proud of you. I would love to hear how the running group goes.

    P.S. I’ve used Tahn more then once as an excuse not to exercise… :)
    Brittany (BrittanyandTahn)´s last post ..Smoke Alarms and Tahnee Lynn

  10. So a) it happens don’t worry you are allowed!! b) what marathon? c) I totally agree on the muisc, i would love to hear what else you added, i spent all friday night trying to find good new songs, no luck grr but I did end up with an awesome 5 miler and half marathon playlist if you want to swap. and finally i wish i could help you be a running buddy but you are wayyyyy faster than me!
    Stephanie´s last post ..The Day I Fell In Love with Squirrels

  11. I think the process of actually writing out a training schedule is also really motivating! Do you already have a marathon picked out?
    Liz´s last post ..Unplugged

    • I signed up for MCM in the midst of all the craziness on registration day! I’m probably going to be bothering you for all sorts of race advice as we get closer to October :)

  12. Duh, a playlist! That would definitely get my butt back out there. I agree on the weather thing, ugh! Worst motivation ever.

    Best motivation ever – I read they are bringing a Pinkberry to Garden City!?! Field trip!?
    Erin @ Big Girl Feats´s last post ..‘Ziety

  13. These are some great ones, Lauren! I love the “go exploring” one. That’s one I don’t often think of as a motivator but it really is one of my favorite things about running. It’s my favorite way to explore a new city, but it’s also great for exploring your own area as well. I have found so many places/restaurants/stores/parks/things in general running that I never would have seen/noticed otherwise.

    The going straight to the gym one is a MUST for me, too. Once I’m home there is pretty much a 0.2% change of me getting back out the door:).
    Erin @ Until You Tri´s last post ..Gotein Review Giveaway

  14. Oops, I meant *chance, not change:)
    Erin @ Until You Tri´s last post ..Gotein Review Giveaway

  15. YES to all of these! Running in new places, or sometimes just changing up a route a little bit can make a big difference. So can new songs. The songs that motivate me definitely change over time, so finding new ones that are speaking to me is always a good idea.
    I know that my run will not happen if I wait until after work, so that in itself is my motivation to get out the door. Actually, I don’t really give myself a choice in the morning (unless I’m sick or really, really tired) – I just get up and go! The less I think about it and just get out there, the less time I have to talk myself out of it.
    I would love to hear how the running group goes! I think that’s a great way to stay fresh and motivated. I wish I could convince myself to make time for that…maybe someday!
    Corey @ the runners cookie´s last post ..Gait Analysis- The Results

    • I will definitely let you know! I keep making excuses for why I don’t have time to join them in the evening, but I know I could make time if I really wanted to. My goal is to go next week. I just have to make the plunge…

  16. May was a horrible running month for me motivation wise and now I’m trying to get back on track as well. I really agree with your suggestion to do something besides running- when it comes down to it, all that really matters from a health perspective, is that we do SOMETHING that elevates our heart rates. And I’m all about the new playlist too!
    Christine´s last post ..This is Very – adjective

    • I think that’s an excellent point! Although I love running and training for races, the most important thing for physical health is not whether you run or not, it’s whether you are getting regular cardio exercise (now it might be another story for my mental health… ;))

  17. I’m glad one of us is ready to get back into training again. I think I might be loving the down time a little *too* much. Running with people and planning my workouts (packing my gear) is definitely helpful. If I didn’t lay my stuff out at night, I would never get a morning workout done.

    And I would like to add – emailing friends for motivation is critical to success. Prepare for a full inbox.
    Becky´s last post ..Running Resources

  18. I said the same thing to myself when I finished my last marathon (May 1)…that I was going to start back at pretty high mileage and build from there so I had even more base mileage starting NYC training then before! Well, then school got tough, the weather got hotter, and “social running” was basically all I could get in. I feel a little guilty, but try to remind myself that running at all is still better than nothing and I’m doing the best I can do. And, it makes me a little more excited to start training for NYC once 3rd yr is over (Sat!). In addition, Sat’s 10K kicked me in the butt so a little extra motivation there! What marathon are you training for? And, just curious, what was your best marathon time before your 3:20 ie mine is 3:48 and I want 3:35 at NYC and have contemplated doing like you said (posting 3:35 everywhere), but think that may be too big of a jump for me…
    Meggie´s last post ..Climb Mountains While You May

    • I’m training for the Marine Corps Marathon in October (http://www.marinemarathon.com/).

      As far as my marathon times go, before running 3:18 at National, my PR was 3:26, so I took off 8 minutes. But my jump to 3:26 was even bigger. I had only done one other marathon before that, and my time for that marathon was 3:45…almost 20 minutes slower! So I definitely think it’s possible to take off a good chunk of time. I’m not an expert, but I’d be happy to talk to you about what I did, if you’d like! (Briefly, I think multiple 20-milers and speed work are both really important).

  19. great post! I’ve been struggling with motivation too, but am finding that taking the pressure off when it comes to upcoming races or key workouts really helps. Going out there for a nice and easy run is what I’ve needed. And running buddies are always great too :)
    Kelly´s last post ..NYRR Mini 10K Recap

  20. The exact same thing happens to me year after year. I always say I’m going to keep up with running after races, and I always don’t. I ran a half marathon in March and the most I’ve run since then is 5 miles. Oops.

    I totally agree about going straight to the gym after work. My dog gives me that please take me for a walk instead look and it’s all over.
    Lee´s last post ..A Relaxing Night

  21. I love this post! I think it’s just natural to get burned out by running every once in a while. These are great tips. I love exploring areas by running and other times I’ve been known to force myself out the door! I hope you find your running mojo soon!

  22. These are great tips! As runners who want to do this activity for a longgg time, I think it’s normal for our motivation to wax and wane. I’ve noticed that sometimes I just need to ride out the blah feeling, eventually I’ll be ready to return to training and racing again. Sounds like you have a great outlook on taking time off – I think breaks make us appreciate the sport that much more :)

  23. Another great post!!! One of my running partners Nancy always stays in long distance shape- 10-12 miles throughout the year. When I finish a marathon I often need a break and I like to try to concentrate on other things, like getting faster, cross training etc. I definitely appreciate teh tips and I’m looking forward to different scenery this training season… meaning coming to Providence to run!

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