Your goal may be that you need to lose some weight or perhaps you want to qualify for Boston. Oftentimes many people fail to achieve their goals not because they lack talent, but because they can’t stay motivated to train and they ultimately quit. I’ve coached a few busy athletes who purchase a plan with the best of intentions, but after a few weeks, they simply disappear. Motivation is one of the biggest challenges faced by athletes. In this article, I’ll show you some proven strategies to get started and maintain your schedule of working out & training for a race.
You don’t need to get caught up overthinking thinking, taking action is easier than you think.
“It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.”
Leonardo Da Vinci
I’ve been there myself when I was plagued by injuries. I’ve also coached many runners who fall into this category. In this article, I will discuss how you can make a change. The following three steps are a proven strategy to help you Stop Thinking and Start Doing!
Set Your Priorities & Define Your “Why”
Start by defining your priorities. What do you want to achieve the most? Think of this step as defining your “why.” You want to feel connected to what you’re doing. It’s not just setting a goal, but it’s having clarity for why the goal is important.
Some examples may be losing some weight or simply improving your health. You might want to run in a race to raise money for a cause that’s important to you. Your why might be setting a Personal Record in a certain race or distance because you want to challenge yourself and improve upon previous performances.
One strategy I use to help stay motivated anytime I’m thinking of skipping a planned workout, is to think of my “why.” If it’s really important I know that I’ll figure out how to get out and complete the workout.
Project How Life Will Be When Your Goals Are Met
If you have a goal that you really want to reach, focusing on the end result (or your why) is a great strategy to help keep you on track. Think of it as giving you a purpose to do what is needed to meet the objective.
Project How Life Will Be When Your Goals Are NOT Met
This strategy is particularly helpful if you’re running to improve your health. If you feel that your health is not where you want it, then you must “pivot” and do something different. Think about what your life may be like if you don’t lose weight or improve your health. Consider the effect on your family if your health were to decline significantly. Using this strategy is an excellent way to maintain your discipline.
Figure Out How To Reduce Stress
Stress is a big factor if you’re having problems staying disciplined and on track to meet your goals. Identifying the root cause of your stress is the first step in minimizing it’s effect on your ability to follow your game plan. Whether it’s work or family related stress, it’s essential to determine how you can reduce this stress, so you can workout. It might just be that running and/or exercise are the best ways to reduce your stress. Some people like to run in the morning, so they don’t have to stress about it later in the day. Other people like to run later in the afternoon as a way to reduce the stress that’s built up during the day. Regardless, once you figure out how to reduce stress, you will have a much easier time concentrating on the accomplishing your goals.
Put Accountability Into the Mix
Try to find a way to hold yourself accountable for whatever activity or goal for which you’re trying to stay disciplined.
If your “why” is connected to a running goal, I recommend setting both short and long-term goals. It’s important to set specific goals that are consistent with your athletic abilities and your specific situation. The long term goal can be a stretch goal, but the short term goals should be realistic and align with the long term goal. All goals should not only be specific, but measurable with some kind of time to completion.
You can start with the long term goal and walk backwards with goals and/or steps necessary to ensure your success.
One caution is to set realistic goals. Qualifying for the Boston Marathon might be a big stretch if you just started to run. This could be a great long term goal, but it’s more likely that you’ll be more successful by starting small with something like working out 3-4 times per week and then completing a 5k.
Give yourself due dates for each of these goals, but don’t get discouraged if you can’t achieve everything as planned. If you’re better off than when you started, then celebrate the progress.
Don’t train on your own, let me help. Achieve your best performance with a personalized Crushing 26.2 “middle age marathoner” training plan.
Momentum Comes Through Actions, so do Anything That Moves You Forward
This is one of the best strategies to accomplishing your goals. Start by identifying small next steps that are “next to impossible” for you not to complete. Every small act is significant. There’s an old saying that may help you better understand this concept, “you can’t eat an elephant in one bite.” What can you do right now to take even the smallest step towards achieving your most important goal?
Break Down Tasks in Subtasks
Following along the previous step, sometimes when a goal seems too big to tackle, this puts up barriers in our mind. These barriers often prevent us from reaching our intended results. Try using subtasks or “small bites” to make the long term goal more manageable.
As you think about your sub tasks or what you can do next, hold the expectation that the answer will be something simple that can be done in the next 30 minutes or less. Whatever reasonable answer pops into your head, accept it and act on it immediately.
Once you commit to getting started, momentum carries you. Producing results builds positive momentum. With momentum you’ll get ahead and make progress much faster.
It’s also essential to look at your progress. If your goal was to lose 20 lbs while getting in shape to run a local 5 or 10k race and on race day you lost 14 lbs, celebrate your progress. It should easily be enough to keep you going because you’re now over half way to our weight loss goal. In addition to the weight you have already lost, my guess is that you have also lost inches off your waist. When you finish the race, you will also feel very accomplished.
Workout With Others or Get a Coach
When you regularly workout with others it can really help you to stay disciplined. Many local gyms have running groups that meet 2-3 times per week. Many races also sponsor group training where runners meet regularly to complete longer runs and harder track workouts together. It’s like having a support group that holds you accountable and keeps your motivated.
If you’re able to complete your workouts on your own, but your challenge is you’re not sure what to do to prepare for a race, then a coach can help. You can join a group that has a coach who will help 5-15 people who are training for the same race. Alternatively, you can pay for a coach to write up a custom training plan that uses the athlete’s input and is specific to their goals and athletic abilities.
Some coaches allow you to schedule specific workouts to fit your weekly schedule. This is a nice feature, but what’s equally important is showing the athlete how to make adjustments to the schedule when they miss a workout. For example, many people schedule their long runs for the weekend. However, if you had a preference for another day of the week, a coach could adapt the schedule to fit your needs.
If you desire regular interaction with a coach in addition to a custom plan, then personalized coaching may be the best solution for your needs. These plans are more expensive, but they provide the ability for instant feedback and to ask questions.
I offer a very affordable monthly plan or a discounted 5 month plan that’s perfect for anyone who has signed up for a race, like a marathon, that’s 4-5 months out.
Focus on the Positive
Psychologists advise us to stay positive for a good reason. A negative attitude fuels fear and anxiety, keeping you from reaching your goals. You always think of what could go wrong instead of keeping an open mind.
Keeping a positive attitude is good for your health too. It boosts your motivation and inner drive, helps you stay strong when times get tough and gives you a fresh perspective on the world around you.
How successful distance runners stay motivated
Finding motivation to run when you’re not in shape
It’s hard to stay motivated for months to train for a long race like a 1/2 or full marathon. This is why it’s a fantastic achievement to complete a race. In this article, I will show you some proven strategies used with other middle age runners that will keep you motivated to train, so you can get to the starting line healthy and confident.
Simply finishing a race can make you feel so accomplished. This is because of all the hard work that must be completed over months of training. The challenge faced by many runners is the risk of losing motivation and stalling somewhere along the way. I have found that runners who are consistent with good habits almost always enjoy success.
I work with a lot of competitive people who must balance a busy work, family and commitment filled life along with managing their running. Following are some of key components of their lifestyle that keep them motivated to train and enjoy running success year after year.
Make It Routine
Successful training and staying motivated to train is about finding the right balance in your life. When you’re nailing your workouts, this will lead to greater motivation, which in the long run leads to successful racing. There’s tons of articles discussing how marathon training tears down your body. Although long runs, speed work and marathon paced workouts among other workouts are necessary components of a good training plan, one of the key elements of a good plan is rest. With proper rest, your body will build itself back stronger than before.
Once you identify this balance between hard and easy workouts and rest, you need to make it a routine where each week serves a purpose. If you start experiencing frequent poor workouts or races or if you find yourself often sick or injured, then your training or even your life stresses may be too much. This can be demotivating and is a sign that you aren’t allowing sufficient recovery. Speak with your coach or if you don’t have one, try to include more recovery into your training.Confidence
The most important ingredient of success and staying motivated to train is confidence. Having a positive mindset is important. If you’re an experienced runner, you likely know the workouts that give you confidence. I strongly recommend completing these in your training throughout your year to keep you motivated. Greg McMillian and others suggest including “confidence-building” workouts close to your key races. In my experience, I feel great when I’ve been able to run a marathon paced longer tempo within a few weeks of a race.
If you’re a beginner runner, I recommend using the services of a coach who can personalize a training plan with workouts and rest days for you based on your athletic ability. As you progress through the plan, you need to have confidence in the coach’s system.
Even when you don’t have successful workout or race, it’s important that you don’t dwell on it. This is important for all levels and ages of runners. If you’ve put in the work, you still may have a bad day. You can’t let one bad workout or race knock you down. Successful runners are ready to move on to the next day’s training or another race because they know that bad days aren’t a true indication of their fitness.
This goes back to life’s stresses. I’ve learned and often remind my clients that you have to take control over what you can, and stop worrying about what you can’t.
Training consistently month after month and year after year will lead you to your full potential. Avoiding overtraining and the resulting injuries and sickness will allow you to focus on long term goals. Years ago, I trained with the Hanson Method and I recall Luke Humphrey stating that a year of running without injury or illness was much better than a month or two of awesome training. When you train long enough with a smart plan and trust in a proven system, you reach your goals as long as you stick with it.
Don’t train on your own, let me help. Achieve your best performance with a personalized Crushing 26.2 “middle age marathoner” training plan.
Run In the Morning
I believe that morning runners are productive people. Being productive can certainly help your motivation and remove a reason often used for not getting out to run (“I’m too busy). I don’t run every morning, but when I do, I usually plan every hour of my day. In this way, I’m more motivated because of how productive I’ve been throughout the day.
If you’re not used to running early, test the waters and start with one or two days per week. Knowing you have other mornings to sleep a little later can make getting up early less painful. Also, to make running in the morning easier, it’s important to go to sleep earlier or you risk suffering the effects of insufficient sleep.
Strength Train Regularly
Building muscle not only improves your health, but also helps to reduce injury risk and I believe helps your overall running performance. When your performance improves, you’ll be motivated to continue to train. There’s numerous studies documenting endurance athletes and the impact of strength-training programs (either plyometrics or weights) on boosting fitness and improvement of runners’ times in 3K and 5K races.
I detail an effective 15 minute plyometric workout on this site. It’s a tough workout and it’s not for beginners, but I think it’s been effective at keeping me injury free and maintaining my level of fitness. Additionally, I continue to video numerous strength & flexibility workouts on my YouTube channel.
My recommendation is to complete strength training on your hard days. If you have the energy after a track workout or long run, perform a 15-20 minute strength & conditioning workout. In this way, you keep your hard days, hard and your easy days, easy.
It can be challenging to stay motivated to train throughout the year, especially if you typically workout on your own. Work these strategies into your plan. They key is to develop a routine and stay consistent. Try to complete a few workouts each week with others and if possible, use a coach to develop a plan that’s suitable to your abilities and with whom you can discuss modifications for instances when injuries, sickness or life just gets a little too hectic. In the end, motivation is really about having confidence in what you’re doing and how you feel.
Many new runners give up early in the game because they feel that they’re not going to be shape in time for the race. It’s understandable when injury or sickness is the reason for not being in shape. However, what’s more common, is that life gets busy and 5 runs/week turns into 1-2 per week.
Suddenly the reality of not being in shape for the race can “sinks in.” Inevitably, the motivation to get “back on track” diminishes and self-confidence takes a hit. In this post, I will provide proven strategies that help runners get past that point in the training schedule where self-doubt about one’s performance lead to lack of motivation and low self-confidence.
The Importance of Goal Setting
First, it’s important to set realistic goals for yourself. Although how to properly set goals is a topic for another blog post, my point is that if you’ve set a goal that requires more time or even athletic ability than you realistically have, you may be setting yourself up for big disappointment.
Setting goals involves more than just a specific finishing time, it may also include the race itself or simply being able to run a certain amount of workouts. For example if the farthest you’ve ever raced is a 5k, it may not be appropriate to sign up for a marathon that’s 3 months away. Give yourself adequate time to build up towards a 10k, then ½ marathon and finally a marathon. It may take 12 months or more depending on your current abilities.
By setting reasonable goals and committing to a training plan that’s personalized to both these goals and one’s athletic ability, we stand a much better chance to succeed.
Learn how to run slow
Another reason many new runners struggle to get in shape is that don’t know to pace properly. They simply run too fast. The result is that they associate running with pain. Since running hurts every time they do it, it’s no wonder that beginner runners get frustrated and end up losing the motivation to continue to train.
In my marathon training book, Crushing 26.2, there’s a complete section on how and why it’s important to run slow. Although it takes time and practice to get fit and learn how to pace yourself, it’s a skill most experienced runners have mastered.
I’ll admit, for beginners, running feels tough when they first start, I can assure you that this agony won’t last and although early on you may feel exhausted, you will progress.
Most runners are different, so they get in shape at different rates. Before training for a race such as a 10K, ½ or full marathon, the body needs to build a solid fitness base. The best way to accomplish this is to run at an easy pace for as much as 85% of your running.
It may take 3 months of running 4-5 times per week to be able to build up to 3-4 miles without stopping. The good news is that unless you become injured or sick, most people, if training properly, will quickly improve and be able to run further than 3-4 miles without stopping.
The other benefit of running slow is that it promotes recovery. You can’t run fast all the time and expect to stay healthy.
Having the patience to run slow and build up a running base, will pay huge dividends when it comes time to complete a 16-20 week training plan.
How to Beat the Excuses Not to Run
We all have busy lives with daily or weekly challenges that can make it hard to get out and run. Successful middle age runners have figured out how to deal with potential obstacles by employing some creative thinking.
Following are a few of the most common “barriers” my clients have presented and the solutions we’ve devised to keep them training.
- I’m too busy with work that I don’t have time to run – We’re all busy, but if you’re serious about your running and it’s important to you, the best solution is to schedule your exercise. At the beginning of each week, I look at my training plan and determine how much time will be needed to complete each workout. I currently coach a runner whose only time to run on weekdays is if he runs to the train station. He completes his strength training and mobility exercises before his run.
- I’m injured and can’t run – Definitely understandable, but I recommend asking your Dr. or Physical Therapist if there’s alternative exercises that you can perform. Most injuries require some kind of rehab. Ask if non-impact exercises like swimming, cycling or rowing are acceptable. I’ve coached people who actually return to running stronger than before their injury.
- I’m too tired to run when I get home from work – Try exercising at lunch or early in the morning before you leave to work. Running early requires getting to bed earlier, but finishing your workout by 7-730am and then heading to work is a great feeling and typically makes you more energized the rest of the day. You will also be tired and ready for bed early when you workout first thing in the morning.
- It’s too hot, cold, rainy, snowy (the weather obstacle) – I’ll admit that it’s tough to run when it’s single digits or 90+ degrees outside. When it’s really cold, you may have to simply use indoor equipment at the gym (treadmill, elliptical, etc) or if you’re lucky enough to have access to an indoor track. If you dress warm-up enough and don’t leave any bare skin to the elements, you can actually handle single digits, just be aware of the direction of the wind.
When it’s hot out, you have to either run early or late in the day. Ensure you drink a lot of water before, during and after your run. Hydration is critical.
Remember that on those days when you’ve lost your motivation to run, just try to do whatever you can. 2-3 miles may be all you can “eek out.” Accept the fact that sometimes your running simply goes back and forth with your lifestyle.
If you’re interested in joining me, I can put together either a custom training plan or I can personally coach you. Either program will be specific to your goals and athletic abilities. Just click on the links for details.