One of the primary needs most often cited by beginners and veteran runners alike is the need to be motivated to continue running. No wonder. Running is not an easy sport, especially during our long, hot summer.
Even though, there’s little technique involved in running and just about anyone can do it, training to run a race—much less a marathon or half marathon—is a daunting task that requires plenty of sweat and gobs of motivation to continue moving forward toward the ultimate goal.
Being properly motivated, is an emotional state that all runners struggle with because that motivational state can be elusive. Still, motivation is one of the keys to all training and racing. Without it, even an easy run can be tough and a race can be sheer agony. In contrast, the highly motivated runner is almost always a highly successful runner.
Simply put, motivation is the measure of how much (or how badly) an individual wants to achieve a specific goal. For every runner, there is a different source of motivation and inspiration. The task is to find what works for you.
First, it’s important to ask yourself why you are even running. Is it to get physically fit, lose weight, accept a challenge, build confidence, learn a skill, or to compete and win your age group? Finish a half or a full marathon? Or are there social reasons?
Everyone has different reasons and you may find you run for a combination of reasons or even for a completely different set as a training partner. But the important takeaway is you don’t want to find yourself wondering in the middle of a long marathon training program why you are working so hard toward a particular goal.
Clearly, you need a specific goal (or set of goals) that will reinforce why you train as well as allow you to better visualize the outcome and rewards you will receive when you attain the goal or goals.
All too often beginning runners will say, “I am waiting to get motivated.” The implication is that another person or coach, mentor or friend will somehow motivate them to new heights.
I’ve always thought that was garbage. Real motivation—the type that really counts–must come from within. A coach or friend can help, but motivation can’t come entirely from some outside source who pumps you up before a particular long run or race. Such motivation is fleeting—at best.
This is one reason why children who are pushed too hard by crazed, overzealous parents (or coaches) often lose interest in a sport. Eventually, the child loses the internal motivation to play because it isn’t fun any longer and all too often, the child will quit when given the first chance.
Runners are the same way (though hopefully, a little more mature). Still, we tend to be motivated by accomplishment, self actualization and the attainment of realistic goals. Once this has been done, it will spur us on to greater heights.
Remaining motivated is at its most difficult when you are far from your goal, such as a late fall marathon six months down the road. This is when you have to maintain your long-term focus by setting attainable short-term goals while still working toward the ultimate goal.
That’s another reason why races interspersed throughout a long marathon training schedule are usually a good way to keep you motivated as a reward for all the hard miles of training.
Another great way to stay motivated during a long marathon training period is to join one of the many training groups spread out through Central Texas. If you have been running by yourself and do join a training group, you will quickly find yourself surrounded by other runners who are training for the same goal as you are and that those group dynamics are often tremendous sources of motivation.
One other external motivating influence is inspiration. Inspiration is an emotion that causes us to aspire to even greater levels of achievement. It reinforces our own personal reasons to continue working toward our goals.
Still, motivation comes and goes. Fatigue, stress, emotional issues, overtraining, heat and humidity, time constraints and injuries can all reduce our motivational levels.
Sometimes, all it takes is a day or two off from running to rest and refocus and restore your mojo. Running should add to the quality of your life, not hinder it.
Certainly, a positive mental outlook supports and enhances motivation. Avoid negative self-talk and doubters; focus on the positive and surround yourself with supportive, upbeat people who encourage and celebrate you. Again, joining a training group such as Rogue, Gilberts Gazelles, Twenty-Six Two, Luke’s Locker, Soler Sports or iRun (in San Antonio) will surround you with the type of people who provide that stimulus.
Staying motivated isn’t easy, but if you remind yourself why you are training, look to your sources of inspiration and keep a positive mental outlook, the rest should fall into line. Realize that motivation must come largely from within—and is boosted by accomplishments.
Motivation, just like training, is a building process. Each goal you attain, builds self esteem and confidence, providing increased motivation for your next goal.