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Running Motivation: 6 Tips for Beginners

Two runners on a run together

So, you’ve decided to give running a try - congratulations! Running is one of the most simple, and rewarding ways to work out. The running community is often enthusiastic in their love of the sport, and hopefully you are starting to understand why. Maybe you’ve already experienced your first runner’s high, or you might be wondering what all the fuss is about. The truth is, no matter how long you’ve been a runner, running can be challenging. It takes grit to get your run in on a chilly day or at the end of a long week. Don’t worry, running will get easier as long as you stick with it. Here are six ways for new runners to stay motivated.

A woman starts her running watch

1. Define your goals

One of the biggest challenges runners face is simply getting out the door. Having a goal to work toward can help give you the extra nudge you need on days when motivation is low. Think about what pushed you to start running in the first place. Maybe you want to finish your first 5K, are trying to spend more time outside, or are looking for a new social group.

Try to come up with a specific, measurable goal that relates backs to what initially inspired you to run. Having a specific goal not only gives you an incentive to get out the door, it reminds you to celebrate your progress and commitment to running. Although COVID has placed limitations on connecting in-person, there are still plenty of ways to work towards your goals! Look for a virtual challenge on Strava or look for virtual or in-person training programs through your local Fleet Feet. Every runner struggles with motivation sometimes. Reflect back to your goals as additional inspiration to keep you moving on the rough days.

2. Set a schedule

One of these easiest ways to lose motivation is to get out of the habit of running. Even for the most experienced runners, it can be challenging to get back into the rhythm of running after a long break. A simple way to stay motivated to run is to add running to your weekly schedule. Decide how many runs you want to accomplish weekly, and get in the habit of scheduling them for the same day and time every week.

Try starting with three runs a week in your training plan. Find one hour each day that you can consistently block off for your run, and stick to that time as often as possible. If 6:30-7:30 is free every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, designate that as your official running time. Make sure partners, friends, and anyone else you interact with day-to-day also know that this is your running hour to help avoid scheduling conflicts. Not only will this help you avoid the stress of squeezing in a jog when you feel short on time, it will also help prevent you from using lack of time as an excuse on days when you’re feeling low on motivation.

3. Aim for consistency over quantity

Let’s be honest - there will always be days when going on a run sounds like the last thing you want to do. There are times when it is the smart decision to skip a run, like during injury or illness. But in general, the most important runs to complete are the ones that we dread starting. On these days it can be helpful to shift your focus from finishing your scheduled number of miles, to simply putting on your running shoes, getting out the door and finishing something.

If you planned to run three miles, start with running a mile, or walking for 20 minutes. Maybe you’ll find you are actually capable of finishing your scheduled workout, or maybe one mile is plenty for that day. Even if you don’t finish the workout you had planned, having the grit to put a little work in on those tough days is an accomplishment worth celebrating.

Four smiling runners run down a road together

4. Join a group - or start your own

Many runners find that going on a jog alone is not quite as enjoyable as cruising around town with your closest friends. Running with a group is a great way to stay motivated and keep running a fun experience. Having a regular meet-up of people who are also working toward their goals can make it easier for running to become part of your routine.

Believe it or not, COVID has not completely cancelled run clubs. The popularity of running groups (in-person and virtual) is on the rise, and it’s not hard to see why. Running groups turn an everyday workout into a high-energy social experience. Check your local Fleet Feet for a training group or social run in your area. It’s tough to make new connections during a pandemic. While it’s not quite the same as meeting in-person, virtual running groups still provide a great opportunity to form new bonds with fellow runners. Members of virtual groups on Strava for example, are able to share maps of their runs, update group members on their progress, and cheer other groups member on from a distance. Seeing group members putting in the work (even if it’s from your phone) is a great reminder that you’re not tackling your running journey alone. To find a virtual group, head over to Strava.com and checkout their thousands of clubs.

5. Sign-up for a race

For new runners, the idea of signing up for a race can be intimidating. Yes, some people use racing as a way to experience competition, but in reality, road racing is a way for the running community to come together and celebrate each other's hard work. If you are interested in finding people to run with, a local road race is the perfect place to make connections and get to know your fellow runners. Although the afternoons of live music, food, drinks, and raffles will be toned down, some cities are slowly beginning to allow in-person races to take place again. Look for appropriate COVID precautions before attending an event. If the idea of running with other people is too far outside your comfort zone, sign up for a virtual race!

The beauty of virtual races is that they can be completed on your own time, at a location that’s convenient for you, and are still a great way to celebrate the work you’ve put in. It’s disappointing when an in-person race is cancelled, but there are ways to make a virtual option rewarding.

Check to see if your race is sending out bib numbers and t-shirts to wear while you race from afar. Plan out your route ahead of time, and have members of your household support you along the way - from the car! Having roommates or family members to be your mobile water station and cheer squad can keep some of that race day excitement alive. Make sure to snap a few pictures to share with the event organizers after you’ve crushed your solo run! Check out Running in The USA or your local Fleet Feet to find in-person and virtual races close to you. Signing up for a race is the perfect way to remind yourself of the progress you’ve made during your running journey.

Two woman laugh together and drink coffee after a run.

6. Treat yourself

You may not fall in love with running right away - and that is okay! Regardless of where you are in your running journey, make sure to find ways to reward yourself for the work you have put in. Hopefully going on a run will become something that you begin to look forward to, but while you adjust to becoming a runner, don’t forget to reflect on the progress you are making.

It takes time for your body to become comfortable with moving for an extended period, so it’s crucial to allow yourself time to progress. Swap one of your runs for a relaxed walk, check out a new trail, or take an extra day off! If you are running with a group, make time to celebrate with your fellow runners even if it’s from afar. Share your progress in your virtual group, and cheer on other members.

Splurge on a massage to relax while you recover, or run a hot bath before a laidback movie night. Find a way to thank yourself and your body for the work you are putting in. Running is hard work - but it will get easier.

By Claire Green. Claire runs professionally for the HOKA One One Aggies. When she’s not running you can find her swimming, writing or in the closest karaoke bar.

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