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Life in our busy modern society can be tough. Not only is there immense pressure on us to look good, we’re also supposed to get more and more done all the time. We’re expected to fulfill all our work obligations, go to social events, eat clean, take care of our families, keep our bodies healthy, and exercise regularly.
When it comes to regular exercise, finding a gym and a program that is both close to your work or home life, and affordable, can sometimes be tough.
Fortunately, there’s a form of exercise that has been around a lot longer than we have been lifting weights, cycling, playing football, or drinking protein shakes. It’s been intimately tied to our lives since early hominids started walking on two feet: running.
Running is a great way to exercise for a number of reasons. It’s perfect for cardio, it’s a great social exercise, it’s free, and all you need to get started is a pair of running shoes, shorts and a t-shirt.
However, there is one area of running that isn’t always easy, and that is motivation.
How to find motivation for running
For beginners, running can be very challenging. Unless you’re preparing for a race, the goal you have in mind may not be very clear, and unlike other sports where the objective is to win, you don’t have an immediate motivation pushing you through the pain.
Most people don’t know this, but half the battle when it comes to running is simply getting out of the house. Before we even get out and run, we put up mental barriers telling ourselves how hard it’s going to be, or remembering how hard it was last time we went for a run. All that truly is, is your present state of low energy trying to justify its existence. The reality is that when you get out and start running, your muscles quickly warm up, you get some adrenaline in your system and you start to see things in a whole new light. If you’re wondering why you can’t find the motivation to run, simply ignore what your mind is saying, and go out and run for 2 minutes. You’ll find the answer to half the question the second you’re out the door!
Have a goal in mind
As I said before, running without a goal is tough. Because we don’t see immediate physical results from running in the same way we do with other forms of training, we may need to create a goal to help us get going. It can be as simple as running a 5km race with a friend, or maybe even a half marathon that you can sign up for in plenty of time. Either way, it’s great to set a goal, whether or not you complete it – because the end in and of itself can be the spark that helps you create change.
Use a running app
Once you’ve set a goal, a running app is a great addition to your plan. There are dozens to choose from and they can help you track your progress every day, so you can see the improvement your making and become even more motivated to keep running. MapMyRun, RunKeeper, and the Nike+ Running app are all great ways to watch your running progress evolve.
The key to any habit is consistency. If you want to find motivation for running, you have to find momentum. You can do this by planning your life around your run, and making it a priority to run at the same time every session. If you’re struggling to know when to run, the best way to form a new habit is to stick it to an old one. So if you always get your morning coffee at 8 am, you could run to the cafe and walk back.
It’s very easy to underestimate the power of the good old-fashioned carrot-and-stick style motivation. By giving yourself a reward after every run, you’re conditioning your body and mind to want to seek that reward again in the future. However, it’s important to make sure the reward is conducive to the act of running. For example, using a hot shower as a reward is much more effective than eating an entire takeaway pizza. A hot shower soothes and relaxes the muscles, preparing you for the next run, whereas pizza may leave you feeling sluggish, depleting your energy and reinforcing bad habits. Keep that in mind when choosing a reward to give yourself!
Find a group
Social accountability is one of the most effective motivators there is. Finding motivation to do anything is far harder when you need to go it alone. If you can find a local runners group or even just a friend, it will make your runs far easier and encourage you to stick with it. A simple google or facebook search should bring up a list of running groups in your area. However, if that fails, you could always put out a facebook status looking for a running partner.
Get yourself a running playlist
There have been dozens of studies that have looked at the effect that music has on running performance and the results have been overwhelmingly positive. This one study for example that came out of the journal of the Strength and Conditioning found that listening to music both before and during a 5km run improved performance and accelerated recovery. Beyond the science of it, running to your favorite tunes helps to keep you motivated and gives you a lift when you are feeling tired.
Eat the right foods
If you want to run regularly, you need to eat the right foods at the right times. Though carb-heavy meals may be a great way to recover after a long run, if you eat lots of carbs before running, it’s going to leave you sluggish and unmotivated. Make sure you’re drinking lots of water and that your diet is packed with nutritious fruits and vegetables. Remember that you don’t have to eat foods that you hate just because someone calls it a superfood. Make sure you’re eating healthy options that you actually enjoy, so the process of leading a healthy lifestyle becomes a joy and not a chore.
Ultimately, running is the perfect exercise for your body and mind. Finding motivation for running is largely about getting the right conditions in place and gaining some momentum. Remember the first rule, start now, and as you begin to implement the other behaviors, you’ll see everything else will fall into place.