Three-time Olympic medallist Carmelita Jeter knows a little something about motivation. As the American sprinter told PopSugar’s Michele Foley, she has a brutal daily schedule, spending as much as three hours on the track in addition to two hours in the weight room.
And when she doesn’t feel motivated to work out? Not an option. Whether it’s running or lifting weights, Jeter says: “I’m trying to beast it. My mindset is beastmode.”
For pro runner Lauren Fleshman, running buddies are the best motivators. In her Runner’s World article, she says “a strong, fit friend pulls you through what you can’t do alone.”
Read on to discover how 20 runners — champions, coaches and marathoners among them — share their tips for staying motivated. Ideas and stories include using throwback pictures to actually “see” how far you’ve come, and the time one runner had a two-time Olympic champion join her monthly group run.
Matt Orlando, a runner who regularly takes part in marathons, says it helps to make running important. Seems obvious, but to see whether you really do this, he says to make and compare two lists. One list will include the things you think are important, and the other will include the things you actually spend the most time on. He asks: “Do your lists match up?”
If you ever feel you’re too sore, too tired or too depressed to run, check out what Julie from ROJ Running says about a throwback picture of her first race ever:
“The girl in the old t-shirt, Sketchers shoes and bib plastered to her chest would go on to complete 2 marathons, 5 50Ks, over 25 half marathons and countless other distances. She will ‘come back’ from heart surgery, torn hamstrings, gallbladder removal, kidney stones and multiple struggles with depression, anxiety and PTSD.”
Julie’s story moves beyond simple motivation and into the realm of inspiration.
Ultra runner and coach Doug Hay says his “secret weapon for giving lack of motivation a swift kick in the you-know-where” is trail running videos. He shares some of his favorites, and we’ve got one, too:
Elizabeth Maiuolo, a runner and USA Track & Field Certified Coach who just came through a couple of years of dragging her feet, says she’s learned to set “micro-goals” to stay motivated. These small goals include doing weekly speedwork, getting through drills and calculating monthly distance totals.
Amanda Loudin, an RRCA running coach, likes a mix of group work and solo runs. She’s been running with her current “pack of ladies” for about a decade, and says the benefits include “camaraderie, safety, motivation to get out the door and/or hit certain paces.”
Sometimes, you need to cut back, says dog-loving marathon runner Michelle Christine Roos. She did so recently, and she says “it made a world of difference to ‘just’ run the miles rather than focus on specific paces and getting upset if [I] don’t hit them.”
Sara K. Larsen, an RRCA-certified coach, says, “By focusing your thoughts on the right things, you can push past your comfort zone during your next speed workout or to finally PR during your next race.” In other words, a running mantra such as “One foot in front of the other” might be just enough to get you out the door.
Like many runners, RRCA-certified coach Gerard uses music to inspire and push him. He regularly posts playlists he’s compiled, such as this one using songs from movies and plays.
David Dack, who’s always had a “love/hate relationship with the long run,” has come up with 10 ways to think about long runs so they can actually be enjoyable rather than feeling like “death marches.” His tips include the simple-but-crucial “avoid chafing” to advice on breaking up the run into manageable segments. He’s also got 23 motivation hacks to get you going, no matter how long the run is.
Running coach and long-time runner Amanda Brooks addresses the boredom factor by saying that she’s learned how to use her running time in a variety of ways, which include not just listening to music but also to audiobooks and podcasts. Her favorite thing to do while running? Making plans.
Sarah Canney, an RRCA and USATF coach, recently had the opportunity to run with two-time Olympian Cathy O’Brien, who happened to join a run at Sarah’s club. The now-retired marathoner, who still runs 50-55 miles a week, was very encouraging when Sarah described her own running habits and goals. Now that’s motivating!
Michele Gonzalez, a coach, ultrarunner and Ironman competitor, says keeping a journal where she logs all her runs becomes something very inspiring to look back on. She adds: “Knowing you will be keeping track — even though it’s just privately (or with a coach) is enough motivation for me to want to get that run in. … It’s another way to hold me accountable.”
Marathon runner (and enthusiastic eater, by her own admission) Monica is an RRCA-certified running coach and ACE personal trainer. She’ll use weekly mini-goals when she wants to get back on track, with targets such “eating clean” and “strength train two times.”
Beth Risdon @ Run Haven
Achievable, realistic goals are good, but Beth Risdon at Run Haven says it’s also “important to have a ‘carrot’ to motivate your training.”
“This usually involves signing up for a race in the near or far future,” she says. “Something happens mentally when you make that type of commitment: you become more invested in the process. You don’t want to waste your money. You don’t want to have to save face when you tell everyone you signed up for that 10K and then wimped out.”
Motivation is affected by the company we keep. In a RockMyRun guest blog post, Brock Jones, co-owner of and head trainer at BodyFIT, reminds us: “It’s just a natural thing for people to surround themselves with others who share the same interests. So, people who run consistently are more than likely going to gravitate towards other runners.”
If you’re not motivated to run because, well, you hate running, take hope. Joseph Chick hated running, too, but learned to love it … slowly. After his first 5K, he found he liked accomplishing hard tasks. More marathons meant more mileage, and that’s when Chick discovered running could be a stress-reliever. But it was when he joined a trail running community that his love of running really blossomed.
Dave Taylor from the UK is a fell (mountain) runner and coach who has won individual and team medals. He really gets why you might not be particularly motivated to leave the house for a run when it’s “cold, wet and windy and dark by 4pm.” Having the right gear, though, can be all it takes to ramp up the motivation factor when it comes to winter running.
Amber Hadigan @ Run Haven
If you’re sitting on the couch not running, why not read about other runners for a bit of inspiration? That’s what Amber Hadigan likes to do when not running half marathons. She says she reads “stories of both elite and common athletes and how they kept going, even when the going got tough.”
In an article on Active, Jeff Gaudette, a 2:22 marathoner and owner of RunnersConnect, says one of the mental tricks and strategies used by elite runners to keep themselves motivated includes implementing systems so they don’t need to think about training. “If you struggle with getting out of bed, consider putting your alarm in the next room next to your running clothes so you have to get up to turn it off.”
Sometimes runners, especially competitive and long-distance runners, actually need motivation to stop running, motivation to rest and recover. As Gina from Trail Sisters puts it: “No one is invincible and can get away with non-stop, intense, year-round training without paying the price of injury. The cost for quality recovery is so minimal in the grand scheme of your overall health and longevity.”