Where’s the Motivation?

The most important step of every exercise plan, whether it is the “couch to 5k” or a build up to the Olympic Games, is getting off the couch… and not sitting back down for too long. We all know phases like, “Consistency is key” or “if at first you don’t succeed…” but how do people stay motivated for those commitments and follow through to their goals?

Motivation is something runners of all ages and abilities struggle with from time to time. Many would be surprised how often elite distance runners struggle with motivation. I know that while I was running for Reebok, there were days that I wanted nothing to do with waking up at 7 am to go out for a 10 to 12 mile run in the pouring rain. Sometimes it wasn’t just days, it was weeks when I would wonder, “Why am I doing this? I’m tired. I could just take a few days off.” But whenever I fell into a motivational dry spell I would draw on a few things that helped motivate me to get out the door and to keep me focused on my goals. (Click on the titles for links to more examples)

1) Training Buddies (aka friends) –

There are few things better at holding you accountable than a friend, or three, who is training for the same event. Not only do you feel guilty for letting your friend down if you skip a run, your friends can motivate you to achieve more than you thought was possible. Not to mention, watching a friend finish in a personal best time often helps you feel better about a tough day yourself.

2) Finding Your Strength –

Where does your strength come from? Is it your family, your goals, your racing streak? Wherever your strength comes from, it’s time to tap into that and rekindle that training fire. For me my training strength came from thinking about an uncle who had disabilities that didn’t allow him to do more than walk the neighborhood. On a bad day, when the rain is pouring, the wind is howling, and my legs are aching I think about how much he’d appreciate being able to “suffer” the way I am about to.

3) Introspection –

Take a look at your goals. If you haven’t already write them down and even put them somewhere you see daily. I put goals for all sorts of things all over my apartment. This helps me put the “daily grind” of studying or the tough run in perspective. It’s one more drop in that bucket and one step closer to my goal.

4) Change of Attitude –

Often times a change in mindset is enough to get out of the doldrums. When I start to feel exhausted by the thought of running, I often remember something a former teammate told me, “A lot of people have to sit behind a desk for 8 or more hours per day and are too tired to exercise, but we GET to go outside and run today.”

5) Change of Scenery –

A good way to screw your head back on straight is to change things up. Whether that means running a new route or taking a vacation and focusing more on your running. Often times changing things up will be enough to hit that mental reset button in your brain and get yourself back on track.

So when you wake up tomorrow and think you’ve had enough, pick a number off of the list and get out the door. It’s just a matter of time before the work you are putting in turns into a completed goal, whether that is a new personal best time or completing a new race distance. And remember, even that guy or girl who looks so effortless on race day had the same doubts and fears you did during training. The difference between a good and great performance is not in unwavering motivation but in the ability to keep moving despite wavering motivation.

David Jankowski
Current John’s Run/Walk Shop employee and Lexington Catholic Track & Field Coach, David was the USATF Club XC Champion in 2009, was a 2 time Olympic Trials Qualifier and has a PB of 2:16 in the marathon and 28:14 in the 10K

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