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Running Tips

5 tips for maintaining your running motivation over time

Two runners on a rocky trail

When you first get into running, your motivation to start something new, get in shape, train for a race or pick up a pair of running shoes for any other reason is high. But at some point — and it's different for everyone — your running motivation may fade and you'll need to find some creative, fun ways to keep logging those miles. It's normal for your motivation to ebb and flow throughout your running journey, so we've put together some tried-and-true tips that will keep you heading out the door day after day, week after week.

1. Set clear, achievable goals

This one seems easy, right? But really, setting a concrete goal and sticking to it is undoubtedly our number one tip for heading out the door with a purpose and keeping your running motivation at a premium.

Your goals shouldn't be arbitrary or too difficult to achieve in a reasonable amount of time, either. If you just started running and your goal is to qualify for the Boston Marathon, you likely won't see much progress for some time. Any goal needs to be clearly defined and written down. For example:

  • Register for a race several months out, and give yourself enough time to train.
  • Set a goal to run a certain number of miles in a month or a year.
  • Aim to run a mile or a race in a certain amount of time.
  • Train to run a certain distance you've never run before.

These goals do not need to be lofty, long-term goals. Your goal can be to simply get out five days a week or run a few seconds faster per mile every week. Don't be afraid to get creative with your goals if you know it'll keep you motivated!

2. Join a local running club

Running groups have a certain, I don't know, magic to them that seems to bring people together. I've coached several running groups over the years and have run with even more. Even those that define themselves as introverts will undoubtedly find friends in a running group and, on top of grabbing dinner and a drink together after the run, these same people are the ones that will text you to make sure you show up for Thursday night's track tempo or on Friday night to make sure your alarm is set for the Saturday morning run.

Having a running group to keep you accountable is invaluable. Plus, there are people that have likely been running in the group for a long time that will be happy to help you navigate your first 5K, 10K, or half-marathon and push you along the way.

Don't have a running group in your area? Start one with some friends!

Runners in a group

3. Switch up your routine

Runners tend to get in too much of a routine sometimes. And while it's important to be consistent with your running, it's also important both physically and mentally to change things up from time to time! Here are some ideas for changing up your regular routine:

  • If you're running five days a week, switch it up and make one or two of those days cross-training days to build strength and speed. It's fun to see the mileage add up, but cross-training is invaluable and will do more for your running than you might think, increasing your overall fitness, strength, endurance, and flexibility. Time spent cross-training is not time wasted.
  • Chances are you likely track your runs one way, in distance or time. If you're in a rut, try tracking it differently. If you are accustomed to tracking your mileage, spend a month running by time. You'll be surprised how refreshing this is.
  • If you've been running for a bit, you likely have some routes you know and love. Try a new route or even run one of your normal routes in reverse. A change of scenery does wonders for your running motivation.
  • If you're used to running at a certain time of day, say in the evenings, throw in a morning run or lunchtime jog throughout the week.

4. Turn up the music (or podcast)

There's been plenty of research on the positive effects of music on physical performance. Apps like Spotify even have running playlists that will keep you motivated or keep your cadence at 180 steps per minute. As above, try not to tune into the same songs or playlists every run — changing up your playlist will keep things fresh.

While music will certainly motivate almost anyone, a lesser-known tip is to tune into an audiobook or podcast. You won't be running to the beat, but a good book or interesting podcast will keep your mind engaged in something other than how many miles you have left in your run. Depending on how many miles you're running, you might end up getting through a few books every month.

A runner on a pedestrian bridge

5. Invest in quality running gear

No matter what it is you're doing, confidence plays a big part in discipline and motivation. Putting on your running gear should make you feel confident, comfortable, and excited to head out on the run. Looking the part also builds confidence and motivation! For example:

  • Getting fitted for proper running shoes will keep you excited to lace up — and injury-free so you can keep lacing up. Nothing gets me more excited to get out the door than a new, quality pair of running shoes.
  • Find seamless, lightweight, and moisture-wicking apparel. Investing in quality running clothes will keep you dry, chafe-free, and running light on your feet. If you're not comfortable, you're going to be much less likely to get out the door for your next run.

The biggest takeaway here is to avoid stagnation. Set fun, new goals. Change up your route. Run it backwards. Run for time rather than miles. Head to the gym for a workout instead of that four-mile active recovery run. Muster up the courage to join a running club. Treat yourself to a new running shirt or shoes. These are all strategies that can help keep things fresh and keep you excited for tomorrow's run.

Our writer's advice is intended for informational or general educational purposes only. We always encourage you to speak with your physician or healthcare provider before making any adjustments to your running, nutrition, or fitness routines.

Written By
Tim Kelly

Marathon Runner & Coach

Tim Running

Ohio native that loves travel, gardening, and helping people do more with their running than they thought possible. 8+ years as a running coach. 12 years as a runner and cyclist.