I remember when going for a run was basically “social hour” on foot. I lived in the same town as all of my teammates, my coach and several cross-country alumni. Someone was always up for a run.
The summer months could be a bit lonely when friends traveled home for the break. But at the very least, I could count on a buddy for my two hard workouts and long run each week.
Now, I can’t remember the last time I haven’t headed out solo. I’m successful at convincing my boyfriend maybe once a month to join me. Our schedules are so different so I don’t blame him for it. I recently mustered the courage to meet a local running group one day after work. I departed in my own direction when I saw the crowd of men ages 50+ in the distance.
Running on my own isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Of course, many runs would be more enjoyable with conversation to pass the miles. The fact that I haven’t run more than eight miles at a time since leaving Florida (except for one half-marathon) is a testament to that.
I have to entertain myself. If I have a lot on my mind, this time to explore my thoughts is much appreciated. Other times, I grow bored with myself more easily than I would a friend – especially after being stuck inside my own head all day.
What I have discovered are more creative and strategic ways to motivate myself. I’ve always been intrinsically motivated. I’ve also always had the support of a team, even if we didn’t accompany each other on every run. As a now retired college runner, it’s only my dedication to myself that forces me to lace up my shoes and get out the door. Plus, I always have to be prepared to keep up with my old friends during spontaneous visits.
The source of my desire to run is a great love for it. That is one thing that keeps me going on days when I hate it so much. I don’t want to fall out of shape. I want to enjoy my runs. And actually runningconsistently is required to do so.
My Best Tips to Stay Motivated On Your Own:
1. Make a plan.
Even if you’re not training for anything specific, create a training calendar. Visually seeing your goals will make them easier to follow. You’ll feel a sense of commitment to complete what you assigned yourself rather than just deciding how many miles you should run day to day. A calendar will also ensure you are sticking to the 10% rule to help prevent injury. It puts stress on your body to run a weekly mileage of 15 miles one week and 30 miles the next. It’s not a big deal if you slightly stray from the plan. If you’re feeling good and want to tack on an extra few miles, go right ahead! You’ll know it’s a good idea to cut back the next day so you don’t hit too far over your weekly mileage.
2. Log your runs.
Recording your mileage in a journal or with Running2Win is another way to stay accountable for your workouts. The automatic monthly mileage count on Running2Win will motivate you to keep it up from month to month. Personally, I feel content if I hit 100 miles each month and try to stay consistent month to month. You’ll feel as though your computer is judging you when there are multiple blank calendar spots in a row…
3. Allow yourself off days.
In college, a full “off” day was rare. Injury aside, I took at most two a month if my body was feeling especially exhausted. And by “off” day I mean I put in an hour on the bike or pool instead of running. Nowadays, I allow myself two, no-guilt days off each week. They are incredibly enjoyable and the short break even makes me miss running. One day off feels like a really long time. The next day, I can hardly wait to get home from work and go for a run.
4. Sign up for a race once a year.
Sometimes, I need some extra push. During the off season in high school between cross-country and track, I got into the habit of signing of for a January half marathon. This forced me to train during the cold winter months. Races can be pricey but that’s part of the motivation. You’ll train to make it worth your money because there’s no point in paying to run a crappy time you could have accomplished around the block.
5. Take a bi-annual week of rest.
When I trained competitively year-round in college, we took two weeks of active-rest at the end of each season. Our “active rest” consisted of an easy 30-minute run every two days, just so our legs remembered the motion. Even if nothing hurts, rest will only do your body good if you’ve been running consistently for months straight. You can go for a light jog every few days or stick to walking or another form of cross-training. Follow any activity with a nice, long stretch. The key is to recover. It’s not recommended to remain sedentary. Make sure whatever you do doesn’t feel too hard.
6. Go somewhere new.
When you’re bored sick of your regular routes, it helps to find a new park or trail. A change will do your mind and body good. Trails are preferable because of their soft surface. A public place with fellow runners provides an inspiring atmosphere. You’re planned “easy” run might turn into an up-tempo workout when your competitive streak pushes you to leave passersby in the dust.
7. Keep your shoes in your car.
Leave an older (but still wearable) pair of shoes in your car so you’re always prepared for an impromptu run. Maybe you’re on your way home and spot an awesome park. Maybe you decide you can squeeze in a run on your lunch break. Traveling with your footwear gives you the option to run anytime the opportunity comes up. Store a pair of shorts and socks in your sneakers as well (and sports bra for the ladies).
8. Plan to run on the way home from work.
The likelihood of fitting in a workout decreases as it gets later in the day. Fit in a run before you even make it home to escape additional excuses. This is why morning runs are best, but if you’re anything like me, that rarely happens despite your best intentions. Plus, my body feels better primed for a good run after a few meals and hydration. I typically have my lunch around 1 p.m., eat a small snack at 4 p.m. and run at 5:00 p.m.
9. Just do one mile.
On days that you don’t want to workout or don’t have a lot of time, you can often convince yourself to do something. A short run is better than no run, especially if you know you are busy the rest of the week. I hate not working out on days where I don’t even have plans. So no matter how much I don’t want to do it, I try to force myself to lace up my shoes and go outside. Sometimes I will only go three miles. Other times I’ll end up completing the six I had originally hoped to do. If you have errands to do that take priority, combine the two. That all being said, it’s equally important to give yourself a break once in awhile. If you don’t want to do it, don’t. And don’t feel guilty. But if you give yourself the okay to just do something, you can avoid the guilt. You’ll know if you really can’t even handle the thought of one mile, you’re better off skipping.
10. Spread the word you’re going to run.
If your co-workers ask your plans for the evening, tell them you’ll go for a short run before making your favorite salmon dish for dinner. If your friend invites you to dinner, tell her you’ll meet her in an hour after your run. When she asks how your workout was, the last thing you want to say is, “Actually… I didn’t.” Tell people your workout intentions and you’ll feel a commitment to it. You might not have the commitment of meeting a friend to workout but this verbal commitment will work in a similar way.
11. Make an event of it.
When there’s going to be a big event on air, it’s the perfect opportunity to jump on the treadmill and watch while you move. The last time I did this was during this year’s Grammy Awards. My main reason is because I don’t have a TV. Nonetheless, it made for a very entertaining couple of miles! Try it out while you watch the upcoming Olympics beginning August 5th.
Any other motivation strategies you have? I’d love to hear!