What motivates you to run? Ten tips to keep you running through 2017.
I asked this question recently of my fellow runners, and one overwhelming response was cake*. This is something I wholeheartedly agree with, having initially taken up running many years ago in a bid to lose some weight, because I love food. Indeed, many of my trail races this year have been booked due to recommendations of how good the cake is.
*biscuits and wine also featured interchangeably
However, I digress. Boobydoo asked me to write a blog on motivation, seeing as we are going into the coldest months of the year. How do we motivate ourselves to get out and run in the cold? How do we keep ourselves running throughout the year? What’s the key to that magic running mojo?
Here are my ten tips to keeping that motivation up.
- Enter a race.
Many are busy training for spring marathons at the moment, although if the marathon is not your distance, there are plenty of other events to choose from. Having a goal to aim towards prevents our running from becoming, well, aimless. Training for a 10k, for example, forces you to not postpone those scheduled interval sessions for a TV marathon instead. It’s too easy to want to curl up on the sofa on these dark winter evenings, but the thought of a race coming up will definitely keep you motivated. Book something in for in 8-12 weeks time to give you a goal to aim towards that isn’t too far away. If you’ve never done a race before, and the thought terrifies you, why not aim to complete your first 5k parkrun instead? Register for free at www.parkrun.org.uk
- Run in daylight.
Easier said than done during winter, when most people work during the daylight hours, but try a run commute, or a quick lunchtime fartlek session. There is always time to fit a short run in; you simply have to prioritise it. If you leave your run until you get home in the evening, and it’s cold outside, the sofa can sometimes be too tempting. And don’t forget the weekends – parkrun(above) is a great way to start a Saturday feeling healthy, full of fresh air, and with that all important boost of essential Vitamin D.
- Find a running buddy.
If you knew somebody was depending on you to get out and accompany them on a run, would you let them down? I often arrange with friends to do early morning runs, which I could otherwise quite easily skip by turning off my alarm if I knew nobody was waiting for me. The key to successful early morning running is book a friend in, set your kit out the night before, and set your alarm. Join a running group or a club too, for companionship during the dark evenings. There are plenty of groups listed RunTogether and clubs on UK Athletics to help you find the right group or club for you.
- Mix up your training.
If you’re getting bored of running, ask yourself whether it’s because you’re doing the same thing all the time. Do you always run the same route? The same distance? Change it up. If you usually run on road, find a trail, or visit a local park and run there. Usually run alone? Find a running buddy (see above). If you’re usually a half marathon runner, try to set a new 5k personal best and have fun injecting some speed sessions. Enter a race for a distance you’ve never tried before, like a 5 mile race. Try a weekly or monthly run streak, where you run every day. Stuck at one pace? Do some interval training or find a hill and run up and down that. It’s ok to get out of breath while you’re running – in fact it’s encouraged if you want to improve. I regularly make my running groups practice running at an uncomfortable pace for them – they always thank me for it, afterwards!
- Keep a training diary
We’ve all heard that motivational adage that you’re always quicker than the person sitting on the sofa. However, how many of us actually strive to improve? Remember that training is about benefitting from consistent, regular activity. Putting the work in now will give you results later on. Keeping a training diary, and noting what running you did, including details about how you felt before, during and after, and what you ate and drank before it, will give you such important feedback about how your training is going and how to plan ahead. Look back over the past month or two and see if you notice any patterns. Were certain runs that felt hard linked to your nutrition or hydration the day before? Or were they related to your menstrual cycle? A training diary can be a very powerful tool.
- Commit to a training plan
Following a training plan can really help keep you on track. There are many free plans readily available. Running coaches will also help with writing you a more personalised plan for a particular event. I would always recommend a personalised plan because no one size fits all, and everyone’s personal circumstances and starting points are different, but having a training plan stuck on your fridge door can certainly be a great motivator.
- Get a coach.
Sometimes, signing up for a race and having a training plan just isn’t enough to motivate you to get out there. Some runners need somebody to feel accountable to, who isn’t necessarily a friend. Employing a running coach to help you achieve a goal can not only help keep your motivation from waning, but it can also help you to improve in leaps and bounds with training especially focused on you.
- Go naked.
Don’t worry, I know it’s cold, and I’m not talking about losing clothes, but technology. Sometimes we can get a little too wrapped up in what our running technology is telling us, whether we train by pace, or heart rate or perceived effort, and it sometimes means we lose the enjoyment of running because we’re concentrating too much on our watches, and forget to enjoy the scenery. My advice here is always to put your watch in a drawer for a week, and go out and just run. Run however you want. Run to feel. Don’t worry about your pace, or how far you run. Just enjoy yourself.
- Have a rest.
Never underestimate the power of a rest day. Or a rest week. Or even a month of not focusing on anything in particular, but just recharging your batteries and actually allowing yourself to enjoy running again. If motivation is really waning, quite often a few days rest will have you raring to get your running shoes back on again. Remember that rest days are part of training too, both for your physical and mental wellbeing.
- Reward yourself.
Some people need the pressure of an upcoming race to incentivise them to train. Others prefer to reward themselves with something for reaching a goal. Got your eye on a new sports bra or pair of trainers? Why not save 50p for every mile you run, and treat yourself once you’ve saved enough money? And don’t forget the cake. Running doesn’t really allow us to eat completely what we want, because food is fuel, so we must make sure we’re putting the best nutrients into our bodies. But it does mean we can still enjoy the occasional treat in moderation, because what’s the point in running if we can’t enjoy some cake?
Michelle's sports bra of choice? The Anita Extreme Control Sports Bra!
"I love it because it's so light and doesn't feel restrictive at all, yet gives me great support. I almost forget I'm wearing it at all, it's so comfortable. It doesn't feel like a normal sports bra as it allows free movement of my arms and shoulders, whereas in some brands I feel really restricted. " -32C
Michelle Mortimer is a UK Athletics licensed Coach in Running Fitness, owner of Miles with Michelle coaching and founder of Witham Runners (Lincolnshire). She is training for Manchester Marathon this year, and her first ever ultra! Michelle is also an ambassador for UkRunChat (www.ukrunchat.co.uk) and, when not running, can usually be found on Twitter talking about running.