When I first started running, I struggled with motivation; I hate being bad at things, and that’s why I’ve never stuck to learning to play the guitar – I just hate not being able to play and I can’t get past the “being bad” part as I want progress too quickly. It was the same for running… I wanted to be able to run 5k non-stop straight away, so struggling to run for 30 seconds at a time was a huge de-motivator! I did a lot of reading about how long I should expect to wait before I see progress, and what kind of training I should be doing, how long my runs should be, and so on.
I found the Couch 2 5k plan and had read a lot of people found it useful and had been successful using it, so I decided to give it a go. For me, this turned out to be a little more de-motivating as I was struggling with even the first week, making me question just how unfit I really was. I decided to push through and after reading advice to slow my running pace down, I made it to week 2. After completing week 2, I decided that I was going to create my own plan and see how my progress turned out. Throughout my journey so far I have found a number of ways to motivate myself, which I am going to discuss below:
- Setting Goals – having goals helps me to not focus so much on where I am now, but where I will be as long as I keep running and training. I tend to get hung up on what I can’t do AT THE MINUTE, rather than looking at what I want to achieve, so setting goals helps me to look forward and gives me something to aim for (which I normally also reward myself for with chocolate or new gear!). It’s an awesome feeling when you achieve a goal or milestone and it makes all the tough or bad days worth it.
- Tracking Progress – I’m a tech and data geek, so I love comparing all of my running data; especially on Strava where it compares all of your runs along the same route so you can see if you’re improving on it. When I first started out, I entered a few weekly Parkruns (I will discuss Parkruns in more detail in my next post), as they allowed me to track my time around a 5km route and I could compare my finishing times each week. For me, it’s important that I am able to look back to my old runs and see the progress I’m making; some days I feel like I’ve had a bad run, but then I just look back at where I started and realise that it was still a run and I am improving. It’s important to look backwards as well as forwards – having goals helps you look to the future, but you have to remember where you started and be proud of what you have already achieved.
- Running Heroes – I found this website when I first started running, and it has been a big source of inspiration. What is Running Heroes (if you sign up using this link you get 25 bonus points)? Well, it’s a completely free website that allows you to sync your data from your GPS device (GPS running watch or phone app) and earn points; these points can then be redeemed for store discounts or free stuff. Popular discounts include 30% off Nike sale products or complimentary avocado toast. Additionally, there are weekly challenges to win prizes such as a new pair of running shoes, race entries, running holidays, GPS watches, etc. The challenges vary but are typically “earn 200 points this week”, “run 20 miles this week”, “run 3 miles 3 times this week”, etc. All challenges are free to enter and even if you don’t win, they normally send you a consolation discount code.
- Virtual Runs – I love virtual running! Virtual running is where you sign up for a virtual race, complete it on your own and then send evidence that you have completed it in return for a medal. Three of my favourite virtual running websites are Virtual Runner UK, Awesome Virtual Running and Virtual Racing UK. There are a range of challenges, from 5k to marathon distances, or seeing how much distance you can run in 24 hours, 100km in a month or 1000km in a year – you are sure to find something that challenges and motivates you. There are also other virtual running websites available, but I have only used the two above so far. I will post some of my medals earned from virtual running in a later post.
- Events – my first “event” was my local Parkrun, which although it is an organized and timed run, it isn’t really a true event in the terms of atmosphere and receiving a medal (I love bling!). I find that signing up to events makes me really put the effort in when it comes to training; this is usually because I set myself a race goal time. Atmosphere at race events are great and can soon become addicting; I did my first 10k race in Nottingham in March, and have since signed up for another 2 10k (was 3 but missed 1 due to illness) races and a 5k inflatable race, and have others planned for the rest of the year. Running in an event also improves my performance because I’m quite a competitive person, and even though I know I’ll never win an event, I still want to finish as high up as I can and running with other runners just brings out that competitive spirit. If you haven’t ran an event before, see if you can find a local Parkrun to try!
- Connecting with other runners – I am part of a few running related Facebook groups and find it a great way to connect with other runners all over the world. It’s a great way to get insight and tips from people who have been running longer than you, but also nice to connect with people who are around your experience level and experiencing the same struggles. I enjoy reading about their inspirational stories and their recent runs, as well as admiring all of their medals after events.
- Running Buddy – I run with my fiancé (he started running a week or so after me when he saw how much I enjoyed it) and find that it can be a motivating experience. Having someone that you are accountable to ensures that you get out for your runs as you don’t want to let your running partner down. We bounce off of each other – some days he doesn’t feel up to it but I encourage him and set the pace, and other days he’s the one that has to convince me to get ready to go out. It’s nice to have someone to talk to, especially when you are doing a long, slow and steady run. I will discuss what makes a good running buddy in a later post, as there are a few important factors to consider before running with someone else.
I hope that this post has given you some ideas, or places to look for motivation. We all have bad days or bad runs, but it is important to keep going and to be proud of what you have achieved. Just remember, you are lapping everybody who is at home on the couch, so just keep moving!