Running: Where do you get the motivation?

by Michael Bates
Health & Wellness Center exercise physiologist

Courtesy photo

It’s 5 a.m. and the alarm is blaring. Do you hit the snooze or do you pop out of bed, lace up your running shoes and head out the door? What motivates those dedicated runners who get out of bed every morning and pound the pavement?

In today’s world, so much emphasis is placed on the benefits of running and exercise; it’s a relatively easy question to answer.

I want to share some ways to help you stay motivated to run and give you ammunition for the daily question, the one that comes up when it’s cold outside, or when you are tired, or when you get home and the chores need to be done and the sun is going down: Will I get out the door today?

We have grown up in a world where motivation has been, in large part, institutionalized. We study hard in school because of teachers. We fight hard in the military because of drill sergeants and supervisors. We work hard in business because of managers.

Even in sports, playing hard has fallen to the responsibilities of parents and coaches. But who motivates us to run?

Unless you are in the military and have to take a fitness test, the stakes are relatively low that you get out and run most days. This is why we need to learn how to motivate ourselves. Self-motivation depends on a change in our perspective about running. This change may also serve you well in other aspects of your life.

The will to run emerges slowly where we cultivate it. If we try to force our conscious voice against deep-seated urges, like hitting the snooze button, we’ll fail.

Willpower doesn’t work that way. It is not a force that enables us to continually overcome our deep desires. It may work once or twice but eventually, perhaps when we are tired, the willpower won’t be there and we won’t get out the door. It works at the same level, using the same mechanics, as any other mover of behavior.

It’s about knowing yourself well enough to accurately predict what you’ll do. In time, you can gradually change that predicted behavior to include the desired change.

The only way to get better at running is to run. Like any other skill, you must dedicate your time in order to improve.

Here are a few suggestions that may motivate you to get that next run in:
• Dismiss distractions; they will find you, something will foil your focus to run. When it does, dismiss it.
• Observe yourself and accept what you see. Don’t judge yourself, simply take note. You are the way you are for a reason.
• Continuously re-center your story. Your story now includes running. What do you say about yourself? Do some fact checking.
• Allow others to observe you. Be yourself. Don’t wait to get in shape before you run with others.
• No excuses, ‘nuff said.
• Plan for improvement. Be prepared to answer the question: How can I do better?
• Don’t let others off too easily. We can be too nice. Keep each other accountable!
• Acknowledge effort. Expect that we all can do better, but give yourself credit for trying.
• Be attentive and responsive. Engage. Willpower takes brainpower, not magic or divine intervention. It requires anticipating, observing, analyzing, and reflecting.
• Make friends with time. Enjoy each run. Reflect on and relish the memories of past accomplishments. Take some solace in the promise of what you may yet be able to do.

Although others may make it look easy, running is hard and requires motivation. Motivation is arguably the key to success. Most of us enjoy watching the success of others, even in our competitors. It reinforces the idea that we can make good things happen for ourselves.

The only failure, as the cliche goes, is not trying. So, as the spring season starts with better weather, make use of these great German trails and go for a run! And remember, there is no such thing as bad weather, just improper clothing!

To learn more about running technique, visit the HAWC. The staff offers gait analysis, a shoe station and a running clinic to assist anyone in meeting their goals safely and effectively. The HAWC is located in Bldg. 2117-A.

For more information, call 480-4292 or email