How can you maintain motivation for the long run? Not only for a literal long run, but for the metaphorical “long run” of life. When it comes to fitness, some people naturally enjoy it more than others. Why is that? We know that even a little bit goes a long way, but it can be difficult to find the motivation to start and maintain a fitness routine if it doesn’t come naturally to you.
Last week I shared a post on Instagram talking about my days of running the 400 meter race in track. I was 16, I didn’t like running, and I only joined the team to stay in shape for field hockey and to socialize with friends. Fast forward 20 years and now I run long distances for fun at ridiculously early hours of the morning. How did I get from point A to point B? Will I continue to love running and working out, or is it possible that down the road I may lack motivation once again?
I think there are a few key factors that play into fitness motivation: enjoyment, purpose, and accessibility. Let’s talk through each of these factors.
It makes sense that you will want to do an activity you enjoy, right? Sometimes we need to give things a try before assuming we don’t like them. Back in high school, I didn’t like running because the way I was doing it was not enjoyable to me. I didn’t like the 400 meter race because I felt like there was so much pressure. It was such a short time to be running that I never enjoyed the process. The entire race you are are pushing yourself 100% and it’s just painful. I didn’t do particularly well so I wasn’t getting positive reinforcement from the outcome of my race either.
In college I gave running a try again, but this time I tried to make it more enjoyable for myself. I would run outside at my own pace, for however long I wanted to run for. I brought music to listen to or I ran with friends. Sometimes I would run on the treadmill at the gym and watch tv. I started to find that running wasn’t so bad when I could do it MY way.
Another key factor to staying motivated is having a purpose. Sometimes enjoyment is enough, but often times we need to have a purpose to why we do something. I really lacked purpose to running back in high school. In college, I knew I needed to do some sort of physical activity to balance out my not-so-healthy eating and drinking habits. Running was so effective and it was nice to not have to always rely on a gym to get in a workout.
As I finished college and entered the “real world” I knew that I needed to eventually create a healthier lifestyle. While I wasn’t about to give up drinking completely or go on a crazy diet, I did try to reign myself in a bit. Going along with that, I wanted to make fitness a habit that would last.
I actually remember that I truly jump-started my fitness habit during my senior year of college. I had sort of been on and off with working out and I hated how I felt when I went weeks without working out. So after my 21st birthday I committed to exercising for at least 20 minutes every day. Ever since then (over 15 years ago) I haven’t gone more than a few days without doing some sort of workout (not counting when I’ve been injured or recovering from my c-section). My purpose back then was to not feel terrible, and it worked. The habit stuck and grew into something I love.
In order to do something regularly, you need to have access to whatever it is you need. For running, this includes a place to run, some running shoes, and comfortable clothes. It can be pretty simple. If you are dedicated to another kind of workout then you need to make sure that you have access to whatever you need for that. (A gym, equipment, etc.)
This also includes the time to do your activity of choice. A run doesn’t take much time at all. If you go to a gym then you need to factor in the time to get there. People who cycle sometimes like to go out for longer rides, so that may take more time. Do you have childcare (if needed) to do the workout of your choice, or can your kids be there with you?
These are just some things that may come into play when you are finding motivation for your workout. When things are easily accessible, you are more likely to make them a part of your daily routine. Lately running has been very accessible for me which is why I think I’ve been running more than usual. As I’ve been working from home I’ve had more flexibility to get in my runs, especially when I bring my son in the jogging stroller. It also helps that it’s summer, so generally I can run outside on most days.
How can you get motivated to start working out?
For many of you I am preaching to the choir. You probably have your own fitness journey that maybe has been similar to mine in some ways. What we probably all have in common was that there was something that got us started. Maybe it was training for a race, or a goal to lose weight, or a health concern you wanted to address.
For anyone reading this who may be looking for motivation, I think it’s really important to find intrinsic motivation. What is something that will inspire you to work towards a fitness goal or to create a healthy habit?
How do we maintain motivation for the long run?
There are a few things that I think can be helpful, but this will differ for everyone. Some people always need a new goal or challenge to work towards. Others thrive off of routine, so if you make fitness a part of your day you are more likely to keep up with it. Some people like a no-pressure approach; just go through the motions and get it done without thinking much about it.
Consider your personality and lifestyle and what has worked for you in the past. Then make sure that your fitness activity of choice is enjoyable, accessible, and that you have a clear purpose. Taking some time to self-reflect on all of this every once in awhile can be really helpful.
What helped you to start exercising initially?
What has helped you to stay motivated over the years?
What do you struggle with when it comes to fitness motivation?
Now it’s time for the Runners’ Roundup! Link up your running and fitness posts below! Join myself, Coach Debbie Runs, Confessions of a Mother Runner, Runs with Pugs, Running on Happy and Organic Runner Mom to post your favorite running tips, experiences, race and training recaps, workouts, gear, and coaching ideas.