Tips for Maintaining Motivation

You’ve registered for your race. You’ve got your training program. You’re rocking your weekly runs and hopefully feeling like you’re making good progress on your journey towards a successful Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend. Maybe even hitting your stride so to speak. So how do you keep this momentum going? In this article we explore strategies for keeping pace with your program and stoking the fire in your belly.

Motivation – which encompasses both your reasons to achieve and your willingness to do so – can come from inside yourself (internal) and/or from outside yourself (external). Which means if you run short on internal motivation, you can always look to external sources to help you along until you get your mojo back, and vice versa.

Internal Motivation

Listen to your body. While you may feel like you’re hitting your stride at this point in the season, be sure your body isn’t hitting a wall. If you’re running longer and faster than your body is ready to handle, you can end up feeling drained, discouraged and/or injured. All of which can rob you of your drive to keep on keeping on.

Listening to your body is a key message of coach Paula Burchat. Paula points out that the body gives us plenty of feedback: “Pain, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, hunger and moodiness. This is your body’s language when telling you what is wrong.” So if you’re experiencing any of these, listen to your body and give yourself a chance to recover by taking a few days off—and then return to training with a renewed bounce in your step.

Pat yourself on the back. Tune in to your progress and celebrate the gains you’ve made – no matter how small they may seem. Behavioral psychologists know that rewarding good behaviour increases the likelihood that an organism (e.g., a hungry distance runner) will engage in that same behaviour again (e.g., sticking to your program all week). After all, who doesn’t prefer the carrot to the stick? So tap into the power of positive reinforcement and condition your brain as well your body. Pizza, a hot bubble bath with a glass of wine, a massage, new gear you’ve been eyeing – the reward is up to you. You’re working hard, so indulge a little. Science is on your side.

Rediscover your reason. When you wake up early on a cold, dark morning and contemplate the prospect of crawling out of bed and running through the deserted streets, you’re mind may flood with a million excuses not to. Know that your reason for running (even on cold, dark mornings) is deeper and more powerful. To live healthier, for a sense of accomplishment, to build self-confidence, to prove to yourself you can do it, for the thrill of it, or to paraphrase a lovely quote from George Sheehan, to become the person you are. Write your reasons down. Stick them on the fridge. Carry them in your pocket. Let them be your answer to any doubt about your will to train.

External Motivation

Join a club. Training with other people is just more fun. Plus, the draw of other people can give you the energy you need to get up and go on those mornings or evenings when you just don’t feel like running. Throw in an experienced coach who can help you tweak a training program to suit your level of fitness and personal running goals and really, you can’t go wrong. Join one of the great running clubs in Ottawa.

Build your team. Involve (supportive!) friends and family members in your training plan. Fill them in on your running goals and your training schedule, or start a training blog and send them the link. Why? Because on those days when your self-confidence takes a beating, they can hook you up with a hug, a few words of encouragement and/or a post-run meal that will help get you back on track. For a great example, check out our interview with top Canadian marathoner Krista DuChene to hear about how “Team DuChene” is a key to her success.

Get inspired. To be inspired basically means to breathe in an urge, idea, feeling or ability from our surroundings. The idea here is that when we lack the will or direction we need to keep running, we can find it and feel it in the feats, ideas and stories of other people. So check out a running blog (we’ve reviewed several in the past few issues of the Pulse), scan the latest gear reviews, running magazines and books, watch a good sports flick, or talk shop with the folks in your running group. Whatever makes you excited to get out there and run. And if you’re looking for a good place to start, head on over to the Runner’s World archives and check out their 101 Kicks in the Butt.