Motivation Monday – 21 Tips to Help You Keep Going

Long Distance Running

Last week I came across a post on Inc.com about ways to motivate yourself. I thought these were excellent, and while they were cast in a business frame, I could easily see them in a running and nutrition content. Here is a great quote:

You’d like to think you are going to be just as motivated and enthusiastic on Day 1,672 of work as you were when you first began.

But sometimes we can all use a bit of help to keep going.

I don’t know how often I remember reading very similar words on blogs during spring marathon training season … and while everyone is super-excited and motivated right now for their fall marathons, how long before we could all use a little push? Yeah, I thought so! 🙂

So I decided to pull out ten and apply them to our lives as runners and people doing the everyday battle of balancing fueling and weight control through their eating.

1. Necessity:

Unlike in business, you aren’t getting paid nor do you have employees – so ‘necessity’ is relative. Actually all you have to do is drive by a hospital and witness someone with an oxygen line taken off so they can smoke to realize how relative ‘necessity’ is.

We don’t NEED to run or race or whatever … or do we? Since many of us use running to feel better both physically and mentally, to be the best version of ourselves. We also talk about how it helps as friends, spouses, parents and employees, so maybe it IS a necessity for some of us!

2. Personal pride:

We all want to be our best, look our best, and feel our best. By eating healthier and exercising we can work at these things – I have said I am the youngest I’ve been in more than 15 years … and while a bit silly, I really mean it.

By correcting the disordered eating habits I relied upon to stay thin and replacing them with ‘eating clean’ (whatever THAT is) and a more robust exercise regime, I am in the best shape of my life, and getting better all the time!

3. Consider the alternative:

For me the alternative is right there in pictures – and I NEVER want to go back … not to the 240 lbs I hit a couple of times over the last 25 years, not to the 275 lbs I weighed in early 2012, and most certainly not to the 375+ lbs I weighed a year out of college in 1989!

The thing you have to ask – what is YOUR alternative?

4. “I’ll show them.”:

Lisa had a difficult time losing the baby weight after our second son – not helped by the very difficult complications, 2 weeks in hospital and 9 months before she was ‘herself’ again. But then she did it – and totally kicked butt! Once she lost weight she had a number of reactions – not all of them positive (and the worst of all were from other women). She once had someone say to her ‘I thought you would have been fat again by now’. Seriously.

So yeah, it seems small and petty – but so are the awful things people say sometimes. And if it motivates you to keep going, that is good enough.

5. Figure out why you are tired:

If your get up and go has got up and went … it is worthwhile to figure out WHY.

Maybe you have been over-doing the cardio workouts, under-resting, not fueling properly, getting dehydrated, not sleeping enough, too much stress, and so on. Figure out your reason and get yourself some rest before pushing it again. If none of those are true and the exhaustion lingers, maybe it is time to see your doctor.

6. Learn from your mistakes:

I always refer back to my utter stupidity leading into my first half marathon, and how trying to diet my way into and through a race was incredibly dangerous. I have become incredibly good at fueling and listening to my body since then.

Then in 2013 I constantly struggled with self-sabotage through WTF syndrome – Way Too Fast (Thanks Cori!). I dealt with that by making my winter half marathon all about even pacing. I feel so much better this year after doing that and have continued working on ‘running by feel’ ever since.

7. Don’t get in your own way:

Several people have written recently about issues caused by being overly Garmin dependent, or by getting in their own heads in any manner of ways.

As the saying goes, running is largely a mental sport, and as such your mind can be your ally or your enemy. Your body can do great things – but your mind can shut it down quickly. I remember the difference when doing planks that helped me jump from 1:15 to almost 2 minutes in a single day – I stopped believing I couldn’t do it. Then I did it.

8. Keep telling yourself the best way to predict the future is to create it:

We all have running goals – endurance, longevity, speed, whatever. Maybe we have a goal race or time or whatever – the main thing is that if we want to reach those goals, make them specific, then make the plans to get them done.

No it isn’t easy – just saying ‘I want to BQ in 2014’ won’t make it easy or possible … but it gives you a goal. Take that goal and make a plan, then take that plan and put it into action – and you will be amazed by the results! Just like none of us started out being able to do a 20 mile weekend run, so too are many of our other goals possible with hard work and patience.

9. Get some sleep:

Sometimes the right answer is to take a rest day. So what? That doesn’t make you a failure even if it means missing your goal mileage for the week or a ‘key’ training run. The phrase ‘recharge your batteries’ is apt because sometimes it seems like we are a cell phone that is in the ‘red zone’ for power and all we are doing is getting a small charge here and there but never really getting out of the red zone. That only works for so long … eventually you need a total refill.

10. When all else fails… keep putting one foot in front of the other:

I feel like this was what got me through the winter – people would say I was an inspiration, and yet all I did was say ‘crap, here we go again’ and headed out the door even when it was -20F. And they said it was THAT action that made me an inspiration.

But that is always my thought – just get out the door. Generally speaking within a mile you will get your mojo and be glad you did it. And if not … cut it short and take a rest day or two.

Final Thoughts

I get these business motivation articles all the time, and most of them are either too specific or too generic – which is pretty much true about all of the emails I get from Runner’s World and Competitor and so on. But the reality is that for all of us, at least ONCE we can use all of that advice.

Keeping up our motivation isn’t something that is ever a ‘one and done’ thing, so when I saw the article I read it and saw the instant connection to running. We all deal with days when it is a struggle to get out of bed, to lace up and go, to eat right, and to keep it all together.

Articles like the one at Inc are a reminder for all of us – that like everything else, our relationship with running and eating healthy is a long journey, with twists and turns and ups and downs. Like running a marathon you will have moments when you just don’t want to go on, and others when you feel like you are soaring. It is all about building energy to sustain you through the low points.

What do YOU do to keep yourself going during the depths of training season?

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35 thoughts on “Motivation Monday – 21 Tips to Help You Keep Going

  1. Number 10 was me yesterday as I was running up the switchbacks that mark the end of the 26.6k. Not fun at all haha, but I just kept telling myself “One foot in front of the other. Each step brings you that much closer to being done and getting to sit down in the shade with water!” Funny how much such a simple thing can help 🙂 I think the biggest thing I try to do when I’m lacking motivation is to remind myself why I run….how it makes me feel and think about myself and everything going on around me. Usually that gets me going (even if I’m whining about it), and some tunes or meeting up with good friends helps get through the run part. On days where even the run sucks, I tell myself that runs like this are what are going to make me stronger and tough enough to get through my marathon to get me to Boston in 2016. And when all else fails, I’m finally not afraid to take an extra rest day or two if I”m consistently struggling mentally and physically for more than a few days. That’s not normal for me and is usually a sign I just need some extra sleep and rest, so I take it, and then kill my next run 🙂

    • Thanks Caitlin – that is a great attitude and way to look at things. And I think we all fear that an extra rest day means all of our fitness goes out the window … which is silly! 🙂

  2. I love the concept to just keep putting one foot in front of the other. I mean basically when you think about it, that’s what it all comes down to. Everything else is just the extra stuff….the mental games, the expectations, the numbers, the goals. When it all gets too overwhelming we should just go back to the basics and try to enjoy it along the way. And if you’re not enjoying it, its probably time for a break!

    • Exactly – it is one thing to have a bad day, but just like with a job, if you find that ‘bad day’ is your steady state … it is time to look for a change. Same with our running – it is OK to push yourself on occasion, but when that becomes THE way you do your runs … that isn’t a great sign!

    • Exactly – I know I always find myself feeling better once I get myself moving … but sometimes it is tough. And as you say – it helps to look at it in the context of the bigger picture.

  3. This morning during my run I was feeling really unmotivated to start the week, and started thinking about motivation in general and how we get ourselves to keep going. These are all really great points. The “one foot in front of the other” winds up being my go-to!

    • Thanks Michele – I was thinking about you in specific writing this post, how charged up you were getting started with your training, but knowing that like everything there are hills and valleys.

    • haha – cracks me up Nicole … I know one of my big things in the winter is dawdling too long, I have to build up to get out there eventually. Now that I am doing more ab work after my runs I hope I carry that motivation into the winter! Thanks for the comment – and I hope if you see this it is post-run! 🙂

  4. I like “one foot in front of the other.” I had a friend who was going for a PR this past spring, he was in the late stages of mile 24, and was struggling. He knew his cadence was around 180 from training with a foot pod, and based on his Garmin, he was able to guess he had 10-11 minutes left of running, so he decided to count out 900 steps with one foot, which he figured would give him 10 minutes and possibly be enough to get through the finish line, or at least within sight. He said he actually lost count a few times and recalculated his remaining minutes and started counting again. Every time he hit 90, he said that’s one minute done. I told him I’m probably stealing that strategy b/c I liked it so much. One foot in front of the other.

    • That is a fantastic approach – distract yourself from what is going on … I try to do that when planking and it can really help … I will have to see about that when doing races to help push through tough sections!

  5. This is awesome. I know I always start out really excited and motivated at the beginning of a training plan, but the latter half is usually a bumslide. Hoping to stick with it much better this time around. Come October, I’ll be coming back to this post 🙂

  6. That recharge is EXACTLY what I needed last week when I took those days off. I can’t remember the last time I felt that burnt out. Of course it’s kind of hard to refocus everything today, but it was so necessary at the time.

    I can relate to so much of this. Especially personal pride and the alternative. The thought of falling back into my old patterns scares me and the thought of it happening definitely keeps me going!

    • Good that you saw yourself getting burned out and backed off – that can really help keep things together! It is always hard coming back … I know I have to just delete some great posts from all of my blog friends after our college tour – and it has to happen but it never gets easier!

      And based on your history I totally get what you are saying with pride and the alternative – you have done amazing things, and should be incredibly proud!

  7. #6 & 7 are big ones for me. I want to use “I’ll show them” but that usually backfired on me because I have guilt issues associated with anger. Plus evoking my mother when I run isnt the best of ideas for me, but I wish it weren’t the case.

    I’m a rock star at getting sleep though! Hasn’t always been the case, but I think I’m pretty darned good at it now. 🙂

    • haha – I stopped getting much sleep after our second son, so I haven’t regularly slept more than 5 hours in more than 16 years! Ugh!

      And whatever works … though as you say sometimes negative focus produces short term results but more guilt than good. Tough call 🙂

  8. It’s funny you posted this – I was actually thinking this weekend that I’m so sick of being on someone else’s schedule. And sometimes it’s just downright scary what I’m about to do that day (you want me to run how far?). But the personal pride, the I’ll show them, and the alternative all keep me going. I got out of my own way by just trying running again and it has changed my life in so many ways. I’m going to have ups and downs, not every run is going to be perfect, but I’m just going to keep putting one foot in front of the other and learn from whatever mistakes I make. Great post!!

    • Great story, Sara! And I think it is easy to bog down when things are crap, to feel we’ll never be able to do it again, but then once we get going, it all clicks into place. And it is awesome.

  9. SLEEP! Omg, this is so important haha. I will refuse to even attempt a run if I haven’t gotten enough sleep. MY body just shuts down and I end up staying in bed all day.

    • haha – I used to torment my wife by calculating when I needed to go to bed to get enough sleep for when I needed to get up, as I’ve said that changed after Chris was born … now I sleep 4-6 hours.

  10. My jaw dropped and I said out loud “OMG” to the comment to your wife of “I thought you’d be fat by now” sometimes you really shake your head with the stuff that people think is acceptable to come out of their mouths!

  11. Oh, that picture. It gets me every time. I think I need to write some of these out on notecards and remind myself from time to time. I really needed some motivation and confidence on Friday, and so that is why I decided to participate in the Friday 5, recalling favorite race moments–I needed to remember what I am working towards.
    But sleep and rest is huge for me, as well as proper fueling. Sleep, though, my body just shuts down without it.

    • I only saw that picture a few weeks ago … horrifying! So glad I don’t have THAT kind of problem (ok, never say never … but not how my system works!). Love the idea with the race memories – and in a way the blog helps with that as well … next winter I can look back and remind myself that no, running in sub-zero with wind was NEVER fun! haha

  12. Pingback: Thoughts About Running Lately, Guest Post and Weekly Summary | Running Around the Bend

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