Anytime you begin a new habit or set a goal, there is one simple key to success: motivation.
Anyone who has ever reached a goal did so because they were motivated to begin, and they stayed motivated until they achieved it. It’s a natural law of life - one of the easiest things to understand in theory and yet hardest to do in reality.
Just like with dieting or saving money, gaining and retaining motivation when you begin running can be really difficult. There are so many factors that affect our motivation to run: we’re too busy, too tired, all our clothes are dirty, we didn’t eat right, the weather sucks, it’s too hard or we just become plain uninterested. You are far from alone! Even people who have been running 5K
races for years struggle sometimes to keep moving. Hopefully this article will give you a boost in motivation as you read through seven expert tips on how to stay motivated for your first 5K.
#1. Commit To A Goal
The good news is, if you’ve already signed up and registered to participate in a 5K race, then you’ve already done the first and most important step to staying motivated: you’ve set a goal.
Furthermore, you’ve probably committed financially to that goal by paying your registration fee and possibly buying a new pair of shoes. Setting a goal is a powerful thing, especially when setting that goal costs you anywhere from $25-$75 of your hard earned money. When you have a clear understanding of why you’ve set this goal for yourself, you can use it as leverage to stay motivated when times get tough.
Write down some reasons why you’ve decided to participate in a 5K and keep it in a place you can see it over and over again - on your refrigerator or the homescreen of your phone. You may be motivated because you want to begin a healthy lifestyle, to spend more time with a friend or family member, to lose weight, to cope with stress, to spend some time alone, to support a cause you care about, to meet new people or all of the above! Whatever it is that makes you want to run, don’t forget it what it is and remind yourself when motivation starts to diminish.
#2. Pick An Appropriate Training Plan
Many beginner’s set themselves up for failure by choosing a training schedule that does not correspond with their fitness level. If you choose a training schedule that’s too difficult, you will most likely become discouraged very quickly and possibly injure yourself. If the training schedule is not difficult enough, it will not stimulate the necessary training effects and you may not see the results you were hoping for.
Give yourself some time in the beginning to figure out where you stand before you fully commit to a training schedule. The goal is for your workouts to feel challenging but doable. Some moments will and should feel hard, but in the end you should feel a sense of accomplishment when you finish (not total exhaustion or like you could go for 20 more minutes).
To help you I put together four different levels of training plans for you to test out. I break down all the details of each training plan including miles per week, intervals and more. They are 100% FREE and help you achieve your goal.
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#3. Make Time
The number one excuse in the book when it comes to running, or any other fitness routine, is “I don’t have time.” We’ve all said it. We’ve all felt it. The struggle is real. You have to be prepared to combat the urge to use this excuse if you want to stay motivated. The best way to do this is to exercise first thing in the morning, if possible. I know it hurts, but if you set your clothes out the night before, set the alarm, get up and go before you even have time to think about it, it can become a habit easier than you think. Plus, morning runs often offer the best weather conditions in hot climates.
Choosing to exercise at another time of the day is fine too if that truly works for you, but many find that fatigue, family/work commitments, or other unexpected events can interfere with even the best of intentions. However, if you have a running mate or group that you meet with, they can help hold you accountable to sticking with your time commitments no matter what time of day. Women's Health put together a few great tips on how to manage your time to fit a workout in. So you won't have the chance to say "Ain't nobody got time for that!"
#4. Make It Fun
Just like eating broccoli, or taking calculus, or learning a foreign language, running by itself is not very fun. Most of the time, we only do these things to reach higher goals - weight loss, a college degree, a trip abroad or in the case of running, a healthy lifestyle where we enjoy better physical and mental health. That's why we do things to spice up the “not so fun” parts of reaching higher goals (like find delicious ways to prepare broccoli or take a class with a friend).
In the same way, there are lots of ways to make running more enjoyable. One great way is to listen to music. I love to make playlists that I’m excited to listen to, and sometimes looking forward to listening to new music is the only thing that gets me out the door. Another great way is to run with a friend, because it’s makes the task more fun and you can hold each other accountable to goals and time commitments.
In the same way, there are lots of ways to make running more enjoyable. One great way is to listen to music. I love to make playlists that I’m excited to listen to, and sometimes looking forward to listening. You can also try purchasing a book you’ve been wanting to read on audio or getting into a new podcast to listen to when you run (may I recommend “Serial” by This American Life, if you haven’t listened to a podcast before).
Run in an area of town that you want to learn more about or enjoy being in. Run to a place where you can reward yourself afterwards, like a coffee shop or to a friend’s house. If your load is light, you can run to places where you need to run errands, like the bank or post office. Sometimes I run to the grocery store and I have someone pick me up there. Another great way is to run with a friend, because it’s makes the task more fun and you can hold each other accountable to goals and time commitments.
The point is, if you can find a way to look forward to running because it gives you the opportunity to do something else you need/want to do in the process, it makes getting out the door a whole lot easier.
#5. Track Progress
Tracking your progress in a journal, an app, a blog or elsewhere is a great way to stay motivated. Write down your mileage, your time, your feelings, techniques you’ve tried that work or don’t work, foods you’ve tried that made you feel great or not great, routes that you’ve taken and what was hard/easy about them, products and clothes you’ve tried that you liked or didn’t like, stretches or other fitness drills that you did, or anything else that comes to mind when you run. The Nike+ Sportwatch has a feature that you can plug your watch into your computer and it downloads all of your runs onto NikePlus.com. This makes for fun competition against your friends and continues to motivates you as you watch your progress.
Even on days when you don’t feel accomplished or happy about how your workout went, writing it down can help you understand why it went that way, make adjustments and be better prepared for next time. After a couple of weeks, reading the things you’ve written is really fun and motivational, and you’ll end up laughing about some of the things you wrote on those frustrating days, believe me
#6. Be Prepared
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve skipped a run because I didn’t have something clean to wear, or I ate too much pizza for lunch (I LOVE pizza so this might have happened more than once), or I forgot to set my alarm, or I didn’t bring my shoes for a post-work run. Not being prepared to run is a recipe for failure. This is another reason why running in the morning is a great way to stay motivated. As long as you set all your clothes out the night before, set your alarm, and have the stamina to get up out of bed, then there is no time for anything else to interfere with your plans. We put together a few other morning running tips and benefits, in this article.
Even if you run later in the day, make sure that you plan ahead by packing your clothes if you need to, eating right, and keeping your gear clean and organized. It also helps to have a gym membership, so that if the weather is unfavorable you always have a plan B.
#7. Change Your Outlook
Last but not least, I’m a big believer that changing the way you look and think about a problem is a great way to solve it. One of the biggest challenges that I’ve faced as a runner is becoming a morning runner.
After a job change, the morning became the only realistic time I had to run, it was either become a morning runner or stop running. I’ve never been a morning person and getting up an hour earlier than I needed to for a run felt impossible. I kept telling myself that I can’t be a morning person. It was only after I learned how truly powerful using the word “can’t” is that I was able to make a positive change. I changed my “I can’t” statements into positive affirmative statements. Instead of saying “I can’t run in the morning” I would say to myself “I only run in the morning” or “I don’t run in the evening” or “I am a morning runner.” Whatever it is in your training that trips you up, that makes you say I can’t, try reversing the way you think about it. It can be as simple as changing “can’t” to “can,” or making it into a positive statement about who you are. This simple psychology tip can truly make a huge difference in your approach. If you need a little more guidance, Psychology Today has a great article on ways to change your outlook for the better.
If you need a place to start, try this one: “I am a 5K runner.”