How to Get Your Running Motivation Back

UPDATED August 16, 2023: I wrote this article during the pandemic because nothing can torch your running motivation quite like a pandemic. But these tips still ring true for anyone that is struggling with maintaining their running habit, whether you are a new runner or seasoned runner.

Whitney Heins running in a red Tracksmith outfit.
The hardest step is the first one when getting your running motivation back.

During the pandemic, many people lost their motivation to run due to demanding schedules, debilitating stress and anxiety, and loss of their running community. Then weight gain added insult to injury making it even harder to stoke that running motivation.

Kristen, a mom of 4 kids from Hawaii who runs ultras, was confronted with this reality. Being at home with her kids full time, homeschooling, and trying to build a new house depleted her so much that running fell by the wayside.

“At the end of the day I just want to go to sleep!” she shared. “I just let everything else mentally exhaust me until I had no room for running and it was THE THING I needed more than anything!!”

9 ways to get back to running
Getting your running motivation back can be tough after time off and weight gain, but it is possible!

For Becky, entrepreneur, marathoner, and mom of 3 in Michigan, it was the canceled races, lockdown order, and not being able to run with her best friends in her running club. No motivational running quotes or new running schedule was going to revive her momentum. 

“My running took a nosedive. With all that I lost: confidence, camaraderie, speed, fitness, and the unfortunate gains: weight, disappointment, and discouragement, I knew I needed to return to running,” she said. “While the extra weight literally weighed me down, being heavier meant I was also slower. What was more, it weighed me down mentally because I knew I was not at my best—as a runner or as a person.”

Related: Answers to Every Runner’s Question: Why am I doing this?

Even knowing that running is one of the best ways to boost our physical and mental health, it can be so hard to find the mental and physical energy (and time) to do it! But it’s not impossible. Here’s how Kristen, Becky, I, and other mother runners, embraced our running routine again and other good habits that go along with it.

Related: How to Get Over a Bad Race

9 Ways to Regain Your Running Motivation:

Find your “Why”

When elite marathoner and mother runner Roberta Groner was competing in the World Championships in Doha she had friends and family hold up posters with her “why’s.”

Finding the true reason why you run and putting it in a visually prominent place will help you hit the roads when you’re tired or otherwise lacking motivation. It’s called intrinsic motivation and studies show it has a more lasting effect than extrinsic motivation (e.g. material goods, rewards, numbers on scales, or times on clocks).

Finding your why can take some soul-searching. Do you run because it makes you feel good about yourself? Because it gives you more energy? Because it makes you a more patient parent?

For a lot of mother runners, they run because it makes them a better mom and a great example for their kids. If you need inspiration, check out the #whyirun’s on The Mother Runners Instagram account from fellow mother runners.

Related: How to keep running when you’re tired

Running with other people
Finding a running group or running friend holds you accountable.

Find a running partner or local running group.

It’s called accountability and it’s a powerful thing. And, accountability in the shape of a running friend is fun and distracts you from the discomfort that can come from pounding the pavement (especially during an early morning run or in cold weather.)

When Becky’s motivation was waning during the pandemic, she decided to reach out to her old running group. “It felt a little awkward, but my request resulted in a new Tuesday morning running buddy and an open invite to join another group.”

It took some courage, but it was what she needed to get back on track. She’s not alone. Research shows that those that work out with others are more likely to stay active than those who go it alone.

Related: How to become a runner

Set goals.

Set clear goals. Vaguely saying that you want to start running again is likely not enough to chart your path forward. You need to be specific in setting your new goals and they can’t be too far off.

Some examples of bad goals would be to run a marathon when you haven’t run in a year or to lose 50 pounds. You need to stairstep to reach those goals by setting mini-goals. Otherwise, the gratification is too far away and you’re bound to lose the fire.

Related: How to Make Running a Habit

Here are some goal-setting ideas:

How to set running goals
Be specific in your running goals.

-Sign up for a race including a virtual race or competition. There are plenty on the Strava App. (You can join The Mother Runners Strava group here).

Related: How to Set Running Goals

-Aim for a run streak. Running a mile a day is enough to reap the health benefits and make you feel like a badass. That’s what Kristen did. “Even if it’s 11 at night and I’m exhausted, I have no excuse. I can take 10 minutes to run a mile!”

-Set a mileage or number of weekly runs goal. For example, commit to 15 miles a week or 3 mornings a week. A commitment to a regular schedule had a positive impact for Becky. “My average pace per mile may be slower, but the feeling of accomplishment from knocking out the miles is enough to inspire me to keep showing up.” Most mother runners commit to early morning runs to ensure they have the time to do it. Sleep in your clothes if you have to.

-Get a training plan (check out The Mother Runners’ plans here). For me personally, having a running schedule that tells me how much to run and when makes me feel accomplished. There’s no second-guessing if I did enough or too much. It’s right there in black and white. I ran the mileage I needed to that day to get me closer to my goal. Work with a fitness trainer or running coach to take the guesswork out and stay on track.

-Create a challenge like running a marathon in a month, creating a bucket list of races, or running a race every month. Get more ideas here.

Related: Introducing The Mother Runners Coaching Services

Hire a coach.

Positive reinforcement goes a long way. That’s why working with a running coach or fitness trainer is a vey effective way to restart your running journey. Hearing from someone that you’re on your way to being a better runner can give you the much needed encouragement needed to keep going. It also assures you that you’re headed in the right direction!

They can also be a sounding board to help you brainstorm ways to overcome a lack of motivation, move towards your new goal whether that is consistency, a new distance, or personal record. Working with a coach or personal trainer can also help with injury prevention.

Related: 10 reasons to get a running coach

As coaches to mother runners, Laura Norris and I brainstorm with our athletes to overcome barriers to running like exhaustion or lack of time.

Related: 11 ways to overcome barriers to exercise

Read, watch, and listen to things about running.

Related: Best Running Books to Read this Summer

Best podcasts for running
Listening to music can improve your running performance.

You can get motivated about running if you consume motivating media about running:-

-Take a few minutes to look up motivational quotes in Pinterest. (You can check out my Running Motivation Pinterest board.)

-Read motivational running books like Deena Kastor’s Let Your Mind Run or Kara Goucher’s Strong or John L. Parker, Jr.’s novel Once a Runner.

Watch movies about running like Chariots of Fire, either of the Prefontaine movies, or Brittany Runs a Marathon. Find a round-up of awesome books and movies on ON’s site.

-Listen to music that pumps you up. Studies show tunes can help you run faster. Check out The Mother Runners mix on Spotify.

-Or, listen to podcasts about running. Some of my favorites are here

Buy new clothes.

After taking a giant running hiatus for my hamstring injury, I gained “injury” weight and my running shorts didn’t fit. Not only did they not fit, they mocked me every time I put them on: “You’re not a runner! Look at that spare tire!”

It demoralized me for a bit until, Eureka! I realized I could buy new shorts a size bigger! And then, boom, I felt like I was in running shape again. Not only that, but some new running clothes gave me a boost to take them for a spin.

If external rewards like new shoes, new clothes, or a new watch are what you need to get out the door, then treat yourself! You’ll see a nice ROI in the form of a happier, healthier, and more patient you!

Reward yourself.

Speaking of buying new things, external rewards may not show to have lasting impacts, but it can be the icing on the cake when it comes to keeping motivated. If you set a goal such as running 15 miles a week, treat yourself to a new dress or a massage if you keep it up for a short period of time like a couple of weeks or a month.  

You can also attach something you know you enjoy to running (kind of like getting dessert for eating your vegetables). I get out of bed to run early in the morning not because I can’t wait to run but because I can’t wait to drink my coffee in quiet and do work without interruptions. That’s my reward. A delicious smoothie after a long run is another reward for my hard work.

Related: 3 proven ways to refuel after a long run

Make a deal with yourself and follow through. Be sure to track your fitness in an app like Strava or Final Surge to see your progress.

Feel like a runner again.

Drills teach your body to move more efficiently.
Reviving your runner habits can help you feel like a runner again.

After going from running close to a hundred miles a week to not running at all, gaining weight, and having my stride get all wonky from my injury, I really didn’t feel like a runner anymore. I thought I had to weigh and run a certain amount to be a “real runner.”

Finally, I finally realized this idea was ludicrous.

Related: Beat imposter syndrome

To help myself feel like a runner again I embraced the habits I had when I was training hard like waking up early to run, doing drills, and running strides. In fact, challenging yourself to run a little faster like doing strides can awaken your body and remind it that it CAN still run fast.

Related: Speed drills to make you run faster

There is no ideal “runner”—we are all are born to run. Don’t overthink it. Don’t think you have to look a certain way or run a certain mileage. Just put one foot in front of the other and do it.

Think of the benefits.

If you need more reason to run than your why, think of all the benefits that come with this commitment.

Here are some benefits:

  • More confidence
19 reasons to run
From body and mind to family, there are so many reasons to run.
  • Better energy
  • More patience
  • Setting a healthy example for your kids
  • Teaching your kids about commitment and perseverance
  • Better mood
  • Better sleep
  • Helps you clear your head and spark creativity
  • The running community is AWESOME
  • Longer life expectancy
  • Stress relief
  • Promotes healthier eating
  • 20 percent stronger memory
  • Weight loss (nearly 2 billion pounds worldwide)
  • Stronger bodies including heart, mind, bones, muscles, and joints (yes, even knees!)
  • Happier marriages
  • 10 percent increase in earning potential
  • Health care savings and fewer hospital visits
  • Related: Hidden health benefits of running

    I could go on but it’s time for us to hit the road! Fly higher, mama!

    If you want guidance with your running goals, including running during your period or PMS, check out my run coaching services. Also, be sure to check out my free training plans:

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