Nothing can torch your running motivation quite like a pandemic.
While many people worldwide picked up running as gyms closed, others were faced with more demanding schedules, debilitating stress and anxiety, and loss of their running community. Then weight gain adds 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!!”
For Becky, entrepreneur, marathoner, and mom of 3 in Michigan, it was the canceled races, lockdown order, and a falling out with her best running buddy that stole her running motivation.
“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.”
I can relate. The pandemic coincided with my running hiatus due to my hamstring injury. I went from running upwards of 10 miles a day to not running at all for months. I gained weight and my body seemingly forgot how to run because of my injury. Feeling so awkward and sluggish definitely did a number on my running motivation.
Even knowing that running holds a host of benefits for us and those around us, 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, regained our running motivation in the face of challenges such as a pandemic.
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.
Find a running friend or group.
It’s called accountability and it’s a powerful thing. And, accountability in the shape of a run friend is fun and distracts you from the discomfort that can come from pounding the pavement.
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 a goal.
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 goal and the goal 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.
Here are some goal-setting ideas:
-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).
-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 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.
-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.
Hire a coach.
Positive reinforcement goes a long way. Hearing from someone encouraging and knowledgeable about running telling you you’re on your way to being the runner you want to be can be really powerful. It gives you encouragement to keep going and certainty 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.
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.
Read, watch, and listen to things about running.
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.)
-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!
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.
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.
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
- 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
I could go on but it’s time for us to hit the road! Fly higher, mama!
PS-I’d love to help you reach your running goals whether it be to run your first 5k or run competitively! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or check out my Coaching Services page!