There are many days when you’ll wake up and not want to head outside for that schedule run. There may even be days when the idea of hopping on the treadmill sounds worse than tackling the pile of laundry that’s been collecting in the corner. And that’s totally normal!
But when it continues for more than a day or two, it’s time to start thinking more critically about what’s causing that lack of motivation.
Why Don’t I Feel Like Running Anymore
This may be a question you’ve asked yourself. And if you’re at the point where it’s become a frequent thought, it’s time to think through what’s going on a bit more. There are a myriad of reasons why you may not feel as motivated to run as you once did. Here are some questions I ask myself and my athletes when I noticed a lack of motivation in running:
What else is going on in your life?
Has there been any changes in life outside of running?
Are there any big projects, stresses, etc. at work?
What about big projects or stressors at home?
Do you actually want to run this race you signed up for?
Has anything changed with your nutrition?
Once we’ve had a chance to talk through these, it becomes obvious whether it’s an issue or feeling overwhelmed and stressed in life that’s coming through in running or whether it may be more running or physically related. So then we can move to the running questions. For my athletes, I can go through and look at their running data with their feedback, but if it’s a running friend or just someone I’m chatting with, I’d ask these questions:
Are you doing the workouts and just feeling down on yourself? Or not coming anywhere close
Are you feeling recovered between workouts?
What’s your heartrate like? Is it recovered between sessions?
Are any of the workouts fun any more or are you just showing up because it’s habit?
Have you checked out of training completely?
First set of questions addresses how life affects running, because as much as we *wish* we trained in a vacuum, we just don’t! The second set of questions addresses how the runs are actually feeling–which tells us if the change needs to happen in the training or outside of training.
Lost My Running Mojo After a Race
The first three marathons I ran, I took significant time off after. I remember questioning if I’d ever want to really run again. Even though I didn’t run close to the volume I should have for preparing for a marathon, I was burnt out. Nothing was really wrong, but I did train correctly–physically or with my mindset and I was over it.
But since I knew I didn’t run *that* many miles (seriously, I maxed out a 70 miles in a MONTH, which is not nearly enough for a full marathon that included a 20 mile long run), I didn’t understand why I was burnt out. I felt like I should want to run again.
But that’s the thing with motivation, it’s not as simple as something you can turn on and off. Sometimes you do need a break. And sometimes you need to look at other factors too, which were also hugely helpful to me.
I did end up needing a break, but I was also working a very stressful job in a high need, low income school with too many students and lots of extras and personalities and behaviors and levels and languages in one classroom. My husband and I closed escrow on our house the weekend of my second marathon. I ended up testing positive for the flu 2 days after my third marathon, when I was 8 months postpartum. Talk about really throwing marathon running into an insanely stressful and busy time!
Dealing with all of those things has improved my running, my mindset, and along with those, my motivation to run. Keep reading to find out how to help yourself too!
How can I motivate myself to run again?
Now that you can point to why (or a combination of whys!) that you’ve lost your running mojo, there are a number of things you can do to get your motivation to run back!
Give yourself a break. Time some time off of scheduled training to just enjoy moving your body. Maybe you don’t run for a week or two or even a month but you do some strength training, take a yoga class, ride a bike, whatever sounds FUN!
Address the things that were stressors. Maybe you finished that project at work or the home renovation that was stressing you out. Or maybe it’s a bigger stress and will take longer to address, like caring for an ailing family member and you need to ask for help so you can run to relieve your own stress. Whatever it is, accept that it’s happening and then find a solution so you can take care of yourself (also, see point one. If there are big stressors and a run won’t help relieve stress, it’s ok to take a break!).
Get blood work done. Use an athlete specific metric, like InsideTracker, to get your blood drawn and things like iron levels checked. This can drastically affect your energy levels and in turn, motivation.
Focus on mindset. More on this below.
Mindset and Running Motivation
I have found that a big piece of the puzzle for runners' motivation is the way they think about their runs. If you are a runner who sees a workout or a run on their training plan and goes out, but doesn’t hit the prescribed paces or has to cut the workout a mile short because life happens, there are two ways to think about that workout after the fact.
Runner A: finishes the workout, feels frustrated they couldn’t hit the paces, is discouraged and wants to go treat themselves to a giant soda and ice cream because it doesn’t matter anyway. Or finishes the workout, albeit short, because they have to pick up a kid from school, and it annoyed at the kid the rest of the afternoon about cutting the run short. The kid is now mad because parent is frustrated. The rest of the afternoon is a mess.
Runner B: Finishes the workout, wishes it had gone better, but tells themselves “I showed up as much as I could today–I didn’t get enough to eat before my run, I’m feeling stressed because of work, and I still showed up and gave 100%. Or finishes the run, even though it wasn’t all the miles they wanted, and thinks, I’m so glad I got to run today. I feel so much less stressed.
Which runner do you think is going to enjoy training more? Which runner is going to keep feeling motivated to show up to workouts?
I bet that was a pretty easy question right?
In Peak Performance by Steve Magness and Brad Stulberg, they talk about the connection between feeling successful and the motivation to keep showing up. In Atomic Habits by James Clear, he builds an entire successful argument for healthy habits on the premise that success leads to more success. By doing one thing, you’ll find success or the joy and keep doing it.
Running is a lot like that. If you are enjoying it, you’ll keep showing up. If you’re not, you won’t (as with everything right? But since running is what we choose to do and not a career or something we’re forced to do, it’s different).
So that’s the big trick – celebrate the effort, not the outcome.
There are many pieces to consider along the way, but at the end of the day, celebrate the small wins, the small steps on your training path and you’ll feel more motivated and successful every mile of the run.
My Favorite Mindset Resources
Feeling overtrained, burnt out, and unmotivated still?
I would love to chat and figure out what’s going on! Send me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can chat about all things motivation, training plans, and coaching to figure out why you’re feeling unmotivated and what you can do to get your running mojo back!