A really good thing to know about motivation is that you will have more of it, if what you are pursuing is compelling and really matters to you. When something matters, you will be drawn towards it. It is for this reason people who run mainly to lose weight often lack motivation. Weight loss is simply not compelling in itself. If you however were to ask yourself why loosing weight is important to you, you might uncover something more worthwhile i.e. a desire for better health, a better quality of life, feeling good in your own skin, setting a good example for your family”. So if you often find yourself lacking motivation, start by getting really clear about what truly matters.
The next thing worth knowing about motivation is that you can change it with your thinking and therefore capable of increasing it on a challenging day. Here are 5 ideas you might want to give a go:
- Imaging you are someone else. Simply pretend and adapt your posture to a super fit and energetic version of Paula Radcliffe or Mo Farah. Or imagine you are the kind of person who wakes up motivated to get a marathon in before daylight. It may sound strange, but your brain finds it difficult to tell the difference between what is a real and an imagined emotional experience and you can therefore change your state simply by applying your imaginative skills. On runs where I find my legs particular heavy and my motivation draining away, I tend to morph myself in a nifty, light footed nymph at least two stone lighter them myself. Sound crazy, perhaps, but it works wonders.
- In a similar fashion you can also give yourself a boost by imaging yourself engaged in another energetic activity you find more enjoyable like dancing, swimming, cycling or perhaps hula hooping. Choose an activity you enjoy and one in which you have a lot of stamina.
- Avoid giving attention to your missing motivation. The more attention you give it, the more your brain will encourage you to dodge running. Always remember, if something isn’t compelling to your mind, it will simply reinforce the message “DON’T do it”, making it even harder to get out the door or run an additional mile. Repeating a powerful mantra or listening to upbeat music just prior to or during your run can be a great way to distract your brain from shouting out loud objections.
- Reminding yourself of ALL the things you are grateful for in your life – including the fact that you are able to run in the first place – is another useful way of giving your motivation a boost. Or tuning into the beauty of the details in your surroundings. Both will give your brain something positive to scan for and make your experience much more enjoyable (even when it feels hard).
- Acknowledge that this may not be your best day, then give yourself mini targets and celebrate each one of them as you go along. “Hooray, my trainers are now on my feet. Yay, I am out the door. Whoop, I made it to the park”. Focus on what you do achieve instead of what you haven’t. Positive encouragement, even if it seems silly and excessive will spur you on.
On a day where your motivation is low, you may not be able to run a personal best, but bank your experience as one of learning. Learning about how you can use your imagination and your thinking to give yourself a boost. Get creative and notice what works well for you. For next time. Because the greatest motivation of all comes from getting wiser about how you can “run” your own mind and from enjoying and succeeding in your sport. Happy running.