Most of us can generate short bursts of motivation. You read a good book, watch a great movie. For a few days, maybe even a few weeks, you have the burning desire to live like your heroes.
But heroes become heroes outside of the storyline. It takes longer than the time it takes to read a book or finish your popcorn. So how do we build our capacity for the kind of consistency that gets results?
When struggling for motivation, head out anyway, but allow yourself the option of stopping after 10 minutes if you still aren’t into it. Nine times out of 10 you will keep going.
Keep the inspiration coming
Live like a runner. Curate a lifestyle that nourishes your health and well-being. The people you spend time with, the places you go, the books you read, the films you watch, the blogs you sign up to. They all have a part to play in keeping your plans on the rails. The aim is to ensure they reinforce your desire to be a lifelong runner.
Join a regular training session
The combination of peer pressure, encouragement and professional support will keep you on the case. If you commit (and pay) to show up every Wednesday night, then you are more likely to train on Monday morning. Just being around a group of people motivated by running is a great way to stick with it.
Running on instinct
Some people claim doing something for 21 days will establish a habit. It’s a little more complicated than that. There’s definitely value in making a solid commitment to bed something in. But the real value is in making the good stuff a seamless part of your life. Make it easy and routine. For example, get your running gear on as soon as you wake up in the morning or when you get home from work. Don’t think about it, just do it. You will be all dressed up before you have even have to decide to go. You may as well get on with it.
Build and share your rules
Build connections between regular running and other regular routines in your life. Bulid rules beginning with “I always..” As in “I always take a long run on Sundays,” and “I always run to work.” Tell as many people as you can about them. You will probably need to negotiate them with the significant others in your life anyway.
The more people who know your rules, the more people there will be around to pull you up if you go astray. “Hey, I thought you always…” They may also want to join you sometimes, or ask you about your running.
This will feed into your life. If you ‘always’ run to work you might sell the car, or not fix your bike. So now you are more committed. You have to break your rules sometimes (see the next point on injuries) but at least you, and others, will know you are breaking them.
Know the difference between fatigue and injury
Good knowledge of your body will stop it messing with your mind. Be clear about when you are really resting or rehabing a genuine injury. This will stop you inventing impromptu breaks in your training for imaginary injuries because it is raining.
Fitbits, Apple Watches, Nike Plus and all that help some people to stay motivated, if only because they feel silly if they spend all that money and don’t do anything with it. But lifelong running is about how you actually feel, not how a computer tells you you should feel. Use the machine, but don’t rely on it.
The numbers game
Some people are and some people aren’t. The key thing is to make going for your PB a nice addition to your running, rather than a rod for your own back. Running should be a joyful lifestyle choice, not another job or obligation to add to your busy life. If it turns into a chore it will get lined up with all your other chores and dropped when life gets too much, the very time when you will need it most.
Enter fun events
It means a bit of extra investment, but there’s nothing like having a point on the calendar to aim at to keep you on your game. The more fun the event, the more you will look forward to it, and the harder you will work. Invite friends to the event, either as participants or support. It’s all motivation and pressure to keep it up.
Celebrate your goals
Mark your milestones and have the next goal ready to push you on. Using time off from running or your disciplines in food and lifestyle as rewards is not a good idea. It will tempt you to goof off. Your running should be fun enough to be it’s own reward. If not, you are doing it wrong. Better to ‘treat’ yourself with another event, or some running gear you are hankering for. Then you can congratulate yourself for the fact that you aren’t just motivated, you are obsessed.