Running is hard (and it doesn’t get much easier either). I feel like runners and articles about running are almost afraid to talk about just how hard it is to start and—most of all—continue running.
Things I have heard most often in my 15 years of running and personal training go something like this:
- “You make it look easy.”
- “That must be easy for you by now.”
- “You did that like it was nothing.”
In response, I only have this to say: “If it looks easy, you’re not looking close enough.”
I have to fight myself most days to achieve the results I want from my workouts. I have doubt. I have fear. I have failures. I have days when I absolutely, positively want to vomit when I look at my workout plan and, in over 15 years of racing, it has not gotten any easier.
Of course, this begs the question, why do it? Indeed. Why do so many of us pursue an activity that causes loss of sleep, incredible anxiety, physical pain, mental anguish and sometimes even loss of control of our bowels?
To find the answers (I have my own of course) I took a Facebook poll (naturally). Here is what some of the 30+ fellow masochists had to say when asked how they motivate themselves to run day after day and year after year.
It turns out that motivation lies in these four categories and, there is a lot of crossover:
MENTAL AND PHYSICAL HEALTH
“It’s the surest way I know to stay sane rather than end up on medication or in a mental institution…” —Paria H.
“I am motivated by the sheer fact that it keeps my life in balance. I always feel relaxed and de-stressed after a run. I also just love the feeling outside in the peace and tranquility of nature!” —Sandra L.
“I don’t need motivation. I’ve been running so long, it’s just something I do. If I miss a couple runs, I start to feel bad, mentally.” —Wendy J.
“OCD! And because running is like smoking: it guarantees me a break from regular life.” —Suzy S.
“Knowing that it is an investment in my health. Most of my family has health problems related to weight/obesity and it impacts their ability to enjoy life. I do not want that for myself or for my future children to have a mom that can’t walk or run or play because of totally preventable health issues. I want to be as healthy and active as possible for as long as possible. So I make the investment now and get my butt out the door even when I don’t want to in the moment. I remind myself I don’t need to be in the mood to run to be able to do it. And if I do it now I will reap the benefits for years to come.” —Kelly B.
“Time for myself. Not only the physical benefits but the mental and emotional benefits, too.” —Char S.
“Unfortunately, it’s the only form of exercise that gets me out of my head. I wish I could get the same release by walking my dog or doing yoga, but no go… It’s also the thing that my body seems to respond to best and most quickly so I guess I am doomed to run!” —Sarrah B.
“It clears my mind and helps me unwind from a crazy day. Also knowing the health issues my parents have faced due to not being healthy and active drive me even more to get out there!” —Jennifer B.
“It’s a lot like other fitness endeavors—visualization and goal setting. I would love to be [a better runner]…and there is an ocean of hard work sitting between where I am, and where I would like to be. There are no shortcuts.” —Douglas B.
“Having goals and goal races is motivating. I also find motivation in switching it up and running with friends. Doing fun long runs on the weekend or hard workouts with my running groups like November Project are helpful.” —Lauren S.
“New personal challenges.” —Tammy M.
“I plan destination races for motivation! I also use cute workout clothes and new running playlists as incentive to keep running.” —Stephanie S.
“Competition, health and time outside. I love the fresh air and activity that running brings—I need that both mentally and physically. I’m a competitive person and running is an acceptable and enjoyable way to channel that. I also have lean PCOS and endometriosis, and running helps me control the symptoms and give me a sense of control over my health.” —Laura N.
“Competition with MYSELF has been my biggest motivation. Beating myself is very challenging but even more rewarding when it happens.” —Laura K.
“It’s honestly become a habit, that I enjoy, and it keeps my weight in check! If I miss a few days, everyone can tell and they start to say things like, “Mommy, why don’t you go out for a run.” Getting the dog has definitely helped to get me out there because sometimes he needs it just as much as I do…as evidenced by today’s very muddy run. And, if I’m really slacking and need a reason to get out there, I just go ahead and sign up for some half marathons spread out through the year so that I’m always doing some sort of training.” —Barb B.
“It’s the unknown that keeps me going, the “how good can I get?” question—that’s what keeps me dreaming big and working hard and getting out there.” —Sarah C.
“Running is the one thing that totally grounds me, reminds of what I’m capable of each day. Running has been a constant in my life that brings me a satisfaction that comes from creating goals and pursuing them with a fierce determination!” —Kara F.
“I haven’t run in a while but I have a running partner that is always motivating me. She keeps the time and mileage (and doesn’t tell me until the end) what we’ve done for that day. Also, having the local runners group with all different levels of runners they always meet at the same time same place great cheerleaders.” —Lisa TQ
“Jill C. and our therapy sessions!” —Sarah V.
“Sarah V. and her awesome advice, easy listening ear, and knowing she will be meeting me at our corner in the early a.m.” —Jill C.
“Standing time with friends. They motivate me to go even if I don’t feel like it.” —Michelle N.
“I truly ENJOY it!” —Megan M.
“To be able to outrun the zombies…” —Mariah B.
“The satisfaction of the effort put in when done.” —Deb L.
“Having that satisfaction knowing I’m constantly strengthening my heart, mind and muscles is enough. I never want to be who I was before I was a runner. So I keep running.” —Jessica P.
It’s hard, but the benefits certainly outweigh the hardships. Start slow. Stick with it. And watch it change your life.