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At the end of the day, it’s important to remember: Finding your purpose in life or running doesn’t always have to be so big-picture and lofty. Get more meaning out of your time on the road (or treadmill or trail) with these micro-tips.
Focus on How You Want to Feel. Tired? Stressed? Getting caught up in the negative won’t get you going. Thinking about how you’d like to feel after your run (proud, calm, accomplished) can, says Julie Vieselmeyer, Ph.D., a Seattle-based psychologist and president of the Running Psychologists.
Ace Your Transition. When you put on your shoes, make the mental switch between your day and your run. That’ll mean something different to everyone (maybe it’s leaving your phone behind or going over your sprints in your mind). “Having good boundaries gives you your time and space to create what you want out of a run.” Develop the practice on a good day so that on a bad day your brain will be used to making the switch.
Think Outside of Yourself. “A lot of times, we make running about ourselves,” says Magness. (Your goal, your training plan, how your body feels.) Tying running to something greater—being a role model for your kids or being part of a group—makes the activity more meaningful, Magness says.
Know Where Running Fits In. There are years where running is a huge focus in your life and times when (new baby?!) it’s not. That’s okay. “It’s not realistic to expect to be at peak levels in all things at all times,” says Vieselmeyer. Knowing how much effort you can dedicate to running and setting goals around that can give running a purpose (to be social, run errands, or compete) at different points in time.
Treasure the Great Moments. “We rehash memories if we have a bad race or run, but it’s rare that we actually take the time to focus on those near-perfect moments,” says Vieselmeyer. But that run (you know, the sunny/warm/happy one five years ago when you unexpectedly felt amazing?) can be a vision for what you can be in the future, she says. Keep a private training log that includes how you feel and re-read it from time to time; that’ll allow your brain to relive the feel-good sensations.