Rediscover and Find Your Running Motivation

I come across a lot of runners who seem to have lost their running motivation. They are going through a dip and can't seem to get their grasp back upon their motivation, purpose and reasons for getting out and running.

Essentially motivation means having enthusiasm, a need or a reason for doing something. If your need or reason is strong enough then I'm not sure you have to be too enthusiastic, you just do it regardless. 

Most runners experience dips in their running motivation from time to time, as well as enjoying the motivation highs that come along too. As we continue to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic, I think that dips in running motivation have become a bit more common. Whether it's stress and anxiety caused by aspects of the pandemic, a sense of lethargy from how long it's been impacting (with still more to go), the loss of usual activities and routines, the lack of running and racing with others in the usual way, or something else, running motivation can often suffer. 

When an area of our life doesn't seem to be going great, it can be easy to engage in those negative thoughts and feelings, and that leads to feeling worse and even less enthusiastic to get running or to run well. Certainly I think not being able to train and interact with others (in training and racing) can leave a big hole in your motivation and joy of exercise.

Yet, sometimes the best runs are those where you initially didn't really feel like it. Sometimes it can be useful to think about the reasons you run, the physical and mental health benefits, and how much better you'll feel if you do it (and how much worse you'll feel for not doing it). I often get myself out of bed by reminding myself how much better I'll feel for having done my run. 

Other times I try not to think about it at all. You can't always trust your thoughts and feelings to guide you. So I don't engage with them too much: I just get out of bed and start getting ready and if it's a run day then I run. It becomes a habit to run on the days you run and like any habit, it just starts and seems to happen whether you like it or not. 

 

running motivation hypnotherapy in ely

 

The Physical and  Mental Health Benefits of Running 

I've written before about the benefits of exercise for your mental health. Research has shown the benefits of exercise for depression and mental health issues. 

Exercise appears to have a protective effect against future depression and to provide a large beneficial effect to those already suffering with depression, and it can help with the treatment of anxiety. Regular exercise has been associated with lower anxiety and depression. Generally exercise has demonstrated a reduction in anxiety and can also decrease overall anxiety sensitivity.

In addition to these awesome benefits of exercising, the research also suggests that running may protect your memory from the impact of stress and may keep your brain healthier for longer as you age.

With regard to running specifically, there is evidence that running is associated with a lower risk of all-cause, cardiovascular and cancer mortality. Even the smallest amount of running has significant benefits, even just once a week. Just getting out and running, regardless of how often or for how long, can reduce your risk of death. Even just running once a week has benefits over no running at all.

Low physical activity is associated with a greater incidence of common mental health issues so that increasing your cardiorespiratory fitness, through an activity like running, decreases the associated risk of new onset mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression.

There is more on all of this research in this article that's definitely worth a read: Ely Festive 5k 2019 and Why You Should Get Running For Your Mental Health

If you are looking for some running motivation, remind yourself that it will help you to support both your physical health and mental health both now and into the future. If you want to get and stay physically and mentally healthy then you want to be getting your trainers on and heading out that door to just get moving.

Certainly running and exercise have always formed part of how I support my own physical and mental health. Running outdoors helps me to think, to process any challenges going on in my life, or simply gives me time off from thinking about much at all (which to my mind is like giving my brain time off from thinking to recharge a bit). I've written more about how running and my mental health have always gone together in a blog for the Run My World (Running and Mental Health - Run My World Blog).

For me, no matter how I'm feeling that day when I wake up, I always remind myself that I will feel worse for not running if I skip it and I will feel so much better if I get up, get out and get something done. I remind myself how much better I will after my run or exercise for having done it, regardless of how I felt or what I was thinking beforehand. So deliberately remind yourself that you are going to run for your physical and mental health and well-being. Whether you think it or feel it, just getting out and doing something, at whatever place, and for however long, is going to benefit you now and later. And later you'll be glad you did something. 

 

Running Motivation: Why Do You Run

As you get into running more and do more training, and as time and completed races pass by, you can hit a dip in your running motivation. You can start to forget why you even started running and persevered through those early days. So deliberately remind yourself why you started running and why you do run.

Sometimes we all get dips in our motivation that can impact on some or all areas of your life. One area of your life is going great and another seems to come to a stuttering stop, you hit a challenge along the way, life intervenes, you become disheartened for some reason, you hit a goal and experience a vacuum of purpose afterwards, and so on. 

Running is no different and your running motivation can suffer.

Maybe you are lacking a goal that inspires you and gets you excited. Running goals can be about running a further distance, running quicker, completing a race, running more efficiently or with better form, staying fit and healthy, finishing in a certain place or simply running for your own enjoyment.  Why are you running? What are you aiming for right now? 

Have a think about why you started running in the first place? What do you enjoy about it or what do you usually get from it? What usually keeps you running? You may just be having a little bit of a dip (for many life or running reasons) so reconnect with your running purpose and your running 'why'.  In fact, write them down and read through them whenever you are about to decide whether to go for a run or not. 

It's also valuable to check in on the other areas of your life. A lack of good quality sleep can impact on running motivation, and over-training, a lack of training variety, anxiety, stress, general lowness and a host of other factors can knock your running motivation. So take a moment to consider how the rest of your life is too and aim to take steps in your wider life to support your mental health and well-being. You may well find that your running motivation will naturally return as you resolve other things.  

And all things considered, be sure to be kind to yourself. Runners can be some of the most self-critical people (or is it just me and my running?!). We expect to be smashing every run, getting quicker and going further and just plain running better. Sometimes it isn't about any of that, it's just about relaxing, going with it and enjoying it.

Some of my favourite runs this year were around the New Forest where I took no notice of my pace and only had a cursory glance at my distance. It was more about exploring, seeing what happened, trying something new, doing different routes and just forgetting about performance or goals for a bit. Back here in Ely I know sometimes it's great to run familiar routes and to know how far you're going, yet other times the same old routes seem jaded and unstimulating and I need to try a new route or see where a different path goes or revisit a route I haven't done for many months to mix things up a bit.

So be nice to yourself if you are seeking more running motivation. It's ok to change plans and run 'just because.'

 

Remind Yourself of Running Highs and Lows

My motivation is always at its peak when I'm training for a race or an event. Whether it's a 10k or a marathon, I have a plan and I stick to it. Regardless of life, the weather, how busy I am or any unhelpful thoughts and feelings, if the plan says run then I do it. The nervous excitement and desire to do my best will keep me focused and motivated until the finish line (and I imagine crossing that line achieving my goals, or looking pleased, including when out running). Whether it's because I'm competitive with other people or only myself, a race goal and the desire to cross that line can mean that there is always enough motivation to keep training.

Another time I often feel very, very motivated to run is when I can't run! That may be a practical reason because my usual routine is interrupted for some reason, but is more usually when I'm injured and can't physically run. Regardless of how motivated or not I was beforehand, once I'm injured I miss running, I long for it and I'm desperate to be able to run again (while promising myself I will definitely never take it for granted again and I'll also definitely stretch more this time!). 

And is it me or when you're injured do you seem to see runners everywhere? Like it seems every person in the world is our running when you can't!

So to boost your running motivation remind yourself how you feel when you can't run and how much you want it when you can't have it. Remind yourself how much you miss it and how much you enjoy it when you are injured and can;t run at all.  Reconnect with the desire and passion to get out and about one foot in front of the other. 

If we aren't constantly hitting a new goal or achieving more we all have a tendency to become a bit dissatisfied with what we do have. Once upon a time just running a mile or two was a huge achievement that inspired you and motivated you and you felt proud as you improved and achieved it. You then start thinking about a 5k or 10k and then you aim for further or faster. Those early improvements are often continuous and comparatively large. As you improve, the margins of improvement get smaller and things become more of the same. We do have a human tendency to feel dissatisfied and pin our happiness on achieving or obtaining the next thing. We work hard to obtain those things and then we get used to the new way of being and want more.

You can reconnect with that early excitement by thinking about why you started running, why you enjoy it and what you get from it, as I've mentioned above. You can also draw upon these times when you are injured and can't run by using 'negative visualisation'.

I wrote more about this here: Using Negative Visualisation To Support Having A Wonderful Life

You spend some time imagining that you have lost the thing you value, your ability to run. Perhaps you find yourself injured and unable to run, or for some other reason you are deprived of being able to run (back in the early days of Covid-19 there was a real risk that outdoor exercise would be curtailed which made every 'threatened' run a blessing).

Doing this can help you to value and appreciate your ability to run more than you may otherwise. You can combine it with gratitude practices and remind yourself how amazing it is to be able to run, that your muscles, limbs and organs work so well and allow you to move in this way.

Using this negative visualisation can help you to reconnect and value your running and the things you love about running so that you experience more joy and happiness from it.

On the flip side, there is also a lot to be said for remembering and thinking about your past good times, successes and achievements running. Get your race medals, mementoes and photos out and remind yourself of all that is good about your running.

For me, whenever I think about my best running moments, my mind always goes to the crossing the finish line at the Cardiff marathon. As well as being my home town event and my fastest marathon time (at the hey day of my running performances), the finish was a lap around the outside track within the majestic Millennium Stadium. I can still vividly recall the moment I crossed the line in my personal best time, and smiling as I looked up and saw my Dad up in the stands waving and smiling down at me. It's a moment I'll always treasure and that makes me long to get my trainers on and enjoy moving more again.

So to boost your running motivation, you can spend a few moments imagining how you will feel if you don't run and you let the little voice in your head talk you out of it, and then contrast it with how much better you'll feel after having run a few miles (perhaps using some of the reasons you run and the mental health and physical benefits) before making the decision to just do it (and then start getting ready in your usual way to create momentum and action). 

You can also imagine it's your next race and how pleased you are as you cruise through it because of the effort you put into running today (in contrast to that rueful feeling of struggling through it and wishing you'd done the training). You can seek social support from running friends, see what they are up to on Strava and get competitive and maybe even set a running challenge with some friends to give you that extra push that motivates your running.

When I need more running motivation and effort, I will often imagine while I'm out training that I'm at a race event, hearing the crowd cheer me on, pushing on over the challenging miles and digging deep, and putting in the level of extra effort that is often found when there is a finish line to aim for.

To build upon your best performances (in competition or training), follow these steps:

1. Sit somewhere quiet, take a deep breath and close your eyes. Send a few moments imagining breathing in calmness and breathing out any tension. Extend your out breath to enhance feeling calm, relaxed and comfortable.

2. Start to recall a time when you were running well. This could be a time you ran strongly and felt good, a successful race performance, a time you trained well or another time when you felt accomplished or you felt good running. Vividly imagine being there, running well. See the sights, colours, shades of light. Hear the sounds around you. Notice how good you feel in yourself and the sort of feelings like determination, motivation, persistence, confidence and strength. And notice the kind of thoughts that you think when you run well, maybe encouraging yourself, certain words or statements that inspire you and move you forward. As you remember this successful run, really be there in your mind and bring it to life in your imagination as best as you can.

3. As you continue to recall your great running experience, remind yourself of all the reasons you have for running and for wanting to run. Maybe you run to feel better mentally and physically, or to manage your weight or because it makes you feel better, or because you want to achieve a certain time and distance. Whatever your running motivations, have them in your mind now and think how good it feels when you achieve these and make progress on the goals you have set for yourself.

4. Let the thoughts, feelings, sights and sounds from a good running experience, and the reasons and motivations you have for running, dominate and fill your mind. And then start to imagine watching yourself the next time you plan to run. Imagine watching yourself, there in that environment, looking motivated and decisively deciding to get ready, get your trainers on and get running.  Imagine watching yourself taking action, being motivated to run and even feeling good about your upcoming run. Run it forwards and see yourself looking pleased afterwards, enjoying positive outcomes and enjoying good feelings.

5. Then step into this motivated you. Imagine being there the next time you plan to run. See the sights, hear the sounds, think the thoughts and feel the feelings of  motivation to run. Mentally rehearse it and be this version of you in your mind. Think positively and remind yourself you can do this, of all the positive outcomes coming your way from making it happen and tell yourself with conviction how you've got this.

6. Commit to taking action and going for a run (and then set yourself a reminder and have your kit ready).

Repeat these steps several times and notice how much more motivated you feel and how much more you enjoy it when you complete it. 

Of course, doing these steps within hypnosis can make them much more powerful and engaging. And there is growing evidence of how hypnosis can benefit your performance. 

 

Hypnosis For Sports Performance

There is certainly evidence for the effectiveness of hypnosis in sports psychology and in helping you to boost your performance. Milling and Randazzo (Enhancing Sports Performance With Hypnosis: An Ode For Tiger Woods, 2016) carried out a review of sports hypnosis and presented a comprehensive review of the effectiveness of hypnosis for enhancing sports performance.

In their paper, they describe some of the common psychological interventions used to enhance sports performance. These include visualization (or mental rehearsal), learning to modify and direct self-talk during training and competition, arousal regulation (e.g. to decrease anxiety) and goal setting around improved performance. All of these things (and more) can help with running motivation, enjoyment and progression.

And, in addition, Hamid, Abdoli & Shahroie in their 2018 paper (Efficacy of Cognitive Behavior Therapy with Positive Imagination of Success During Hypnotism on Athletic Performance) found that cognitive-behavioural therapy accompanied by the positive imagination of success during hypnosis significantly increased the athletic performance in the experimental group in "three items of shoot to the target, fixed pass and moving pass".

There's more detail on these studies in these earlier articles: 

Sports Psychology: The Impact of Hypnosis on Athletic Performance

Hypnosis For Sports Performance - Research and Evidence

Sports Psychology & Performance: Hypnosis For Peak Performance

 

Running Motivation 

We all go through peaks and troughs in our running motivation, whether running related (e.g. training boredom, over-training, a loss of purpose etc.) or due to other factors or challenges in life. It can even be 'one of those things' that just comes along and zaps your motivation and joy of running. However, like all feelings, this too shall pass. You can take constructive action doing some of the things I've covered here, or simply let it run its course. Soon you'll be back loving it and smashing it and filled with the running motivation that you know you are capable of.

To your running success,

Dan Regan

Hypnotherapy in Ely & Newmarket 

 

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