How to Stay Motivated to Run

One of the challenges of running is how to stay motivated to run.

How to get out the door.

How to levitate off the couch and into your running gear.

My experience is, it doesn’t take a forklift to move the mountain to the door.

It just requires a mind that has been, say, influenced.

All it takes are a few positive, consistently applied, and perhaps not-so-subtle suggestions that getting out for a run today would be just a fantastic idea.

So in the interest of public service I’ve assembled a few positive suggestions to lighten your levitation, so to speak.

Positive Suggestion #1 – Stay Healthy


Statistically, once every two years or so we’ll ding ourselves badly enough that we can’t run. The problem with being injured is that once you’re feeling better, it takes double the amount of motivation to suit up again.

So what we have to do, and I definitely include me in this royal “we”, is stop doing the stupid things that get us injured. By stupid, I mean the old standbys – too far, too fast, too soon.

My friend Simon and I have always run distance on Saturday mornings.

And we’ve been stupid.

More often than not these last few years – whether we want to admit or not – we’ve been shuffling back to the car on Saturdays with something sprung or stretched.

Unbeknownst to Simon, we are getting smarter this Saturday.

Smart, for me, is Jeff Galloway’s Run/Walk/Run program. It has you alternately running (anywhere from 90 seconds to 6 minutes depending on your goals) and walking (for 30 seconds) throughout the workout. It’s designed to keep you injury free, and my own early experience with it is…it works.

I’ve adopted Jeff’s program for most of my training now and as the saying goes, there’s nothing like the zeal of a convert.

I know there’s going to be a protest on Saturday.

I’m ready for the squawking.

But smarter and healthier it must be.

I’ll report back.

Positive Suggestion #2 – Have a Running Goal for the Season

Having a slightly-stretch running goal is another great way to keep motivated.

By slightly-stretch I mean a goal that’s do-able, beatable even, and that you can see yourself completing by just staying healthy and putting in consistent, but not heroic, effort.

It’s something that you can look back on at the end of the year and crow about.

It might be completing a 5k or 10k or a half or a full marathon or an ultra – it doesn’t matter. As long as it’s important to you and it’s achievable.

Last year Simon and I had an aggressive goal – twelve reservoir runs. The reservoir is scenic ten-miler here and a favourite of ours. Twelve loops looked achievable at the start of the year but we’d only completed two by June and were both ding’d up (see Positive Suggestion #1). We could have tried to cram in the remaining ten in the last six months of the year but that would have been heroic. Actually heroic-stupid. So that goal went kaput.

This year we’re shooting for two. If we do more, we’re golden.

The idea is to keep the goal slightly-stretch, un-heroic, and a little flexible.

With some smarts from Positive Suggestion #1, a goal like that is bound to power up your motivation one more notch.

Positive Suggestion #3 – Have a Race in Mind and Pay the Entry Fee

Nothing motivates like having to shell out cash for the privilege. Most races allow you to pay well in advance – a year in some cases. And some even have online support and pre-race training logs and programs. This one (up to Week 6 of 11) is for the 10k race in this year’s Calgary Marathon race weekend.

So put your money down.

Let your wallet do a little motivating.

Positive Suggestion #4 – Join a Running Group

Easy as pie.

No matter where you are in the world, there’s a Meetup that’s likely to share your interests and travel at about your speed. It’s a super resource for finding running groups – and also helpful if you’re traveling and don’t want to skip training.

Some of the more well-established running clubs may not yet have Meetup groups, so search “running clubs” in your area and check them out too.

Also, almost every running store has running groups departing at least three days a week for full-on training programs and just drop-in runs.

Groups give you the motivational advantages of low-or-no cost, regular running times (usually once or twice a week), and the added peer pressure of making new friends and then having to show up every week to run.

Alternatively, if beer and beer-soaked behaviour would fuel your running, look into the venerable Hash House Harriers . Self described as a drinking club with a running problem, there are hashes (chapters) in every city the world over that would be happy to introduce you to the more esoteric aspects of running and beverage consumption.

One way or the other, turning running into a social event ups the odds that you’ll get out there and stay out.

All good.

Positive Suggestion #5 – Build in a Reward

Some people use this to great effect every day.

A professor of mine once said he only ran so he could eat whatever the hell he wanted.

A cookie, an extra half hour of TV, a car – some little indulgence – can be just the reward to get you over the threshold.

If a carrot (in whatever form that takes) helps you stay healthy and get your workout in, go for it.

Positive Suggestion #6 – Plant Reminders Around the House

Motivation can be as simple as making it easy.

Put your running shoes near the door – so you have to walk over them to go anywhere.

Wash your running stuff regularly, and keep it fresh and ready to go. Nothing as demotivating as stinky (wet? Oh boy!) running gear waiting for you.

If you like reminders and notifications and these sorts of things, and they work for you…use ’em.

They remind me too much of meetings and to-do lists but hey, if your schedule is jammed, set a pleasant ring tone and keep to the plan.

Positive Suggestion #7 – Go for a Run

Most of the time, not all the time but most of the time, running is its own best reward.

And sometimes that kind of motivation is right in front of our noses.

Today I had no plans to run. I was comfortably ensconced in a book by the great Wayne Dyer when I read a passage where he described coming back from a run (he ran every single day). And I thought, hey, I can be just like Wayne Dyer today. So I laced them up and did a run-walk-run for about 35 minutes.

And I felt terrific.

Maybe it was the run.

Maybe it was being soaked in the Wayne Dyer energy field.

But it was one of those days when I felt profoundly grateful just to be outside, to be physically able to run, to have the wind on my face and hands. To have, today – maybe not tomorrow, but at least today – the good fortune to be outside and moving my body through space. I would wish this gift on everyone.

It’s the best motivation of all.

The kind that can truly levitate.

See you out there!

If you like, feel free to leave a message about how you stay motivated to run. I’d love to hear from you.
















  1. Smart Prince

    Your suggestions are simply effective and really works for I’ve tried them myself. The biggest motivation for me was indeed to shell out some real cash and then work hard to take it back in runs, or competitions.
    And when I won cash prizes that was more bigger of a motivation.

    Sometimes it gets hard to stay motivated and give attention to your fitness, but applying some simple techniques like the ones you mentioned in your post proves to be really effective.

    Thanks for writing this post and helping people who are in need of motivation.

    1. Larry (Post author)

      Good going Smart Prince. Keep on keeping on.

  2. Cameron

    Thank you for posting this! I used to have a running buddy a couple months back, but ever since I moved, I haven’t had the motivation to get back into it.

    This definitely helps, and hopefully I’ll convince myself to start running within the next few days. I mean you just gave me every way to get myself to start again, so I have no excuse not to!

    1. Larry (Post author)

      Good going Cameron. Plenty of ways to get hooked up with a good group. But still not easy to lose (at least regular contact with) a long-time friend. I’m hoping that my running pal can hang in there for a good long while, but things happen.

      All the best in your running re-start! See you out there!

  3. Danelle

    These are great tips to stay motivated, I ran in my first team relay marathon last summer and it was SO rewarding to finish. But, it was a struggle to stay motivated and get out running as much as I needed to. It helped to have a running buddy, a goal I had to reach and a reward at the end.

    1. Larry (Post author)

      You bet Danelle. It’s so helpful to have a running buddy.

      And I think your team relay marathon is even more motivational than signing up for a road race. Because now, not only are you committed financially, you’re committed emotionally – you have to show up (or somebody runs an extra leg).

      Nice. Well played.

      Good going!

  4. roamy

    Hello Larry
    Thanks for sharing your tips on getting motivated to run.I think getting out the door is always the problem.
    As someone who enjoyed running for many years, like the rest of us, putting on those running shoes were a problem, always looking for an excuse, too cold outside, raining outside or the sun is too hot to run today.
    I feel running is the best and cheapest exercise anyone can undertake, all you need are good running shoes and comfortable running clothes and you are ready to go.

    1. Larry (Post author)

      I agree Roamy. Getting out the door is always the problem.

      But like you said, it’s the best, cheapest exercise you can get. I’ve never needed a fitness club membership for exactly the reasons you mention. I have friends who belong to them so they can get in their resistance work, but since resistance bands are fine for me, it’s never made sense.

      I’ll go cheap every time!

  5. shrey

    I have been running for the past two weeks and now suddenly in the third week, I’m finding it really difficult to keep up with my ritual. It has become quite a difficult task to now continue running since staying at home feels more comfortable. This post has definitely motivated me and I would keep these points in my mind.

    1. Larry (Post author)

      You’re right at the toughest point Shrey. Getting past the three-week mark is the hardest for me. I just know those first three weeks are rough coming back from time off – so I use every trick in my bag to keep going. Just gotta make it past three weeks. Hang in there! It gets easier.

      Good going!

  6. Steve

    Hi, Great tips for getting motivated for running.

    I love running and run multiple times a week and have completed marathons and ultras, but I still struggle to just get out the door sometimes….oftentimes! The Couch is so comfy and the TV so engrossing and that chocolate is just dying to be eaten!

    I find just not thinking about it the best way. Simply go through the steps blindly, Nutrition, running kit, watch, door ….go. Before you know it, your are out the door. and never knew what happened.

    The Tv, Sofa and Choccy is still there for you when you are done…

    1. Larry (Post author)

      You got it Steve. As automatic as it can be. And, like you say you’re out the door and you never knew what happened. Perfect.


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