For the last couple of months my partner Kevin and I have been focusing on improving our health and fitness. We’ve overhauled our diet and started an intensive exercise program as part of the 12WBT. We’re currently in the final week of the 12 week program and we’ve had great results – we’ve both lost a significant amount of weight and changed a lot of bad habits we’d fallen into. I’m fitting into small sized clothes for the first time ever and feeling fitter than ever.
In sharing some of these achievements on Facebook an old friend asked for some tips on how to get motivated with running. Running is a big part of our particular 12WBT program and I quite enjoy running as my regular exercise. Here’s what’s worked for me:
1) Set a goal.
Make sure you set an achievable goal and a timeframe you plan to tackle it on. For us it was choosing to do the Run for the Kids. Once you’ve paid that registration fee and told everyone you’re going to do it (announce it on your social media – nothing like a bit of peer pressure to motivate you) then you’ve really got no choice but to commit.
2) Download Runkeeper or a similar app on your phone to track yourself.
Apps like Runkeeper can be a fantastic way to track your progress and motivate yourself. Many of the apps have built in training programs and regular reminders to tell you to get off your butt. The audio cues are particularly useful for helping you keep tabs on your progress mid-run. If you’re motivated by good storytelling/gameplay and something a bit more quirky – I’ve also had a bit of fun with Zombies, Run!.
3) Curate a good music playlist.
I like running to music – it gives me something else to focus on when I’m pushing my body really hard and the beats help me to keep a good pace. I like to have a mix of tempos – the more upbeat songs are a good reminder to push harder and pick up the pace. Keeping a diverse and regularly updated playlist is important for me.
4) Wake up earlier and run in the mornings.
I hate mornings (I barely function before my morning coffee), but doing exercise in the mornings has been one of the most valuable changes we’ve made to our routine. When you’ve exercised in the morning you can no longer use the excuse at the end of the day that you’re too exhausted to exercise.
5) Mix up your running.
Don’t do the same boring run every day. Try some of the interval training options in your running app or mix up your location – explore part of your suburb you’ve never checked out before or go somewhere really hilly to test your legs.
6) Add a social/peer pressure element.
Do it with someone or a group of people so you have the peer pressure to get up and do it on a regular basis. I’m lucky to have a very motivated partner who pushes me out of bed every morning, but it can be anyone – there are lots of running groups or online forums you can use to find some social motivation. It’s hard to ignore a friend or running buddy knocking at your door at 6am.
7) Warm up and stretch properly so you don’t hurt yourself.
Of course you’re going to hate running if you don’t look after your muscles before and after. The one thing you can’t be lazy about is warming up before running and stretching afterwards. You’ll feel much better and you’ll limit the risk of injury. Kevin and I have also invested in the occasional massage after particularly tough training weeks.
8) Don’t just run.
If you’re only running 7 days a week you’ll just bore yourself. Mix in some toning workouts to build up your supporting muscles. You don’t need a gym membership or equipment – you can do great toning sessions in your local park or at home. Also make sure you give yourself some rest days.
9) Running doesn’t = sprinting.
Pacing is so important. One of the things I’ve noticed many people do is totally overdo it. Build up to going faster and don’t blow all your energy in the first 5 minutes. Kevin and I have different levels of cardio fitness so we don’t technically run together – we’ll start at roughly the same time, go for our runs and reconvene to stretch and debrief with each other. If you’re running with a group a good technique to manage this is for the fastest runners to run ahead a short distance, turn around, lap around the slowest runner and repeat. This means the fastest runners still get a good workout and the slowest runner still is included in the group.
10) Get outside.
I say avoid the treadmill and get outside. I feel much more motivated when I have an actual location to run to. The fresh air does wonders for me and helps to wake me up for the day. I even love when it’s a little bit cold and wet – there’s nothing more refreshing than running with some light rain.
These are just some of the things that have helped to motivate me when it comes to running. Different things will motivate different people, but the key thing is just to try a few things and see what works for you. Get out there and give it a crack!
P.S – If weight loss is a particular focus for you don’t assume running alone will achieve that. We’ve also focused very hard on diet change and on building incidental exercise into our day. We’ve become particular fans of Fitbit for increasing our incidental fitness and I build in a half hour walk to work every day. These changes have made just as much difference as the running and exercise program.