Running tips

Jennifer Geer

Need a little inspiration? I've got you covered.

Everyone has days when their motivation wanes. Days when it’s hard to get out the door to exercise. But I have found that sometimes, on the days where I’ve had to argue with myself the most to get going, I end up having the best run of all. It’s a mental game where you can’t let the part of your brain making the endless excuses win.

Here are some tips to trick your mind and get you moving on an off day.

Tip #1: Shorten your run

You may have a six miler down on your running schedule, but that doesn’t mean you have to follow it. If it seems impossible to get out the door today, tell yourself you’ll go shorter. You may find once you’re out there running, you feel great and decide to keep going.

Tip #2: Listen to a podcast or find new music

Make a new playlist, find a new station to stream, or choose a podcast you enjoy. Some dedicated runners swear against listening to anything during their runs. They say it affects their concentration. But if it gets you out the door and keeps you entertained, that’s a good thing.

Tip #3: Pick a new running route

Do you have the same path you follow through your neighborhood every day? Change it up if you’re feeling bored. If you typically run on the roads, find a trail nearby. Running apps, like MapMyRun, can help you find nearby routes that others enjoy. Or if you run one direction each day, try reversing your course. Even something as simple as that can make your run feel new.

Tip #4: Run on the treadmill and watch a movie

Again, the running purists may frown on this one. But if you need something extra to get you moving today, head inside and turn on Netflix. You can choose a show of around the same length you want to run for that day. You’ll get involved in watching it, and when it’s over, you’ll find you’ve completed your workout.

Tip #5: Find a friend

A running buddy can keep you honest. If you’re supposed to meet your friend for a run, you’ll feel much less able to skip than if it’s only yourself you’re letting down. And chatting with a friend while you run can make the time seem faster.

Tip #6: Run in the morning

There are many benefits to running in the morning. For one thing, you can be finished with your workout, showered, and dressed, all before breakfast. It won’t be a looming thing in the back of your mind you know you need to take care of. Also, your willpower is at its highest in the morning. As the day wears on and you make more and more decisions, it begins to get depleted. You may find by the end of the day, it becomes too tempting to cancel your plans for that evening run.

Tip #7: Running apps can give you social support

There are plenty of apps that will track your runs, and many of them have social aspects as well. You can friend people and cheer for each other. Some friendly competition can go a long way to help motivate you to get moving.

Tip #8: Add speed intervals or hill repeats

Change your run if you’re feeling bored. Don’t do the same run every day. Speed intervals, tempo runs, or hill repeats will help keep your runs feeling fresh, and for an added benefit, you’ll increase your speed over time.

Tip #9: Find your mantra

Find a mantra that speaks to you. A running mantra is a short phrase like “be brave” or “get it done.” Or if you’re more of a visual person, use an inspirational photo and pin it someplace prominent. Find something that fits your personality and motivates you.

Tip #10: Plan your reward

If you’re trying to stay healthy, going for a run isn’t a license to eat whatever you want. But maybe you have a favorite (healthy) breakfast you can treat yourself to after your run. Of course, it doesn’t have to be food. Little daily rewards work, or you can pick a bigger one when you accomplish a goal, like a massage or new running gear.

I’ve regretted not working out, but I’ve never regretted forcing myself to go on a run. Once I’m moving, I almost always feel better. Sometimes it's just a matter of getting yourself out the door.

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Jennifer covers lifestyle content and local news for the Chicago area. New articles published each weekday.

Chicago, IL
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