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8 tips for motivation when you’re just not feeling it

When you're struggling to push yourself out the door, use these tricks to get going

Even the most dedicated runners have days when they’d rather cozy up on the couch with their favourite T.V. show than go for a run. When lack of motivation hits, you’ve got to turn to other strategies to push yourself out the door. These eight mental hacks will help you get over your lack of enthusiasm for the run (or gym session or whatever you’re wanting to skip) and help you stay on track.

Male runner stretching

Think about your why

Wanting to do the easy thing (stay on the couch) rather than the hard thing (do that tempo run you’ve got on the schedule) is a completely normal human tendency. This is why it’s so important to have a well-defined “why.” You need to have a reason to choose the hard thing over the easy thing that’s really important to you. When choosing your why, don’t be afraid to dream big and dream often.

For some, wanting to have a personal best in your next race may be enough, but for many, it’s not. Ask yourself why you want that PB. Why is it so important? Dig a little deeper to come up with a raison d’être that will be meaningful and inspiring for you.

Visualize your future self

Who better to have as an inspirational role model than your future self who’s accomplished your goal? When you’re having a hard time pushing yourself out the door, picture yourself crossing the finish line of your goal race, or conquering that hill you’ve always had to walk up or finally running a full 5K without stopping. Whatever your goal is, take a minute to visualize yourself accomplishing it. Imagine what it’ll feel like, how excited you’ll be. Sometimes, the image of you succeeding is enough positive reinforcement to get you out the door.

Imagine how you’ll feel if you don’t do it

On the flip side, sometimes the opposite strategy can work. If you don’t go for that run, how will you feel? Disappointment? Regret? In some cases, wanting to avoid the negative emotions you might feel if you skip your workout are enough to overcome a lack of motivation.

Break it up into small pieces

Maybe the thought of going out and doing a long run or a bunch of kilometre repeats seems too overwhelming from your position on the couch. If that’s the case, then break it up into smaller pieces. Contrary to what many people think, motivation often comes after action, not before it, so tell yourself you’re just going to go out for 10 or 15 minutes. Likely, the act of simply getting out there and getting started will motivate you to keep going. If after that amount of time you’re still not into it, perhaps you really should be taking the day off.

Pick the right time of day

If you find you’re often too tired at the end of the workday to push yourself out the door, perhaps getting up early and running before work is a better option for you. On the other hand, if you’re really not a morning person, trying to force yourself out for a six a.m. tempo run is probably a bad idea. Set yourself up for success by choosing the time of day that works the best for you, when you’re more likely to have a tank full of motivation.

Grab a friend

Sometimes when you’re really struggling, calling in reinforcements is the best way to push yourself out the door. This is a great strategy when the weather is less than ideal or when you have no choice but to run at a time of day when you know your motivation is going to be low. Having someone waiting for you takes the motivation from being internal to external, and gives you a reason outside of yourself to get out the door.

Practice makes perfect

Motivation is like a muscle — the more you use it, the stronger it gets. When you’re struggling to push yourself out the door, sometimes simply remembering this and looking at it as an opportunity to get in some “motivation practice” is enough to get you over the hump.

Listen to your inner voice and ask why

When lack of motivation hits, take a minute to listen to that inner voice who’s telling you to stay on the couch, and try to figure out why you’re not feeling like getting out there. Is it because you’re over-training, and are burnt out? Have you had a lack of sleep in the last few days? Are you getting bored with your training? Are you unwell?

Sometimes when you do a quick inner-evaluation, you might find there is a legitimate reason that you shouldn’t be heading out for your run that day. Other times, you might realize that you need to make some changes to re-invigorate your training. Or, you might realize there isn’t a great reason, and you should just put your shoes on and get out there. Regularly checking in with yourself is a great way to keep your training on track.