You trained. You ran. You finished. Now what?
Almost every runner from the first time finisher to the Olympian deals with the issue of staying motivated. Running requires a near daily commitment and especially in the days and weeks after finishing an important goal race–a time when you should be focused on proper rest and recovery–that commitment may hit a low point.
The first step is to accept that it’s totally okay to take a break from running or to not want to train. Not only is it normal, it’s necessary. The body needs time to physically recover and adapt to the stresses of training and racing. Mentally, it’s also important to take a break and recharge after all those weeks and months of dedicated training.
How long you take will usually depend on the type/distance of race you did, how long you trained for it and also how you feel after finishing. Ultimately you get to choose when to start training again but you should only do so when and if you feel ready.
Here are a few suggestions to help you stay motivated and to ease back into a training routine:
Take as much time as you need before starting up again. Give your body and mind the time it needs to fully recover and recharge. It could be just a few days or an entire month (or more). Engage in other forms of physical activity–aerobic cross-training, strength work, core or flexibility training–to stay fit. You could also try something new and entirely different. Or don’t do anything at all.
Sign up for another race and commit to a new goal. There’s no better way to stay accountable to a running routine than by having a reason to run. Signing up for another race gives you a concrete goal to work towards as well as a timeline to plan and prepare your training. Perhaps you want to try a different distance or have a unique event or destination in mind. Avoid signing up for the same events or distances again and again. There are no shortage of options to chose from!
Start with less and build slowly and gradually. You certainly don’t need to be running as much as you were in the peak of your last training block. You can also maintain your current fitness by putting in much less time and energy than it took to gain it in the first place. When starting up again after some time off, run less, on fewer occasions, and do so at whatever pace you prefer. It’s important to build a base of easy mileage before starting harder workouts so make short, easy runs the primary goal for several weeks before gradually adding workouts and longer runs.
Make a plan for success. Knowing that you should be flexible about your training and that not every day is going to go exactly to plan, create a training schedule or program that works for you and that carefully considers your goals. Aim to stick to it as closely as you can.
Find new ways to make running fun. Running and training shouldn’t feel like an obligation but rather be something you feel excited to do each time. Join a local club or group to share in some camaraderie and community. Buy yourself a new piece of gear, shoes or apparel to kick-start your motivation. Try a new running route, a new workout or training plan.
Remember why you run. Whether for general health and well-being, for fitness or weight loss, for community and social engagement, or to simply be alone with your thoughts, remember the many benefits that running and training bring to your life and the reason you chose to do it.