20 Strategies to Help Motivate You When You Don’t Feel Like Running

There’s a famous sporting goods company that uses the slogan “Just do it!” While this mindset may work for some, it certainly doesn’t work for everyone. Even the most determined athletes face stretches in their training where they struggle for motivation. Maybe it’s cold or hot or rainy, maybe you had a tough day at work, or didn’t get much sleep the night before, or maybe the kids have been a challenge, or maybe there is a ton of work to do around the house. For one reason or another, sometimes we just don’t feel like going for that run today. It happens to all of us from time to time, and this is normal. From the seasoned runner to the newbie, from the Olympic track star to the weekend warrior – we all hit highs and lows where sometimes we are excited about running and looking forward to that next time out on the track or trail, and other times we just can’t find the energy to lace up our sneakers.

Sometimes we need a little extra motivation- a push, a reward, an encouragement to help us get out the door. But everyone is different. What works for me may not work for you and vis-a-versa. Finding what works best for you is what’s important. So, let’s look at 20 strategies that have proven successful for helping others get back into running, or stay motivated to keep running. Not all will apply to you but find the one(s) that do and use them to help keep you motivated and successful in your running endeavors!

  1. Get a running partner – a running partner can be a big source of support and accountability. Having a good friend who you enjoy talking with and running alongside can help get you out the door. They can be an encourager when times are tough, and make your time together on the trail more fun. Having a scheduled time to meet them will increase the likelihood of you getting out to run.
  2. Schedule a race – having a goal race is often a strong motivator. Whether it is a 5K or a marathon, that doesn’t matter. Once you sign up and put out the money to run a race, you have a reason to train. Announce it on Facebook or Instagram that you are going. Set a goal for the race; it can be just to finish or even to PR with your best time. Get a friend or two to sign up with you for some extra motivation. You will be surprised what having a race on your schedule can do.
  3. Buy new gear – who doesn’t get motivated in a new outfit, or want to show off their new running shoes? Take a picture, put it on social media. Nothing like some new threads to get you going.
  4. Create a new “running playlist” – download a new list of upbeat, motivational songs. Get a running playlist someone has already put together (there are many out there), or create your own. Save them for a time you don’t feel like running, and then plug-in and go! When the right songs are playing in your head and the beat is pulsing through your body, running is a lot more fun.
  5. Join a running club – find a local running club that gets together once or twice a week for group runs. Not only will you make friends, but knowing there’s a group that’s expecting you will help make you want to attend the scheduled runs. In addition, a running club will help answer many of your running questions, and lift you up and encourage you during times you don’t feel as motivated to run.
  6. Reward yourself – Select a small reward (Netflix movie, Starbucks coffee, new running socks, etc.) for completing a tough week of workouts – but only redeem it after you complete your runs. No run, no reward. It may be small, but it may be just the motivation to help get you going.
  7. Just 2 miles – Don’t feel like running the scheduled 6 miles today? Instead, commit yourself to just run 2 miles, or 5 minutes, or something shorter and easier than what is on your schedule. Once you are out you just might find you can get in the full, scheduled workout for the day. And even if you can’t, something is always better than nothing.
  8. Set and publish goals – peer pressure can be a good thing, and when it comes to running motivation. If we establish running goals and publish them for ourselves (post them on our refrigerator, bathroom mirror, or wallpaper on our cell phones), it becomes a constant reminder of why we are running and what we will accomplish if we keep running. Or, take it to the next level and share it with friends or post it on social media. The more visible our goals are, and the more people who know about our goals, the less likely we are to give up on them.
  9. Make running appointments in your calendar – life has a way of creeping in on your best intentions. But if you schedule your runs and block off specific times on your calendar, you are much more likely to make it happen. Consider it a firm appointment with yourself that can’t be cancelled. Then other things will have to be scheduled around your runs because you will make them a priority and have time to get them done.
  10. Run for a cause – most everyone has a personal reason to run. For some it is to lose weight, stay fit, lower their blood pressure, etc., and these are all great reasons. But do you have another reason you run? Is there someone who you know can’t run because they have an illness who you know would love to be out running? Is there a charity you can raise money for through your running? Dedicate your running to a cause or to someone else, and your motivation for running can be greatly increased.
  11. Get a running coach – want someone to really hold you accountable? Get a running coach. Want someone to set up a realistic plan with less chance of injury? Get a running coach. Want someone to encourage you when you feel down or push you a little harder when you doubt yourself? Get a running coach. A running coach can do all this, and more. It may cost a little money, but a good running coach is well worth every penny and will help keep you motivated and help you accomplish your goals.
  12. Put on your running clothes – don’t feel like running today? Just put on your running clothes and shoes, and you will be surprised how much easier it is to get out the door. Some suggest setting out your clothes the night before if you have an early morning run scheduled, and others even suggest sleeping in your running clothes. Whatever it is that makes getting out the door easier and more likely to happen, do it!
  13. Create a running journal – How can you accomplish your goals without keeping track of where you have been and where you are going? Keep a log of each days run: the day, time, conditions, the distance, time to complete, pace, any specific training elements (intervals, hills, easy, long run, etc.), and a quick observation or two about how you felt, issues you faced, accomplishments you made during the run. It will let you see your progress and help keep you motivated going forward.
  14. Visualize your accomplishments – see yourself where you want to be in six months, a year, or two years. Focus on what you want to accomplish, create a picture in your mind of it, and you are more likely to get there. If you want to lose 20 pounds, picture yourself 20 pounds lighter. If you want to run a sub-30-minute 5K, picture yourself crossing the finish line in under 30 minutes. Create a visual picture, focus on it before each run, and you are more likely to realize that accomplishment.
  15. Vary your routine – don’t get stuck in a rut. Change up your routine and try something new. Are you always a morning runner? Mix in a few evening runs. Do you always run the path in your neighborhood? Find another trail through the woods. Do you always run solo? Try a few runs a month with a partner or running club. Do you always run listening to music or paying close attention to your paces on your watch? Try an occasional run free of technology. However you normally run, do something different on occasion, something that challenges you, something that stimulates you with a new environment, something that changes your routine. You might be surprised what a difference it makes.
  16. Plan your run the night before – This ties in with many ideas we have already discussed, but plan for your run the next day. Set out your running clothes, pay attention to what you eat the night before, make sure you get a good night’s sleep (yes, that might mean not going to that party, movie, or staying up late to watch tv), skip the late-night snack, set your alarm, etc. Have a plan for the next day’s run, minimize the distractions, eliminate the things that will make you less likely to get up in the morning, and be prepared for the run ahead of time, and there is a much greater probability you will not only go on your run, but have a very successful run.
  17. View motivational quotes/read a motivational story – sometimes all it takes is reading what someone else has done or said to get us motivated to go run. Find a bunch of motivational quotes on Pinterest and read them. Pull out old copies of your favorite running magazine. Keep a collection of posts or stories off the internet of people who have overcome major obstacles in their lives to run. Watch a video that motivates you. Find things that are motivational and use them when you just aren’t feeling the desire to run – it could be that boost you need.
  18. Make it fun – whatever you do, have fun doing it. Take a run a week or once a month and go out with no set length or time goal. Explore a new neighborhood or trail on your run, observe what is going on around you, take some breaks during your run and get a cup of coffee, swing on a swing set, or do cartwheels. It may sound a little crazy, but that is the point! Whatever is fun to you, do it and enjoy the day and the workout. It will have you looking forward to that “fun” run and motivate you to keep running.
  19. Schedule a destination race or “run-cation” – One of my favorites is to run in entirely new parts of the country or even in a totally new country. It can be your goal race, or just a fun trip, but planning it and having it to look forward to is great motivation to keep running. And then once you are there, to explore a new city, different elevations, humidity, temperatures, cultures, etc., makes it all so much fun and generates great memories. You probably can’t do it often, but when you can it will really help motivate you and make running a lot of fun.
  20. Take some breaks – What I am saying is take a break from a hard training week for some recovery time. Don’t run hard every day. Build in plenty of “easy” miles. Build in days off. Build in weeks of recovery runs (fewer, easier, shorter runs) after a hard race and training cycle. You need time to allow your body to physically and mentally rejuvenate. Otherwise you run the risk of burnout – don’t let that happen. And yes, from time-to-time even taking a week or two off from running altogether after a tough training cycle can be what gets you excited about running again – just establish the exact amount of layoff time and stick to it.

So, use some or all these 20 proven tips to help regain motivation for running. Experiment with one or two before moving on to others, find what works for you – but be sure to mix it up! Don’t always rely on the same thing to motivate you every time. Before you know it you will have your mojo back, be logging the miles and enjoying your runs – even the tough ones. See you on the trails!

Which of these do you want to try first? What have you tried that didn’t work? What have we missed that motivates you? Please share your motivational suggestions and results so we can all benefit.

For more information about accountability and motivation, check out our article, 


By: David Willard