Running is great, but everyone can struggle with motivation at times. Here's some advice for delaying with dips in enthusiasm.
Struggling to get out there?
It's winter. It's cold. It's wet. You can be forgiven for struggling to summon the motivation to get out for a run.
Joining a club or scheduling a run with a friend can help but it's not always possible.
Having a structured training plan and keeping a record of your training progress is be a must for all runners. It's incredibly useful to see how much progress you have made and how you managed to achieve it. It doesn't have to be an extensive diary- these days you have sites like Strava to help you record your session stats, but you should make some extra effort to make a quick note of how you're feeling as a result. This feedback is really useful, helping you avoid overtraining and burnout.
A lack of progress or disappointing performance...
Progress is never linear- we all go through bad patches in our training and racing. Consistency is the key to running improvement, there is no miracle workout or revolutionary training regime, you need to believe in your training and stick with it. A training diary or record can help you deal with these disappointments too- it helps you realise how far you have come already!
If you are suffering a longer term plateau however it might be worth thinking about tweaking or adapting your training approach. It's always a good idea to discuss this with your coach or training partners to get their perspective.
Dealing with negative thoughts while out on the run
In terms of mental techniques for crushing negative thoughts while running I have a few. The first one isn't really a technique but helps me; listening to audio books or podcasts. I go for something light hearted- nothing too deep. I don't want to have to think, just be diverted from the pain.
The second one is to focus on the feedback your body is giving you.
Try and focus on how your body is feeling will provide a great diversion. It might sound a bit odd, but give it a go. Focus on each of the following 3 things- going through them as a check list.
- Breathing. is it deep and rhythmical? Can you slow it down? Perhaps try and breathe in with the nose and out with the mouth but most importantly just try and concentrate on finding a rhythm.
- Are your shoulders relaxed? Try and drop the shoulders, lifting your head and neck. Try and imagine your body side on- there should be a line running from your ears through your shoulder and hips down to your toes. There should be no tension in arms or shoulders.
- What do your footsteps sound like? Can you hear them? Ideally they should be quiet and contact with the ground should be short and light. If you can hear the steps try and slow down but take more steps (increase cadence). Don't tip toe, keep applying the whole foot to the ground but try and land softly with light flexible ankles. I really try to focus on the turnover of my feet when I am tired.
If you are new to running try to break the run into little parcels of time. Take a walk or slow down to a manageable pace and go through these focus points at a slower speed. It really is ok to take a break- I do it during faster paced runs all the time!
Your brain is incredible, but it can't deal with too much information at the same time. Asking it to analyse feedback from your body should keep it busy for a bit!