Top 5 Training Challenges: #1. I Can't Stay Motivated

Over the course of the next several weeks, we are going to talk you through five common challenges our runners face in the context of training for half and full marathons. We’ll provide tips and tricks on how to combat these challenges to make your next training cycle the best one yet.

The number one challenge our runners come to us with is:

Motivation

Runner having trouble staying motivated to run

Before we jump in to addressing how to combat it, let’s take a minute to define it. Put simply, motivation is the drive to persist, often in the face of struggle. For most runners, motivation peaks at the beginning of a training cycle and gradually declines as the cycle progresses, then ticks back up right before race day. But why?

It’s helpful to compare motivation to a tank of gas. At the beginning of our journey, right before we take off, our tank is full. We’re excited as we anticipate the unknown road ahead. We have a plan and we can’t wait to get rolling. As the journey progresses, our initial enthusiasm fades as we get bogged down in the details of the day-to-day. We have a tendency to lose sight of the big picture. Also, the unexpected events of life get in the way of our well laid plans. With all of that, the romanticized destination we were so excited about at the beginning of the journey quickly becomes elusive and meaningless. Too far away, and with too many obstacles separating us from it, to care about it anymore. As this happens, our motivation ‘tank’ depletes and our vigor for the daily pursuit of that destination wanes. In the extreme circumstance, we run out of gas on the side of the road and give up entirely on the trip.

So if losing motivation is such a big risk to finishing the journey (which we define as getting to the starting line of the race), how do we keep the tank full up until race day? Here are three strategies we employ with our RacePace marathon training to keep motivation levels in check.

1. Define Your “Why”.

At our training program orientation, we challenge our runners to get a little introspective and ask themselves the PURPOSE behind their training and their desire to race. We ask them to be thoughtful (and a little vulnerable) about defining their “WHY”. What is it about pursuing this sport, goal and/or race that makes it meaningful to you? By stating this clearly and thoughtfully at the outset of the process, it defines the drive (and motivation) very explicitly. Then, down the road when things get tough, we remind our runners to revisit their WHY. And that becomes the single biggest source of motivation in the face of struggle.

RacePace coach outside motivating runners

2. Build a Support System.

We are our own worst enemies. Left to our own devices, the decision to put ourselves through the daily stresses of training is exhausting. And remaining acutely focused on the purpose and benefit of all the activities that go into properly training becomes a real struggle. At RacePace, we refer to our running group as our ‘run fam’. And just like you’d turn to your family for support in times of need, we turn to each other during moments of motivational weakness. Your run fam is your accountability partner to not snooze that alarm for your 5:30 a.m. workout and your cheerleader when you don’t want to run that last rep at the track. By surrounding yourself with a community that is supportive and judgment free, you will not only be motivated by them, you’ll also be the motivation for them. Which will further motivate you, and the cycle continues.

Group of runners walking

3. Focus on the Journey.

Properly training for a half-marathon or marathon is a multi-month commitment. And in the early stages of the process, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the countless days, workouts and challenges that separate you from race day. If you’re exclusively focused on race day as your source of motivation, it’s easy to lose sight of it. But, if instead, you decide to find joy in the pursuit of the destination; if you find meaning in the progress toward the end goal, if you can create purpose in the smaller milestones; then you’ll be far more likely to keep perspective and not lose your way.  At RacePace, our weekly coaches’ email sets the tone for the week ahead. The emails lay out the workouts for the week and remind you where you are on the journey. We educate you on the purpose behind the workouts and keep you focused on your progress and the pursuit. We make sure you’re always aware of how it all fits together in the big picture. For us, the training (and pursuit) of the race is the focus. The race itself is just a celebration of successfully reaching that starting line.

Runners outside at night time

If you’re looking to keep your motivation in check for your next training cycle, our team can help you define it, our run fam can help you sustain it, and we’ll make sure you remember to enjoy the journey all the way to race day!

Have questions or comments? We’d love to hear from you.

Join our Marathon Training Program and run fam. Early registration ends June 30.

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