In the past week alone, I’ve heard from five different women, all requesting coaching services for the same reason: they stopped running and couldn’t motivate themselves to start again.
Why is it that some runners can take a break after a race or during a holiday season and have no trouble getting back to a regular routine, and yet others procrastinate and eventually resist the thought of running altogether?
I decided to look at why each of these women had stopped running. After all, it’s not the first time I’ve had women ask me to help them get back on board with their training. If you’re a regular starter/stopper, see if you recognize yourself in any of the following situations and try the recommended tips that follow.
Runner #1: Ran With a Friend Until the Friend Stopped
This woman used to run with a friend, but when her friend’s work schedule changed and disrupted their regular meet-ups, she stopped running. This runner lacks motivation to run on her own, but since there’s no guarantee she will always have someone to run with, she needs to find a way to get herself moving either with or without a running partner.
I would suggest to this type of runner that she try and determine what factors in her environment are getting in the way of her intentions. One lady I know is a nurse who starts work in the early hours of the morning and can only run in the evenings after she has put her two little ones to bed. By that time she’s pretty exhausted, but she knows if she sits down for even a moment she won’t get back up again.
To avoid the temptation to sit down, she lays out her run clothes every morning, and as soon as she puts her kids to sleep, she goes directly to her run clothes and immediately changes into them. She says having her run clothes on helps to squash any thoughts of skipping her run.
Tip: Setting up your environment to assist you in your daily effort to run will get you one step closer to the door and one step further away from the couch.
Runner #2: A Working Mom With Two Little Ones
This runner is a working mother with two under-five-year-olds. Time and energy are her two greatest restrictions. I don’t have young kids or a job that requires me to leave my house every day, but I do have other obligations that place certain demands on me. One of the things I do to ensure that I have both the time and energy to exercise is intentionally shut out the chaos in my mind.
On most days, I typically have an endless and overwhelming to-do list, filled with parent, coach, writer, runner, and personal goals and jobs. I’ve learned, though, that exercise alleviates a lot of the stress I feel, so I always move my daily workout to the top of my list.
My workout essentially becomes one of my top priorities, regardless of how stretched I am for time. There may be other tasks that have to be taken care of first, but my exercise will usually be done at the earliest opportunity. Everything else falls into any ensuing gaps of free time that become available.
Tip: The way I see it, I will be busy regardless of whether I make time to workout or not. It makes sense to me to exercise in spite of any time or energy restrictions, because there will always be work to do. I’d rather face the workload feeling spent from a good workout, but refreshed and able in mind.
Runner #3: Loved Running Camp, But Hasn’t Run Since
This runner participated in a six-week camp almost a year ago, but once the camp ended, so did her running. Unlike the runner in the first scenario, this runner won’t respond to a manipulation of environmental factors. What she needs is the company of other runners, not so much for social gratification, but for accountability.
Tip: I would go as far as suggesting that this runner may not even enjoy running, and that participating in any type of group fitness class would satisfy her desire to stay active. Finding a workout buddy or hiring a coach would also be an ideal option.
Runner #4: Member of the Military With Orders to Move
This runner is an active duty service member who received orders to move from one duty station to another. In the process of preparing to pack up and leave, she had no time to run. Then, when she arrived at her new duty station (here in Okinawa), she struggled to adapt to the heat and humidity.
Two things I suggest to someone in this type of situation:
- Establish on paper a set weekly schedule with allocated run times.
- Make a goal adjustment that allows for a steady and achievable rate of progress.
Tip: Sometimes, when a transition phase comes to an end, things can quickly be put back in order by simply writing out a schedule that reflects any changes in work hours and overall routine. In the case of additional obstacles, such as climate changes that make exercising difficult, a goal adjustment will alleviate any pressure to maintain or exceed previous performance levels.
Runner #5: Sidelined by Injury and Giving In to Inertia
This runner was forced to stop running due to an injury, but it’s been weeks since she was given the all-clear by her physical therapist to resume training. This runner wants to get going again, but she lacks motivation because the idea of having to completely rebuild her fitness base is somewhat depressing.
The best advice I can offer to a runner in this situation comes from blogger Gregory Ciotti. In an article he wrote about building lasting habits, he suggested creating micro-quotas and macro-goals. He said:
Your goals should be the big picture items that you wish to someday accomplish, but your quotas, are the minimum amounts of work that you must get done every single day to make the bigger goal a reality. Quotas make each day approachable, and your goals become achievable because of this.
Tip: Finding the motivation to resume training after an injury setback can be challenging, but when micro-quotas and macro-goals are set it can turn the experience into one that is looked forward to.
Have you had a similar experience as any of these women? What helped you get back on track? Post your thoughts to the comments below.
1. Ciotti, Gregory, “5 Scientific Ways To Build Habits That Stick,” 99U
Photos courtesy of Shutterstock.