No matter how dedicated you are to exercise, there are days you don’t feel like it. You know what’s up on those days: Maybe life has just been busy lately, maybe the weather gets bad here in the winter, but whatever the reason is, it doesn’t matter—the result is that it’s just hard to get yourself out there running or working out. And then one of two things happen: Either you convince yourself that not exercising today isn’t a big deal, or you decide to run after all and…end up feeling discouraged about your lack of motivation. Neither helps get back into it.
Here’s something better: When there’s a day when you genuinely don’t feel like running, use these eight tricks to motivate yourself into getting out there anyway.
1. Run for your health—and the rest will follow. Maybe it’s easy for me because I’ve been running regularly since high school (yes, that was a million years ago), but I honestly never think twice about going on a run unless something is actively wrong with me or someone in my family. Between the proven long-term health benefits and the short-term stress relief, frequent running does make me feel better, both physically and mentally. If you can get yourself out on runs despite distractions or lack of motivation, you’re more likely to keep doing it—because it feels good.
2. If you miss a run, make it up the next day—in double time. This one’s my go-to trick for getting back on track after I missed just 1 or 2 days of running in a week. You can use this one too! Going for an extra-long run the day after you miss is not only just as effective, if not more so, than going for an average length run when you’re rested, but it also serves as insurance against missing another run later in the week. Spreading out your rest days prevents injury and keeps you healthy overall, so don’t be afraid to give yourself one or even two extra recovery days following 1 or 2 missed runs if needed.
3. Running is an investment in yourself. That’s a truth I try to keep close to my heart when the desire to miss a run is strong—running (and other fitness and health pursuits) isn’t just about how it makes me look or feel; it’s about what I get out of it, both when I’m receiving the benefits and even when I’m not because being healthy means being able to help others who need help when they ask for it. Which, let’s be honest, is pretty much every day.
4. Go for a short run if you can’t do long…or vice versa. Sometimes life gets busy, and that means that you have zero time to exercise. Even if running around your neighborhood in circles seems like it’ll take forever, don’t worry: 30 minutes of running is still better than none at all. Even 3 or 4 miles can help you stay healthy and fit—and what’s more? They’re also much easier to fit into your schedule than a long run, which might not be possible if you’ve got other things to do (like go out with friends or spend time with family).
5. You don’t need much equipment to run —make the most of what you have. If you only have 20 minutes before dinner, for example, you can use those 20 minutes as an intense cardio workout using only your body weight. The point is that even when motivation is lacking (at least in my case), as long as I’ve got enough time to move around a little bit, I can still get a workout in.
6. Make your run social by joining a running group or training for a race. The former will provide accountability and the latter, motivation: If you want to do well at races, there’s nothing like having other people relying on you for support that’ll keep you from slacking off later in your training process—and if you have friends waiting for you to show up, chances are much higher that you’ll be willing to wake up early on those cold mornings when all you want to do is sleep.
7. When all else fails, remember why it matters so much in the first place! Running isn’t just about being healthy or losing weight, or training for races. It’s about having fun, staying active, experiencing new things, traveling, getting to spend more time with your friends and family—all of those intangible benefits don’t necessarily make you want to run when it’s hard or cold out. Still, they’ll make you feel better when everything else feels like too much effort!
8. Keep working at it over time…and eventually, all those miles will add up! No matter how often it seems that running isn’t worth the trouble because nothing comes easily sometimes, just keep going: You’ll be stronger for it soon enough. And then someday, looking back won’t seem so bad after all—because even on the days when you didn’t feel like going for a run, you did it anyway…and that kind of determination will make all the difference.