Challenge for Runners: Motivation

By Jenna Schifferle

In the day-to-day grind of training, motivation reigns. You need huge reserves of motivation to log mileage, recover, cross-train and stretch. Most importantly, you need motivation to take the first step out the door.

You may think it’s easy to stay motivated when you do something a lot, but the truth is that it can be just as difficult to sustain motivation as it is to find it in the first place. This delicate balance of developing and maintaining motivation takes practice. In the end, this balance can be the reason you either reach your goal or fall short.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the value of motivation as I train to run 30 miles. While there days when I instinctively lace up my running shoes and get to it, there are also days when I’m cuddled up with blankets and too cozy to move. Want to take a guess at which situation happens more often? (Hint: it’s not the easy-breezy route.)

So, how do we go about getting motivated and staying motivated? It’s a question asked and analyzed by many.

Abraham Maslow explained motivation as either intrinsic (coming from deep within) or extrinsic (coming from something outside yourself). He further pointed to a hierarchy of needs that drives motivation:

• Physical: food, water, air, etc.

• Security: shelter, stability, etc.

• Social: a sense of community, connection, etc.

• Ego: recognition, prestige, self-esteem, etc.

• Self-actualization: the need for development and creativity

My theory is that if you ask yourself “Why?” enough times, you will eventually uncover one of the needs above. And once you recognize what’s motivating you, you can leverage that reason to stay motivated. Write out your reason in big, bold letters and hang it somewhere you can see it. When your motivation wanes, reread your reason and recenter yourself.

For me, motivation is a mixed bag. Doing big things like a 30-miler makes me feel good about myself (ego), but it is also a way of connecting with the friends I’ll be running with (community). When I really drill down, though, I realize that my strongest motivator is health. Faced with a family history of diabetes and myriad other health conditions, continuing to move forward as I get older becomes more critical. So, I run.

If you’re someone who struggles with motivation, here are a few tips to get (and stay) motivated:

Connect with a community of people who share similar goals. Motivation is contagious.

Schedule time to work toward your goals and stick to it.

Incentivize yourself with a reward for doing what you need to do. Chocolate works wonders.

Consider what will happen if you don’t do what needs to be done. Fear of not reaching your goal can be a powerful motivator.

Get started. Once you find motivation in the first place, you can build momentum to keep going.

However you manage your motivation, find your fit and don’t stop until you get it done. Wishing you all the best of luck along the way.

Until the next mile,