We all know that running or walking is good for us, but how do we stay motivated to keep doing it?
Running and walking are both important to me personally, and I have shared some thoughts about them in previous blog posts (Ten Scripture Verses on Walking with God and Running Faith’s Race, Running Faith’s Race). But I have not yet shared what I have learned about how to stay motivated to keep running or walking. So I thought I would do that here.
I ran my first marathon in 2012, and I have completed a half marathon race or longer every year since. I’m not fast, but I am persistent! And here are ten things that I have learned along the way about staying motivated:
- First, remember why you are doing it in the first place. I personally run to stay healthy and to manage my stress, but also because I enjoy spending time in God’s creation, and because it is a great way to see the world around me. I walk for many of the same reasons that I run, but also to spend time with the people I love. Why do you run or walk? Or why do you want to run or walk? Think about this, and maybe even write it down, so that you can remind yourself of it frequently.
- Goals are great motivators. But set realistic goals. S.M.A.R.T. goals – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound. Sign up for a race. Set a goal to complete a new distance, or improve your race time. After I finished my first 5K, I signed up for a 10K and that definitely helped me stay motivated.
- Variety is the spice of life – Add variety to where you run, how fast or slow you run, and who you run or walk with. After I completed my first marathon, I needed to change things up, so I went out to a local trail and immediately fell in love with trail running.
- Run or walk with a friend, or with a group of friends. For some people, this might be the most important thing you can do to stay motivated!
- Track your progress. Use an app on your phone, and track how many steps or how many miles you are running or walking. You can track other things, too, like your weight or your resting heart rate.
- Keep learning and reviewing the benefits of running or walking regularly. The list really is amazing. Among other things, running or walking makes you:
- happier; thinner; have stronger knees, joints, and bones; keeps you mentally sharper, even as you age; reduces your risk of cancer (and lots of other illnesses); improves balance; improves hearing; helps manage stress; helps with sleep;
- overall it adds years to your life, and just as importantly, adds life to your years!
- Never say that you have stopped running or walking. Take a break when you need to, but remember that you are still a runner/walker.
- Don’t forget that guilt and shame are lousy motivators! That’s why those New Year’s resolutions often don’t work – because they are guilt-based.
- Remember the three R’s of habit change. Reminder (the trigger that initiates the behavior); Routine (the behavior itself); Reward (the benefit you gain from doing it). So, add your run or walk to your calendar (reminder) will make it more likely that you’ll run (routine), and then reward yourself when you do (new running clothes, a special treat that you only have after you run or walk, etc.)
- Last, but definitely not least, turn your running or walking into an adventure! Make it fun, make it an adventure, and you’ll always stay motivated to do it. Running has become a great adventure for me, and I have been blessed to be able to run (or walk) in many different places. It is a fantastic way get to know a new town or city. And there is no better way to keep it adventurous than to run or walk in new places every chance you get.
The Adventure of Faith
And, finally, I can’t resist adding, since I am a Christian, that making it an adventure is important to our life of faith, too. Turn your life of faith – your living as a follower of Jesus – into an adventure, and you will stay motivated in everything you do. Join a new Bible study, volunteer at your local food pantry, offer to teach a Sunday School class, or do something else new and adventurous. Get out of your comfort zone, and trust that Jesus will help you as you try new things for him. As Jesus himself said, he came not just that we may have life, but that we may have it abundantly (John 10:10). So, let’s approach this life as an adventure with Jesus, and let’s live it abundantly, to the glory of God!