For years, I waited for running motivation to “strike”.
I figured eventually my mind would just get it, and I’d finally be motivated to make a healthy change.
The entire time I relied on motivation to achieve my running goals, I never accomplished any of them. Not one.
So, how did I finally develop a long-term running habit?
Well, motivation had nothing to do with it.
Something important to note: If you wait for motivation to accomplish anything of value, you’ll be waiting a lifetime.
So, what can you do if you have zero motivation to run?
In this post, I’m going to share with you how we should really view the concept of motivation and the steps we should take to get running motivation long-term.
Because, you want running to be a habit you stick with every week — not just a phase you try every 6 months.
These concepts are ultimately the secret sauce that allowed me to form a running habit and, in turn, transform my life.
There are two types of motivation: Extrinsic and Intrinsic.
Extrinsic motivation is when you feel motivated to achieve a goal to earn an external reward or to avoid punishment.
For example, if you wanted to start running solely to lose weight or to feel less negatively about yourself.
You’re only working towards a goal, so you get something in return.
Intrinsic motivation is when you are motivated to achieve a goal for the sake of achieving it.
You value personal growth.
For example, if you viewed running as an enjoyable activity that makes you feel like the badass you really are.
You’re not doing it because you think you’ll be unhappy without it, but because it adds value to your life.
While it may seem obvious that we want to favor intrinsic motivation, the reasons for this are far more in-depth than you’d think.
The reason why we want to develop intrinsic motivation is that it puts us in an abundant mindset.
In an abundant mindset, you are driven by positive emotions to complete a task.
You’ll also believe there is enough growth potential for everyone in the world — including yourself.
On the other hand, extrinsic motivation can be debilitating, because it can put us in a scarcity mindset.
In a scarcity mindset, you are desperate to obtain something with the impression that having it is necessary to be happy.
You’ll feel like life is happening TO you, and that you don’t currently have the resources or results you want to achieve happiness.
This causes you pain because you’re focusing on what you don’t have. Which makes completing the task that much harder.
So, in terms of motivation, we need to try our best to approach running with an abundant mindset.
Motivation is the ficklest of friends.
It’ll act like it has your back, then when it’s time to complete a task it’ll ditch you without question.
This isn’t just because motivation is a jerk.
It’s because of science.
Basically, we feel motivation when there’s a spike in our dopamine levels (the neurotransmitter most often associated with pleasure). (1)
This dopamine spike occurs when we feel like something of value is about to happen.
The problem is that we can have a spike of motivation way before we plan to take action.
Meaning, oftentimes, our levels of motivation are long gone by the time we start running.
Our lack of running motivation can also stem from our primitive brain.
The prefrontal cortex, which is the planning/goal-oriented part of our brains, will be stoked to begin a running habit.
This is why you feel extra motivated while you’re planning your runs.
It’ll feel almost like you’ve already achieved your running goals in your mind.
On the other hand, your cerebellum, which is the primitive part of your brain, will panic the moment you try and do anything new or unfamiliar.
This is why you feel resistance right before attempting to follow through with your run.
Your primitive brain is trying to protect you.
Now, back in caveman times, this may have protected us from terrible things, but nowadays, it only prevents growth.
By understanding the reasons we lack the motivation to run, we can better develop a strategy around it. Or better yet, through it.
Motivation can be loosely defined as “feeling good enough about a given task to follow through with it at that time.”
I love this definition because it gets to the core of how motivation really works.
How do we expect to accomplish anything or achieve personal growth, when we wait to feel “good enough” before following through?
Life Hack: We don’t.
The secret to developing a running habit is this: Allow yourself to feel the negative emotion and follow through anyway.
We need to ignore our primitive brain telling us to stop.
Act despite the discomfort you feel in the moment.
It’s only by following through when it feels hard, that it eventually becomes easy.
Each time you follow through with your running plans, you develop trust within yourself to get the job done.
Which is super important and super effective!
Now, this isn’t what most people want to hear.
Most people want to hack or trick their way into forming a fitness habit long-term.
While these things can help you get started, they don’t create lasting change.
Which leaves you feeling frustrated at yourself when these hacks don’t work.
Let’s actually set our minds up for running success, shall we?
Hey there! I'm Kat Rentas. I’m a certified eating psychology coach for women who believes that eating healthy should feel simple and sustainable. I teach hundreds of high-performing women to change their eating habits without the overwhelm. Want to change your eating habits in a way that is aligned with your needs, preferences, and goals? You’re in the right place. You can read my full story here.