How to Stay Motivated to Keep Running in Between Races

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Every May, a friend of mine starts training for a fall marathon, works hard all summer and fall, runs some shorter races, does the marathon, and then goes into hibernation for the winter, gaining weight and getting out of shape. After every marathon, he says he wants to break the cycle, but he just can’t get motivated enough to run without a race deadline looming over his head.

A simple solution would be to run more races, but non-stop racing may lead to injuries and mental burnout (plus, it can hurt your wallet — some races are expensive!). So how do you avoid becoming a total coach potato during a racing sabbatical? Here are some tips to stay motivated to keep running – even if you don’t have a race in the next few months.

Set a schedule – and stick to it. Just because you’re not training for a race doesn’t mean you can’t follow a schedule. If your goal is to run three days a week, mark those days down on your calendar so you think of your runs as appointments that you can’t miss. It helps to set a consistent schedule, like running every other day. I like to run every Monday, since it makes me start off the week on the right foot.

Run with others you may not normally train with. Another idea is to view a training break as an opportunity to run with friends who you normally wouldn’t do serious training with. Or maybe you’ve always wanted to try running with your dog (or a friend’s) alongside you. Have your kids asked to run with you? Now’s a good time to run at an easy pace with them, or run alongside them as they ride their bike or scooter. It’s also a good chance to find new places to run — check to see where other runners in your area are running.

Find new goals. I also like to focus on a running-related, but non-performance, goal when I’m not training for a specific race. Think about what you’d like to achieve by the time you start training for your next race (so you still have a deadline), such as losing five pounds or strengthening your core. A friend’s goal for last winter was to get her arms more toned and “sleeveless shirt-ready” by June. Running, plus lots of push-ups and bench dips, worked — she’s got killer triceps now.

Some other ideas for non-performance related goals are becoming a more social runner, mentoring a new runner, or volunteering in the running community.

Start a streak. For the past few years, I’ve done a Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day running streak, with the goal of running at least one mile every day. Trying to keep a streak has been fun and extremely motivating. You can try to do one for two months or two weeks – whatever works for you.

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