With the darker mornings from setting the clocks ahead (daylight savings) and a dose of soggy Pacific NW weather, it’s been extra hard to get out of bed to hit the roads early in the morning.  Although I probably wouldn’t have admitted it, before I discovered intuitive eating, the fear of gaining weight ultimately pushed me out the door run after run.  With that fear gone (or at least sequestered to a dark closet where it only makes appearances once in a while), I’ve found more positive ways to keep running and enjoy it more than ever.  Whether you’re looking to feel more motivated in your running or looking to get started, check out the top ideas that motivate me to run and share your own in the comments below.

1) Run With Friends or Find a Training Group

When I run with friends, running time becomes girl time, exercise time, and a source of free therapy, and I accomplish all of this before 8am!  It’s impossible for me to overemphasize how wonderful a solid run with good friends can be.  Plus, when I know a friend is depending on me to show up at a set time, I resist the urge to fall back asleep.  My feet hit the floor, and I get there on time.

Running with friends is motivating and fun

Running with friends is girl time, exercise time, and free therapy all rolled into one. Photo credit: Nate Cooper

Coming back from injuring my heel, I’ve found my main motivation to get healthy and regain my fitness is to be fit enough to do speed work with my friends again.  Seriously, that’s how motivating a great group can be.

I recommend finding people to run with whom you enjoy and run a similar pace to you. (If they run too fast or too slow, it will be hard to make running together a long-time thing.)  Check out my list of running groups if you’d like to meet new people, or ask your local running specialty store for groups in your area.

2) Run on Trails

Trail running is one of my all-time favorite things.  There’s something about running along quiet trails among the trees, ferns, and water that makes me feel peaceful, powerful, and euphoric.  I can start a trail run feeling stressed and grumpy and leave feeling strong and serene.

My favorite Camas trails in Lacamas Lake Regional Park. Photo credit: Nate Cooper.

View from my favorite trails in Lacamas Lake Regional Park. Photo credit: Nate Cooper


Running on trails lends injury prevention and performance benefits as well.  Truly, I had my best college cross country season after running in Forest Park in Portland, Oregon throughout the preceding summer.

3) Pick a Race

My husband, (a four-time marathoner who still doesn’t call himself a runner), swears by this one.  He has to pick a race, like a marathon, that scares him enough to train because he knows he can’t just wing it.  Picking a race motivates me to train, (especially to do consistent speed work), because I want to get a good time (finish fast) and also minimize the pain that comes from pushing hard (better fitness=less pain).

After having my babies, I picked a half marathon four months after each of their birth dates.  I knew I had to build up to running 10 miles in training to be able to finish a half marathon, so I got out for long runs each week as well as my mid-week training runs.  Picking a race motivated me to train.

4) Listen to Podcasts

Although I love running with friends, I like running alone, too.  Sometimes I  just enjoy the quiet time alone, but sometimes I want to be entertained, laugh, or learn something while I run.  Enter the podcast. Below are some of my favorites to listen to while I run (or do menial housework).  My favorites are all free.  I download them through iTunes.

  1.  Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! – NPR’s weekly current events quiz. This is a great way to catch up on the news I’ve missed throughout the past week and to get caught laughing out loud mid-run, too.
  2. TED Radio Hour – Based on Talks given by speakers on the world-renowned TED stage, each show is centered on a common theme – such as the source of happiness, crowd-sourcing innovation, power shifts, or inexplicable connections.    I absolutely love this one.
  3. The Fizzle Show: Blogging, Entrepreneurship, and Self Employment – this podcast is hilarious, motivating, and provides great ideas on how to become successfully self-employed.
  4. Planet Money by NPR – episodes for this podcast are short, about 15 minutes, but they usually leave me feeling a little smarter about money, news, and the economy.

5) Download Fun Music and Create a Playlist

When I download new music or create a playlist, I feel a little extra jazzed to run.  I recently learned that running with music can offer some performance enhancements as well.  From Scientific American: “Music distracts people from pain and fatigue, elevates mood, increases endurance, reduces perceived effort and may even promote metabolic efficiency. When listening to music, people run farther, bike longer and swim faster than usual—often without realizing it.”  For real?  I ‘ll take it.

6) Imagine How I’ll Feel After I Run

When I’m laying in bed feeling especially tired and cozy, sometimes I’ll envision how I’ll feel after I get up and run.  Almost always, I know I’ll feel happier, more energetic, and have a positive sense of accomplishment from running.  Channeling that future empowering feeling into my present helps me get up and run.  Granted, there are times I’ve thought, “I’m so tired (or sick) that I’ll feel worse if I run.”  At those times, I totally go back to sleep.

7) Momentum Breeds Energy (Sometimes It’s Good to Set the Bar Low)

Years ago, I remember reading an interview with a top semi-pro mountain bike racer who managed to balance the demands of full-time work, family, and competitive racing.  I remember him saying in the interview, “Momentum breeds energy,” and that phrase has stuck with me ever since.  Creating energy-breeding momentum is a fundamental principle that applies to almost everything, whether running, work projects, or cleaning my bathrooms. Simply getting started is the hardest part.

When I was pregnant expecting my second and third children, I remember my alarm going off and facing my moment of decision: “Should I get up and run, or should I go back to sleep?”  Internally I would give myself permission to run as slow as I wanted for one mile, and if after one mile I wanted to stop, I’d tell myself I totally could (and I meant it).  However, by the time I’d hit one mile, I’d feel good enough that I would want to keep going.  Creating that little bit of momentum created the energy I needed to have a decent run.  Sometimes setting the bar low will get me started, and then momentum carries me through to the finish.

8) Find a New Route

Running the same routes again and again can feel stale and boring.  In high school, sometimes my mom would drop me off 6-10 miles from home (at my request) so I could run home and experience something new.  When my runs are feeling dreary, finding a new place to run makes it feel fresh and fun again.

9) Buy a New Running Outfit or Pair of Shoes

As shallow as this sounds, when I have cute running gear, I’m a lot more excited to get out of bed to put it on.  Try it if you need a little boost.  Check out some of the Running Favorites community’s favorite shoes, apparel, and gear, and feel free to add and review your own.

10) Go To Bed Earlier

We can probably all agree that sleep offers a myriad of benefits.  My life turns from black and white to color after a good night’s sleep.  Granted, before I had kids, heading to bed early was so much easier.  When I was pregnant with my first, I remember my alarm going off at 5:15am so I could hit the gym before work and feeling like “I’m awake! I feel good!”  Getting adequate rest makes me feel more motivated to run and tackle my day.

What motivates you to run?  Please share what motivates you by commenting below.