There are periods of life where you have the energy and will to go to the gym regularly, train for a marathon, or attend daily workout classes. There are also periods of life where you don’t want to leave your house (or can’t leave your house), or even your bed.
It’s a very strange and surreal time now, and I know a lot of people’s motivation—especially fitness motivation—is suffering. So, I wanted to share some ways to stay motivated to run and work out, even if gyms are closed and races are canceled. These tips also apply if you’re in a country on full lockdown, and you’re not able to leave the house at all. In the U.S., we’re still allowed and encouraged to get exercise outside at a social distance, but I know other countries don’t allow outdoor exercise, or they limit it substantially. Regardless of your circumstances, you can still find ways to keep moving!
5 Tips to Find Your Running and Fitness Motivation
1. Work towards a goal/build a base
I think one of the reasons so many people have lost motivation (whether fitness-related, or in general) is because we all have certain events that we look forward to, and these help us get through the day-to-day drudge. These things could be travels, races, concerts—whatever brings you joy—and it’s all canceled. These events and goals are especially important in fitness, as they’re something to train towards, and give you a purpose for each workout.
For instance, maybe you were training for a marathon that got canceled or postponed. Or, maybe you were trying to reach a new lifting max, and gyms are now closed. What are you supposed to do now?
It can be helpful to look at it as a good opportunity to re-pivot, rather than give up on fitness altogether. Maybe your goal race is canceled, but you can still work on running goals. For instance, you could train towards running a faster mile or 5k, or you could build up to the longest run you’ve ever done (be sure set a specific number, like a 6 min mile or 30 mile run). You could also do a virtual race, or work on increasing weekly mileage.
Personally, I actually didn’t have a race lined up, as I’m recovering from a hamstring injury. Races are normally what motivate me though, but I’m still running to regain my speed and mileage so that I’ll be able to tackle my primary goal (run a half marathon PR) once races can happen again.
If you can’t run outside, or you were working towards non-running goals, you can still find fitness challenges to motivate you. You might try reaching a certain number of push-ups or burpees, for instance. Or, you might try a new type of activity, like yoga, zumba, or HIIT. You also don’t need to strive for anything fancy—you could just work on maintaining your fitness, which is just as worthy of a a goal.
Regardless of what you choose, just be wary of burnout. If your goal race or competition was postponed, you don’t necessarily want to prolong your training plan all the way into the fall. Maintaining such intensity without a break is an easy recipe for burnout. There’s no need to follow a strict training plan now, as it’s highly uncertain when we’ll be able to race again, and any postponed races are still far off. If you need motivation, it can help to set an intermediary goal, but take care to pursue it with balance.
2. Grab a friend/roommate/family member
If you live with roommates or family, try to organize group workout sessions. I’ve been doing yoga and core with my roommates twice a week, and it’s a really nice way to socialize and stay motivated. It’s a lot harder to skip a workout if others are expecting you to show up!
If you live alone, you can still find virtual workout buddies—some gyms are doing live workout sessions on Zoom, but you can also just schedule a Skype workout session with a friend.
For those who are new to indoor/home workouts, here are some of my favorite videos and channels:
- Yoga: Yoga with Adriene
- Abs: Rebecca Louise or GymRa for a more intense one
- Zumba: PopSugar Bollywood dance workout
- Arms: Fitness Blender no equipment workout
- Tabata (high-intensity cardio): PopSugar
3. Start small/ease back into things
If you took some time off, or are just getting into fitness, having a gradual transition can make the process much less intimidating (and it’s much better for your body!). One of the most common running mistakes is actually tackling too much, too fast. If you’re just getting into running (for the first time, or after a break), you might try the run/walk method, where you schedule walk breaks into your runs. For example, you might run 1 minute, walk 1 minute, and gradually decrease the walk to run time ratio.
For at-home workouts, start with the shorter videos. If you haven’t worked out in a while, then you might opt for the 10-minute cardio session instead of the 30-minute one, or the 5-minute abs instead of the 20-minute one. Trying to go all in too soon can be overwhelming; and, if you haven’t built up yet to that level, you might feel like quitting altogether. Find the right intensity for your current level of fitness, and push it enough to keep you engaged, but not too much that you can’t complete the workout.
4. Make it easy to reach your goals – reduce “friction”
A friend recently told me a story about a woman who wanted to run every day, but could never find the motivation to do so. She ultimately decided to sleep in her running clothes, and put on her running shoes first thing in the morning. This really helped her create a routine, and made it easy for her to go on a run—so she actually did.
By getting dressed to run, this woman reduced the “friction” of running, and increased the friction of not running. If she didn’t go, then she’d have to change out of her running clothes, or she’d have to wear them all day, and they’d be a taunting reminder that she didn’t meet her goal.
If you’re having trouble sticking to your planned workouts, try to do something similar. Sleep in your workout clothes, put your running shoes by your bed, lay your yoga mat out before you go to bed. Similarly, make it harder to do the things that normally distract you from working out: hide your phone, bury your junk food in the back of the cupboard, block Netflix or YouTube on your laptop.
5. Take a break
Finally, just remember that it’s okay to take a break, and it’s okay to lose some fitness. If you truly have trouble staying motivated, maybe it’s because your body needs time to recover. Take a few days or a week off to sleep, eat, and do the things you normally can’t get to because of training. Then, you’ll be able to come back to your fitness routine feeling refreshed.
Helpful Fitness Gear
This section contains affiliate links, meaning that I earn a small commission from any purchases made through these links. This doesn’t cost you any extra, and it helps me keep my blog running 🙂 Some of these are Amazon affiliate links, but if you have the means to support a small local running company, please consider doing that instead!
If you’re not normally a runner, or don’t usually exercise at home, you might need some basic startup equipment. Here are my favorite picks.
- Brooks Launch 7 ($100 on Amazon or Brooks) – my favorite model running shoes. These are light and springy, but still comfortable and cushioned.
- Senita Rios or Baseline ($25) – Senita is a company run by two sisters in Arizona. They have affordable fitness gear, and a huge plus is that they have pockets! The Baseline or Rio shorts are some of the best picks, though be careful with lighter colors as there can be panty lines :/ I’m not sure how sustainably or ethically made these shorts were, so if you want a more eco-friendly brand, I’ll list another option.
- Girlfriend Collective ($50+) – This company is a sustainable brand that makes fitness clothing out of recycled water bottles. Girlfriend is well-rated for its sustainability and labor ethics practices. They make the cutest colorful workout sets, and also recently got compression shorts with pockets.
To track your runs/other activities:
I invested in a GPS watch last year after 9+ years of running, and it’s been really helpful to see the data on pace/distance, and have a digital record of my training. If you’re in the market for a GPS watch, I’d personally recommend the Garmin Vivoactive 3 ($127), which is what I have, but the music version ($190, sale on Garmin). It’s touchscreen, and you can track running, swimming, biking, and many other activities. You can also see elevation/floors climbed. In my opinion, it’s the best-value GPS watch for the price.
For indoor exercise:
- Yoga mat ($13) – just a basic yoga mat, good for yoga obviously, but also core and other floor exercises
- Foam roller, yoga strap, and muscle roller kit ($42) – my roommate has this, and it’s very nifty how all the different components fit into the hollowed-out foam roller, minus the muscle roller. The foam roller itself is a little too hard for my tastes, so if you want something softer and simpler, you can’t go wrong with a classic foam roller. These break up any sore/tight muscles and help them recover faster.
I hope you found some helpful tips, and that you’re motivated to continue your fitness journey! Let me know what else you’re doing to keep energy levels high and what’s inspiring you to keep training.
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