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Finding Motivation in Adversity: Tips and Tricks to Start Running

Be patient with me while I lead off a running post with a reference to cycling; the great cyclist Eddy Merckx once said “Ride as much or as little, or as long or as short as you feel. But ride.” I think it applies to running, hiking, or even reading and it is sound advice to encourage the act of just getting started. When the days are short, work has been long, or the mercury is on either extreme of the thermometer it’s what got me out for “just 30 min” or “just 1 mile.” Often it turned out longer once the body and mind warmed up. Considering the additional hurdles of pandemic protocol, I thought it would be a good time to talk about some road blocks I’ve experienced, and how I’ve dealt with them to keep running.

                Temperature Extremes:

     I’d like to think I have some good experience here, as I recently moved from Chandler, Arizona to Salt Lake City, Utah. Last summer I had to deal with 30+ days over 111 (and a few at 117) and now I’m finding motivation to get out and run in the snow. My best advice here is get the right gear. While warm temps meant early/late runs with a headlamp, my new running essentials are a wool beanie and light gloves. There are some great articles on proper gear on our expert advice road running page  

                Pandemic-related measures:

     Many of us love a long solo workout to do some soul search or just recharge our “extrovert batteries.” Unfortunately, a year’s worth of solo workouts can leave us yearning for a weekly group run meetup at the local coffee shop. While we can’t all pile into the same car and head to a race, we can utilize virtual programs. My friends and I have created Strava groups to track weekly miles, elevation gain, and foster some friendly competition to keep each other motived. Many virtual platforms also have virtual race and challenge options, which can be a great replacement with the current lack of in-person events.

                Partner/Spouse interest:

                My wife and I met cycling. She grew up in her parent’s local bike shops, often heading over straight from school every day. She is the only person I know who put in more miles than I did when we met. Needless to say, she’s not a runner. If we both have a day off and she wants to ride and I want to run, we pick an out-and-back or circular course where I can run laps while she rides. This allows us to see each other intermittently and to spend time together on the drive.


     Variation is the name of the game. If you’re a dedicated road runner, try trail running. If you run long distance, find an outdoor track and add some interval/speed work to your running week. Even a change of scenery can help, I’ve definitely made a conscious effort to seek out new trails or neighborhoods to run just to have new views when I feel motivation lagging. During a particularly bad burnout, I even mixed in hiking with a weighted pack one day per week. We have some great running cross-training articles on our expert advice page.

     Well, that’s what I’ve got. I’d love to hear anyone else’s tricks and tips to maintain motivation in difficult and uncertain times. We go further together as a community, so let’s share our best ways to start running!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.
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5 Replies

Good post, Jim. I'd concur with most of what you wrote. 

For me consistency and discipline have been key to sustaining the practice of running. Varying the routes helps, but often I have to just shove myself out the door when I'm feeling tired. I always feel pretty good by the time I'm done with my first mile. I also switch up my routine with hiking and cycling on alternate days. This gives muscles a chance to rest a bit.

I have known a few younger friends who discover running, become very enthused, then burn out after a few weeks. I think this might be because they insist on running every day because they are excited about how good it makes them feel, or maybe they add too much mileage too soon. Then they get injured or something and quit. Period. The thrill is gone. Game over.

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one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

Oh, one more thing. Form.

About fifteen years ago I began to study proper running form and put it into practice. You can find various youtube videos about this, I'm sure. "Chi running" or New Balance's "Good Running Form" are places to begin. Basically, I began to quit slouching, keep my shoulders back, elbows at my side, running "tall." Then I quit heel-striking and concentrated on landing on a bent knee, which meant shortening my stride. Switching to low-drop shoes like Newtons or Altras, reinforced better form. 

On days when I felt tired, I concentrated on my running form and didn't worry about speed or time. Good form tended to lead to less injuries and better times. And before long it became part of muscle memory; I no longer had to think about it to make it happen.

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

Thanks @TomIrvine I like the idea of focusing on the mechanics a lot! I just switched to Altras for my trails shoes (after running exclusively in Brooks Cascadias since the series3!) and it's definitley been a fun experiment to acclimatize and perfect the forefoot strike. 

Good stuff! 


At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

Here's another little thing I discovered - maybe you have too: you can often outrun a headache.

Seriously. I get headaches frequently enough, and I have found that most of the time I can get rid of them by going for a run - usually within the first quarter-mile. Headaches don't seem to enjoy running, and usually hop off on the roadside somewhere, never to find their way back.

Try it.

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

Great piece of motivation writing!