By Fiona English
Motivation is a funny thing. It seems to come and go like the wind and I tend to find I'm motivated at really useless times (11pm at night I'm dreaming of that long run or stuck at my desk I'm fantasising about a core workout I want to nail).
Home working can be tough and being constricted by external limitations can cause motivation to run away scared. Here are my tips on how to stay motivated when times get tough.
Sit down at the start of week and plan when you're going to workout and what you're hoping to do. Planning in advance helps you prioritise the time and forces you to think through when things won't work (planning a 3-hour run the same day you're due to be working a long day - probably unrealistic).
As well as simply planning, I really recommend you write it down - this makes it more likely to happen. Personally, I use a journal and go old-school but you could do this online or on a calendar app if that works better for you.
Community is so useful in helping us through the hard sessions. I have found my running transformed since being coached by someone, as this has enabled me to be accountable for the sessions I'm going to attempt.
Text a friend and ask if they fancy doing a session with you remotely - you could both commit to doing an interval session on Tuesday or to doing the Tempo Thursday set. Check-in with that person afterwards, share what you found hard and what you're proud of for yourself for.
Accountability is such a powerful tool in helping get a session in when motivation is waning.
Find positive inspiration
Inspiration is everywhere around us. From positive influences on social media (note positive influences: if they're not uplifting - unfollow!) to stories you can read from heroes of the running community (now is a great time to read that book you've always wanted to) through to documentaries and short films and those around us. I particularly find the people in my everyday life really inspire me: the colleague who did her first 5k run in the park yesterday, my parents getting out for a daily walk, my friends committing to their workouts and finding strength and resilience.
Channel that positivity and let it fuel your workout.
If you're struggling
Sometimes life can be quite overwhelming. At times when I've been really struggling, I've committed to completing three things a day. Just three things. When I've been in a really tough place that might be as simple as shower, eat one proper meal and get outside once. When I'm doing well it might be bigger things: laundry, a running session, pay that nagging bill. Write it down. Celebrate each thing you complete, but remember if things are tough that you can do small things. Sticking to just three helps keep it manageable and gives you a positive outlook to approaching tasks throughout the rest of the week.
My recent coaching qualifications focused on the importance of goal setting, but not perhaps in the way that social media has led us to believe. Firstly, don't worry about medals or times. While it's great to have something big to aim for (I've been working towards a race in August for over a year now), it is also really important that we set bite-sized smaller goals and review our progress. Try setting a fitness-based goal of where you would like to be in 8 weeks time and then benchmark your current ability. That could be improving your balance by 20% (try standing on one leg with your eyes shut and time yourself). Or how about improving your core strength through completing regular strength training (try holding a plank for as long as you can).
Goals don't need to be about races or medals. Smaller fitness goals will have long term impacts on your running that you will reap for years to come.
The 'zero to hero' fallacy
With so many opportunities to take part in exercise at the minute, don't overcommit and try and do everything. What does your current average of exercising look like? I would always encourage that you don't step that up by more than 20% in a week. That might mean if you regularly take part in 5 running sessions a week, adding in an additional yoga class. Start slowly and remember that the phrase 'zero to hero' is a lie. Zero to "Ouch what is that sharp pain?!" more like. There is power in rest days. Since I've introduced two rest days a week, I've got 20 minutes faster at the marathon. Get stronger, stay fit and sane yet move mindfully and allow your body time to recover.
Finally: remember the power of the simple things. Eat mindfully, get some time outdoors, reduce your screen time, exercise, call your friends and family and don't overdo the caffeine!
About the author: Fiona English is a qualified running coach and ultra runner. Her blog English Runs charts her running journey as she shares her experiences, tips and favourite routes.