February 17, 2021

Where I Find My Running Motivation

(Just beware, I'm going to pepper this post--liberally--with more of my favorite running photos!)

I always hesitate to use the word "motivation" because if you've been reading my blog for any time at all, then you know that I hate that word. (Here is a post explaining the difference between motivation and determination, and why I don't really like using the word "motivation").

In short, though, I think that motivation has its place. I believe that motivation is temporary and short-lived. That's why it's so easy to get fired up about a new plan (diet, exercise, whatever it may be!) and we do so well in the beginning. But once the motivation fades, then we need something to keep us going or we just give up. (That's where the "determination" factor comes in.)

I think of motivation as being a short-term burst of energy (mental and/or physical) to get something done--followed by an immediate, short-term reward. For example, you may wake up and not feel at all motivated to get out of bed from under your warm covers when it's freezing outside (when I woke up today, the temp outside was -11 F!). Then you think of a hot shower and how nice it will feel, so that motivates you to get up and moving.

While I was losing weight, motivation helped me here and there, but it didn't carry me through the entire process. That's where the determination and discipline have to take over. Sometimes, though, I needed a push of something motivating to keep me going (reading others' success stories, trying on smaller clothes, etc.)

Now that I am starting to feel excited about running again (starting over from square one) I've been feeding myself motivation to keep the excitement going long enough for me to make this change in my routine.

The biggest motivation for me comes from looking at photos of when I felt my best--whether for running or my weight. In this case, I want some running motivation, so looking through my old running photos gives me a ton of motivation. A few days ago, I even made a folder on my phone of running photos that motivate me so I can look at them when I'm just not feeling it.

However, when I first started running, I didn't have pictures to look back on--because I was a total newbie. So, I had to find that push elsewhere.

On this post, I just thought I'd list a few sources of running motivation. I wrote a post several years ago with some movies and books about running that I liked, but it's pretty outdated now. Here are some current (or classic) favorites:

Instagram Posts - I follow the hashtag #slowrunnersclub because I am much more motivated to see other people like ME getting in their running workouts than I am seeing elite runners. When something seems so unobtainable (like elite racing), it just makes me feel overwhelmed. It's hard to remember that there are ordinary--and slow!--runners, too. I love seeing people post about their typical runs when we are on a similar playing field. (On the other hand, some people might be MORE motivated to see elite runners' posts--we're all different!)

Read the story behind this shirt. It is heart-melting!

A "Running Playlist" on my Phone--I made a playlist of songs that I remember listening to when I first started running in 2010. When listening to the songs, I can even remember a few specific runs and what point of the run I was in during that song (no idea why!).

Running Podcasts - My favorite is "Another Mother Runner". I hadn't listened to it in SO long, but I recently started listening again to episodes that catch my eye. I miss it!

Running Books (Amazon affiliate links):

'Running for My Life: One Lost Boy's Journey from the Killing Fields of Sudan to the Olympic Games' by Lopez Lamong. I LOVED this book and I'm going to read it again. I even gave it to my dad to read!  It's such an inspiring story. Yes, he makes it to the Olympics (as you can see from the title); so, while it's not the "I want to do that, too!" kind of motivation, it is simply a feel-good running story. My dad's not a runner and has no interest in running, but he loved the book for the story itself.

'Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Ever Seen' by Christopher McDougall. The last time I mentioned this book on the list of running motivation, I said that I only included it because so many OTHER runners loved it--but I just couldn't get past the first chapter or so. Since then, I finally read the book and I loved it! This is definitely a "superathletes" type of book (these people are superhuman, truly) so I can't relate to the them on their level--but it's SO interesting and definitely made me want to run.

Running Audiobooks (I listened to these while I was running, which helped me get through runs):

'Depression Hates a Moving Target' by Nita Sweeney. I wrote a review of this and shared a guest post by Nita. This book felt like it was written just for me--the mental health + running was just what I needed. I'm currently listening to the audiobook again during my walks.

'My Year of Running Dangerously' by Tom Foreman. I didn't know when I started listening to this that Tom Foreman is a well-known broadcaster for CNN. I am glad I didn't know that, because I probably wouldn't have chosen to listen to this audiobook if I had. His daughter asks him to run a marathon with her, and it takes him on a very long (literally) running journey.

'Running Man' by Charlie Engle. This is about an elite runner, so I didn't listen to it thinking that I was going to achieve this sort of level, haha. But I really enjoyed the book--I'd like to watch the film that the book is about, called Running the Sahara, produced by Matt Damon.

There are some films that I love for running motivation, too, but you can find those on this post (I won't re-list them and make this long post even longer). I do want to add one movie, though:

'Brittany Runs a Marathon' on Amazon Prime. I LOVED this movie! I wrote a review on my blog here.

So, this is just a short list--there are so many books, movies, podcasts, websites, blogs, etc., that are great for a quick boost of motivation! If you have any favorites, please feel free to share. It's been a while since I've been into all things running ;)


  1. Between you mentioning DHAMT twice in the same week and you finding joy in running again, I can't get enough of these posts. I'm also glad I'm not the only one who finds old photos inspiring. Go you! And, thanks always for the shout outs. My editor loves you BTW. ;-)

  2. LOVED the Santa Hustle race! They stopped doing it locally years ago (it used to be at Knott's Berry Farm in southern CA), and I was so sad. I did the virtual race this year mostly for the awesome swag ;)

  3. Hi Katie! I'm glad to see that you're finding your running mojo again. Are you going to watch your heart rate? I'm curious because I'm very slowly coming back from an injury and thought low heart rate training would be good for me (as opposed to a Couch to 5K type interval plan). The hard part for me is that with low heart rate, I can't run AT ALL without my HR getting too high. It is all power walking and I'm getting frustrated. I'm thinking about switching to a run/walk interval plan just so I can actually run. What are your thoughts on this? Thanks!

    1. If you're looking at getting back into running for the long haul, and not just focused on a particular race, then I think heart rate training would be ideal. It takes a LOT of patience and you have to set your pride aside, but you'll be a better runner in the long run (no pun intended). You could do an interval plan if you really want to get some running in--however, your intervals might be super short. The MAF range (for low-heart rate training) is 180 minus your age. And then 10 beats below that number is the low end of your range. I'm 39, so my MAF rate is 141--and the low end is 131. That means to stay in the MAF training zone, I would need to keep my heart rate between 131-141 bpm. To do intervals this way, you could run (very easily and slowly) until your heart rate reaches the top number (141) and then walk very easily until it drops to the low end (131). Then start running again until it hits the high number. And so on. You might find your intervals to be only 10 seconds long at first! But over time (for some people, it only takes a few weeks to see results--for others, it could take several months) you'll be able to run at that lower heart rate for a long time. I never felt better than I did after doing heart rate training!

      However, I also followed an 80/20 method with it. I was training five days a week--one run was a tempo, one was short fast intervals, and the other three were very slow (MAF) runs. If you do 80% of your TIME spent running at a MAF heart rate, you significantly decrease your odds of injury. Since you're coming back from an injury now, though, I'd take it easy for a while until your body gets used to running again.

      Try giving the super short intervals a try with your MAF heart rate range. Just remember to run as slowly and easily as possible so that you're able to run for longer before you hit your high number.

      Sorry for such a long response! Let me know what you decide--I'm curious how it goes for you. Good luck!

    2. Thank you! This is very helpful :)


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