Every runner—and even their coaches—have days where they just don’t want to run. When that happens it is easy to shrug it off as not being motivated; however, that may not actually be the issue.
Terry Chiplin, founder of Active at Altitude and the athlete-focused mental training app activacuity, explains that willpower “can make the difference between consistently making good decisions that support your training regimen and help you achieve your goals—or it can leave you stuck in a rut or plateau that you can’t seem to find a way out of.”
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After looking through research on the subject, Chiplin actually found out that we may be looking at willpower and its relation to our running all wrong.
Here are a few things to consider the next time you feel unmotivated—and what to do about it with your new outlook.
Willpower acts like an emotion.
Chiplin cites recent studies that willpower can flow in and out of our consciousness in unlimited amounts, just as emotions do. “We tend to think of motivation as something that can be lost and found because motivation can wax and wane; without understanding what causes motivation to change, we tend to try to put it into simple terms,” he notes. If you are struggling through training, it doesn’t mean a lack of willpower; it just means you may need to refocus or break down your next few workouts into more manageable chunks.
You may just need 15 minutes.
Not feeling up to a run? If it isn’t because of injury or illness and is just mental, get moving for 15 minutes. “I generally know in the first 15 minutes if a run is something I need to pull back on and take a rest day or two,” notes Chiplin. “If there is something deeper underlying a tough patch, then stopping and paying attention to what our body is possibly trying to tell us can be really useful and stops us from papering over cracks.”
Choosing a mantra can seem a bit out there, but you’ll know when you’ve found one that works. “Mantras should be positive and empowering and the exact opposite of the way we might think about ourselves,” comments Chiplin. “We have a narrow window of opportunity to kick those old disempowering habits and thoughts, and mantras are a good way to kick start actions based on the powerful way we would like to think.” Having a mantra on hand can help us refocus when willpower is lacking.
Technology can help you regain focus.
Sure, sometimes all of the data at our fingertips can be a distraction. However, when it comes to willpower, technology can actually help restore it. Using a mental training app—such as activacuity—or just having a playlist of power songs can help you shift your focus and bring your mind back to the goal you are working to accomplish.
There is always another way to reach your goal.
Don’t want to run? It’s okay? You can still make strides toward your goal even if lack of willpower is keeping you from lacing up your shoes and hitting your favorite trail. Head to the gym for a short cross-training session or even a yoga class to get in some light stretching. Spend time in the kitchen setting up your fuel for the next few runs. Even if you aren’t out on a run, you can work on the other things that you need to be a strong runner but may be neglecting.