Motivation for Runners: A Dumb Summary

Motivation is what drives us. No, not like a chauffeur or a bus driver. We mean a driving force, something that compels us to our first steps as runners. And our 10,000th step. And our jillionth. Motivation is the "Y" part of the equation "X + Y = Z," where X is you, Z is running, and Y is "Y U run." (Which is the inverse of "Y U no run?")

The word motivation is closely related to motiveMerrriam Webster describes its origins thusly:

Middle English, from Anglo-French motifmotive, from motif, adjective, moving, from Medieval Latin motivus, from Latin motus, past participle of movēre to move

This is the same motive, of course, that you hear about in crime stories ("Police are still searching for a motive") and television police procedurals ("You really think this is our guy? Where's the motive?"). Which makes sense, when you imagine a non-runner struggling to understand why an otherwise normal human being would wake up at 5 a.m. to go running in a cold, steady rain. "Something stinks. It just doesn't add up."

Except that it does add up. For us, anyway. We are motivated, driven, to run. And so that's what we do.

The reasons why we run vary. Motivation is a highly individual thing; what works for one runner may not work for another. Therefore, you'll have to figure out what best motivates you. Some of us run to lose weight or maintain our current weight. Others, to stay fit and healthy. Many of us run as a form of stress management, to "blow off steam" or to clear our heads. Still others run to indulge and nurture their competitive spirit. For most of us, it's a combination of two or more of these things.

Broadly speaking, in Dumb Runner's opinion, there are two kinds of motivation: The kind that makes you want to be a runner in the first place, and the kind that gets you out the door day after day once you are a runner. Think of these two types as Starter Kit motivation and Daily Maintenance motivation.

Starter Kit motivation usually involves a specific, measurable goal, such as a desire to lose five pounds or to complete a 5K race. (Looser, more abstract goals, such as "get healthy" or "start running" are so vague as to be useless.) For a beginner, the goal can be as simple as "run at least one mile a day, three days a week, for a month." Whatever you think will get you going.

Daily Maintenance motivation—the kind you rely on once you've established yourself as a runner—is trickier, not least because your brain may adapt over time to anticipate and reject motivators that have worked for you in the past. (Lousy brain!) So be prepared to change tack as needed.

Why do some runners lack motivation? Here, too, the reasons vary. Like anyone else, runners can suffer crises of confidence. We get burned out, discouraged, distracted. We also get sick from time to time, which doesn't help.

Or perhaps, like certain R2 units, we simply have a bad motivator.

  MOTIVATION IS IS WHAT GIVES A JEDI HIS POWER. IT'S AN ENERGY FIELD CREATED BY ALL LIVING THINGS. IT SURROUNDS US AND PENETRATES US; IT BINDS THE GALAXY TOGETHER.

MOTIVATION IS IS WHAT GIVES A JEDI HIS POWER. IT'S AN ENERGY FIELD CREATED BY ALL LIVING THINGS. IT SURROUNDS US AND PENETRATES US; IT BINDS THE GALAXY TOGETHER.

Just know that a periodic lack of motivation is normal. Happens to the best of us. Don't freak out! Acknowledge it, work through it, and move on.

Dumber Summary:

Motivation is whatever lights a fire under your ass. A figurative one.