What to you do when your goals aren’t enough to keep you motivated to run
As a runner, you’re probably really good at setting goals. A goal could be a personal record in the 10K, to finish your first marathon or some other specific achievement that be recorded, measured and celebrated.
Goals can be great for generating motivation. But what do you do when your motivation lags anyway? If you’re struggling to stick with a training plan or resolution to run consistently, the dream of achieving a future goal or result can be insufficient for keeping you on track.
What you need—and deserve—is an approach that delivers more immediate rewards.
The solution is lays in setting intentions.
What’s the difference between a goal and an intention?
A goal is a desired future outcome that may or may not happen. It requires you to invest in the work of training now for payoff or success in the future. Your success is usually an either/or situation; either you either achieve your goal or you fail.
An intention, however, is about achieving a desired feeling or state of being today. Setting an intention keeps your attention on how you feel right now. Your success cannot be measured in definitive terms, because no matter what, simply acting in line with your values and desires increases your confidence.
Here are some examples of goals vs. intentions:
Goal: To run a sub-45 minute 10K in May.
Intention: My strength and speed improves with each interval run; I recover quickly and am psyched for the next workout.
Goal: To finish my first marathon before I turn 45.
Intention: Endurance running keep me fit, strong and healthy and feeling as good as I did in my 30’s.
Goal: To lose 5 lbs by the end of the summer.
Intention: I love and take care of body; I feed it good food and keep it well exercised and healthy.
From those examples, I hope you see that intentions are about approaching running as though you’ve already achieved your stated goal. This way, you’re living the values and desires that support the reason why you run in the first place.
Running can bring about great change, whether it be in your physical body, mental state, personal image, competitive level, confidence or some other measure. But when those results are off in the future, they may fail to motivate you today.
So, how do you set an intention that will support your journey to your long-term goals? Follow these steps:
1. Get clear on how you want running to serve you and fit into your life.
What would you ideal or perfect day look like? How much of your day would be dedicated to running or activities that support your running, like stretching, eating a healthy meal or other self-care activity?
What do you need to get from today’s run in particular? Maybe you’re fired up and ready to knock out some hill repeats. Perhaps you’re completely drained from an emotional day at work and just need to shake off some bad energy.
Get honest and clear about what would serve you best right now, regardless of what your training plan prescribes.
2. Identify and name the feelings you want to experience now.
Giving precise names to the feelings you want to achieve will crystallize them in your mind so it’s easier to carry them with you throughout your run. It could be a simple as, “invigorate,” or “get stronger,” or “let go”.
Choose one word or phrase or several of them to describe how you want to feel.
3. Determine what type of run would help you achieve that feeling or state of being today.
Regardless of what type of workout you have planned, be honest about whether that workout is the best choice for you today, given what else is going on in your life.
For example, perhaps you’re supposed to do a long run of 12 miles, but you barely have time to run that far before work, you’re still sore and achy from yesterday’s hill workout and not feeling especially motivated.
You decide that today’s intention is to achieve a relaxed rhythm and to feel as though you could run forever at this pace.
4. Make your intention to experience those stated feelings.
So you start that 12-miler focused on thoughts of relaxed rhythm and release any thoughts or expectations that don’t support that intention. For example, ruminating about a conflict at home or stressful situation at the office won’t help you find the relaxed rhythm you’re after.
What if, after 8 miles, you lose the relaxed rhythm and struggle to keep going? You have a choice of whether to honor your intention or push yourself to run the full 12 miles.
Dishonoring your intention by doing the latter, may be tied to the ego’s urging to always do more, whether or not it’s what’s best for you.
But by honoring your intention, you prioritize your values and desires over the end goal, which ensures that your running is sustainable. This means that it fits in with the rest of your life (and its ever-fluctuating circumstances) rather than conflicts with it.
With this approach, there’s no chance of failure.
Instead of seeing your run of less than 12 miles as “falling short,” you congratulate yourself for being realistic and intuitive about what you wanted to achieve today.
Those daily successes do more to take you closer to your overall (long-term) goal than sticking to a training plan to a T.
Have you tried setting intentions for your runs? How well has it worked for you? Tell me about in the comments section below.
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