Posted by: Dean Hebert | August 28, 2008

Youth Running: Finding the motivation to run

A reader named Sophie asks:

Hey, so I’m a soccer player, so I’m always in pretty good shape, and I run track a few seasons each year for my high school. Cross country starts in about a month and I haven’t been keeping up with running everyday to get back in shape for the season, I kinda have the love/hate relationship going on with running!! I was wondering if there were any tips you have on motivation to get me up and running every day for the next month? (Is it possible to lose visible weight from running this month before school starts mid- September? I eat very healthy in general, no junk, but if I could lose a few pounds while running would be a definite plus!) Thanks!

I have found soccer players to be the best source of quality runners. Soccer conditioning and training includes voluminous sprints in practice as well as short sprints in games. Soccer players have been recorded to cover five miles or more of running during a game. So, the first tip for staying motivated for running cross-country is to keep playing soccer (club soccer in the off season)! Do what you enjoy to stay in shape!

From the sports psychology end of things most soccer players are wired a bit differently than distance runners. (By the way, my wife and kids happen to be a soccer players.) Generally, team sports attract people who enjoy the company of others… not that we distance runners don’t like people, but we can get lost just being in our own world doing a repetitive movement (putting one foot in front of the other). This is not a value judgment – neither is better or worse. It is a predisposition. So as we look to what gets you uniquely motivated, you may find several leads here.

– Start by making a list of why it’s important to run. Is it to make the varsity team? Is it to represent your school? Is it to be with friends? Is it for fitness and weight control? Is it to prepare you for soccer season? The more reasons you come up with the power you have behind you to get out there. Different days, different reasons may hit you harder and stimulate you to action.
– Find someone to run with. Make an appointment to meet someone. The social obligation itself can get us out there. But, the real point is that you add a social element to your running which may add enjoyment.
– Listen to music. Get an iPod and put your favorite music on it. (Please, keep one ear piece out so you can hear what is going on around you.) This will keep your mind occupied and keep you from focusing on the “boredom” of running.
– Set daily and weekly process goals and write them down. Put them on a calendar. Set goals like: Run four times this week. Run once at the park this week. Run once on the trails this week. Run with my girl friends on Tuesdays. Check these off as you do them so you can track your progress and reinforce that you are making progress.
– Run with intent. Run to do errands like run to mail a letter. Run to pick up something from the drug store (not a bag full of stuff!) Run to a friend’s house. Even if it is too far to make a round trip, get to your destination and get a lift back. Don’t make an excuse not to do it
– Enter a local road race for fun. It provides stimulation and variety. It’s not so much about racing, but about getting you to get out there and getting yet another t-shirt. Don’t go in worrying about “doing well.”

I tread very lightly on the topic of weight control, especially with young women. The predisposition for eating disorders in young runners is fairly high. I do not believe in any fad diets. As a developing young lady your body undergoes significant changes. These are natural and unique in many ways. So, I recommend that you continue eating healthy. Pay attention to portion sizes. In the US, our biggest foe is in portion sizes. Never skip meals. Always have breakfast (it’s been shown to kick start metabolism – breakfast eaters lose and/or maintain weight better than non-breakfast eaters). Do not eat within two and a half hours of bedtime. It affects your body chemistry which alters how we process the food in our bodies. If you have serious diet concerns see a Registered Dietitian (RD) who specializes in athletes. Another motivator for you may be that your running will help you burn more calories.

Often we think we are alone in having problems getting motivated to get out and run. We aren’t. You are in good company. Here is a list of excuses used not to get your run in. These were used by every type and level of runner you can imagine. The more important point is to find an overriding reason to get out and run regardless of the excuse. Now, stop reading this and get out there!

Coach Dean is a certified mental game coaching professional. He can crack the whip with the best of them – but you “gotta wanna do it.”

Coach Dean Hebert, Tempe Arizona, USA
Contributing Editor, Running Advice and News


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