Need some motivational tips for running/jogging

I have no problem with running as long as it’s secondary to some other goal/purpose. I struggle with running if it’s for running’s sake alone.

For instance, if I’m playing ultimate frisbee or flag football, I have no problem running around trying to catch or intercept the frisbee/football, since the running has a purpose. Same with playing soccer; I have no problem running for the sake of attacking/defending. I can run 4-5 miles in a game this way.

I can also run long distances if it’s part of getting from Point A to Point B. So if I had to go to the grocery store half a mile away and decide to run/jog there, it’s not that hard, since I had to go anyway - the running is just incidental on the side.

But if it’s just running for running’s sake, such as “Jog 4 miles around this racetrack or on this treadmill, in which you’re technically going nowhere,” it’s very difficult for me to get motivated enough; it feels too purpose-less.

Any advice? Am I just too mentally undisciplined/spoiled? I would like to be the kind of person who can do things/get exercise with much less need for motivation, the “just do it anyway” type.

There is a purpose; to improve your aerobic fitness (or whatever). If you didn’t have some such purpose in mind you wouldn’t be asking this question.

Your issue, I think, is that you are motivated when a particular run has an immediate purpose, but less motivated (or not at all motivated) when you have an overarching more distant purpose which will be served by a habit of regular running, rather than by a particular run. You need the gratification of achieving an immediate purpose.

A couple of thoughts occur to me. First, in one sense throwing the frisbee or kicking the football are just as pointless as running for the sake of it; they achieve nothing of any significance, any more than running around a track does, or running a particular distance on public roads. And yet they serve as motivation for you to do the associated running. What gives? I suspect the answer is that frisbee and soccer are team events; you enjoy them because of the fellowship, the social side of exercising others. If that’s right, then joining a running group or running club/going on group runs may help you find some motivation to run.

Secondly, it may seem bizarre, but when I took up running I downloaded and used Strava (but any similar app would serve equally well). Seeing my performance recorded, seeing my runs plotted on a map, and seeing my (fairly modest) improvement in form and achievement did provide me with motivation to establish a regular running habit, which I was then able to maintain because I liked how it made me feel.

I listen to podcasts. I would never just sit in an armchair and listen, as it feels like a waste of time in a busy day, but if I can run and listen at the same time, it has the dual benefit of getting out and doing some exercise, and exercising my brain at the same time. It also takes my mind of running, which music doesn’t do. Also, treadmills and running tracks are tedious, but running in the countryside, or around a park, or around the harbour (as I do in my home town) and it’s vastly more interesting.

I don’t run, but I understand the mindset about needing to convince yourself to repeatedly complete tasks with no clear terminating objective (what do you mean, I need to cut back the neighbor’s encroaching morning glory again? argh).

Try setting specific targets for yourself, things that you can see are being achieved. “This quarter I will run eight miles per week. This can be a mile per day plus an extra mile on Saturday, or two miles on four days, or whatever, but it will total eight for each week. Then, next quarter, I will achieve nine miles. The following quarter, ten miles.” And so on. Don’t just run to run, run in pursuit of a concrete goal.

Also, manage it as a physical, tangible objective. Get a calendar, not an app but something that actually hangs on the wall. Your goal is to put a checkmark on the calendar every Sunday. You achieve that goal by running, but running is not the goal, putting the checkmark on the calendar is the goal. Every day you look at the calendar is a reminder that you have the goal of picking up a pen and scratching in the checkmark at the end of the week.

I’m not running now and never was a great runner, but when I was doing it I sure felt better overall. Trying to connect that happy result with getting butt in gear to actually do it, not just think about it, was my key to motivation.

As a separate matter, tracks and treadmills just scream “punishment” to me. Physical and mental. Running around the neighborhood or in a pretty park is a totally different physical and emotional experience. For me. You might be the same.

Welcome to humanity.

A blogger I used to follow had a saying: “Discipline beats motivation every time.” His topic wasn’t fitness, but his view was that applies to almost all areas of life. The hard part is doing it. Practice improves your ability to apply self-discipline easily, rather than haltingly at great emotional cost.

If you do beat this particular obstacle, come back and tell the rest of us how you did it; I’d sure like to know.

I have exactly the same issues but still recognize that there’s some value in running. Something I started doing several years ago, on days when I walked to and from work (about 5 km/3 miles each way) was to do intervals of jogging. In the summer I was wearing hiking shoes, cargo shorts and t-shirt (therefore no illusion of being “a runner”) and I would have my backpack with my work laptop, lunch, change of clothing etc.

This was an absolutely no-pressure activity and, so what if I never became a “runner” - it was fitness. And over time I would jog slowly for few minute intervals, with more and longer intervals, with walks in between. And that has been my go-to running doctrine ever since, since I’m primarily a cyclist and otherwise don’t enjoy running.

Business trips, vacations, at home when there’s no time for a good ride - I can do that (not always with the backpack), and it contributes to fitness without feeling horrible.

But with this method, running happens.

I love being outdoors so, weather allowing, I do my 30 minute run in a beautiful park. That’s a lot easier to deal with than some sterile indoor track. Rather than dreading it, I look forward to it!

When I’m trapped indoors, I’m able to play a travel game because my treadmill keeps track of distance. I have a map of North America, and I pretend the miles and miles I accumulate on the machine are actually miles traveled on the map! I’ve logged over 8,000 miles playing this game. I’ve traced a route from Chicago east to Boston, north to Nova Scotia, all the way across southern Canada to Vancouver, down the entire west coast to San Diego, and then back east again. It’s fun logging the distance and route I would actually be running were I outside.

I to need extra motavation to run.

Music (I mean something with a beat, pop music or electronic music or whatever— you are not going to be paying close attention to it anyway).

Treadmill if you are into that, as you can program in exact resistances and speeds, and also set a timer.

Having a goal to motivate you certainly helps. Sign up for a 10K or a half marathon, find a training plan, track your progress. If that’s not your style, set up a reward system - if you run x number of days next month you buy yourself something that you want.

Or try to turn runs into something that you enjoy more, either with music or changing routes to someplace you like to visit.

There’s no magic bullet, somedays your run will suck, somedays it will feel glorious. For me, laying out all your gear the night before, getting up and going out before you have a chance to talk yourself out of it works best for me.

If you enjoy flag football, ultimate frisbee, and running from point A to point B, why not just work more of that into your schedule rather than trying to do treadmill running? Or find some other way of getting in cardio that seems to have more of a point – maybe something where you can learn different moves and techniques, like martial arts or volleyball or skating.

Then don’t run for running’s sake. If you get no satisfaction from running, then you will soon be an ex-runner.

Your goal should be to get aerobic exercise, the actual activity doesn’t matter. You’ve already found that frisbee or flag football does that for you. (Though I wonder if you actually cover the distance you say) You could buy or borrow a GPS watch that reads heart rate and see how much time you’re in the training zone. Have you tried swimming or cycling? Aerobic classes or dance? The key is an activity that satisfies something inside you.

The problem is you are trying to find motivation for something you are fundamentally uninterested in doing. The ‘trick’, such as it is, to being more disciplined isn’t willpower but developing habits that are easily reinforced by getting enjoyment or satisfaction from them. To that end, doing any exercise just for the sake of exercising is likely doomed to failure as you’ll find progressively more reasons to not do it versus exercising as part of an enjoyable or challenging activity. Of course, your motivation for doing a boring or repetitive exercise may be to improve at or be conditioned for some particular activity or skill, but if that isn’t a consistent motivation you’ll fall out of that habit quickly.

In terms of exercise, slow running or jogging falls under the category of “long slow distance” (LSD) exercise, for which the aerobic conditioning benefit for the amount of time spent is pretty low, especially once you’ve gotten to a certain level of fitness. If you are practicing for some type of activity or event consistent with this like running a marathon it may make sense, but if you are just interested in maintaining a state of fitness, high intensity interval training (either using just bodyweight or weights like sandbags, kettlebells, steel clubs, et cetera) is a far better use of time and can be varied to keep it interesting and challenging versus just jogging several miles. Running can also result in repetitive stress or incidental injuries, not because it is inherently more harmful than other forms of exercise but because people often don’t learn to run with good form and ignore indications of subacute injuries.


Mainly because the frisbee and football happens only 1x a week and needs a bit of commuting to get there (via car,) whereas running can be done daily right outside my home. But yes, other forms of exercise that might be better would be biking, cardio, etc.

I was to say just this. I never run on tracks unless there is no other choice and never on treadmills - I never can keep a steady enough pace.

I just run around the neighborhood and listen to good tunes.

OP, your other activities are social; running can be - find a running club. Mine is an ‘all paces’ club so you’ll usually find someone to pair up with. Even our track/speed workouts there is a given workout given & everyone does it at their own pace so we’re all running separately, together if that makes sense. Of course, you can always do your own thing on the track if that fits in better with your schedule/upcoming race plans

This. If you look at my GPS log on a flat run, I run about the same pace the whole time but there are parts were I am faster or slower than that average. Not a big deal outside, but on a treadmill, you might fall off the back if you slow down a bit for even a few seconds. Running outside I can turn off the brain & just go but find running on a treadmill very stressful as I need to maintain & monitor my pace the entire time.

& lots of people don’t know correct form on weights & kettlebells, resulting in injury from their (mis-)use.

That can be true as well; however, people are generally more willing to seek out training and coaching for weight training than they are for running. Regardless, high intensity/sprint training is a more effective use of time for cardiovascular fitness than jogging and other forms of LSD exercise as well as providing strength endurance conditioning that is not gained from jogging or running.


I found a couple after a brief search - “I believe there are only so many heartbeats, I’’ll be danged if I’m going to waste mine running around the block”

Wait … that isn’t what you have in mind, is it?

Running is no longer “natural”. As comedian Ivan Decker points out, it is hard. Especially if not being chased, “and I’m not even hungry”. Whatever motivation is needed, this level triples during Canadian winters.

But I have heard good things about a motivating app that encourages progressively long jogs on the pretext of being chased by zombies. Seriously. It might be called Zombies, Run! Comedian Jon Stewart was enthusiastic about a different app called Zero to Five K (?) but this still seems a pretty short distance.

If you can’t be motivated by hard work, maybe gamifying the slog might help. Getting results or improving times can be motivating for some people but obviously is not an initial thing.

I prefer short sprints to jogging. Though hard, durations are limited and it better matches my phenotype and wish to avoid injury (though properly warming up the hamstrings is important for both sprinting and jogging in older people). I like lifting weights and being bigger means I no longer run quickly. Compared to other sports, weightlifting remains very low risk even though many do not perform lifts optimally.

Anaerobic and “wind sprints” are good exercise. But many people probably won’t help themselves much generally simply by running or jogging if they are tipping the GVWR numbers in a big way. At least not their ankles/knees and feet. I’ve only seen “large” joggers in very limited circumstances.