How I trick myself into running

by Kim on May 21, 2013

I did NOT want to run last night.

I’d planned another evening run to prep for this weekend’s Twilight 10K, but by 4 PM, I was already getting tired. At 8 PM, the weather was absolutely perfect, but my mindset was not. I was exhausted, my stomach didn’t feel great, and the process of getting myself out the door for a run just felt so monumental.

The run was supposed to be an 8-miler, but by the time I actually left, I’d bargained myself down to 3. I told myself I’d try to get the 8 in tomorrow instead.


The funny thing is that I like running—generally. When the conditions are perfect (I’m not too hot/cold/tired/hungry/full), it can be so refreshing, soothing, and even easy.

But I also have an extremely comfortable couch and a very convincing internal justification dialogue. And, let’s face it, the conditions are rarely perfect.

Over the years, I’ve had to use a lot of mind tricks to get myself out the door to run. Once I’m out the door, I’m almost always fine—and even if I’m not, I never regret trying.

Here’s a list of some of the things that have worked for me…

trick yourself

1. Tell yourself: “Just 15 minutes, and if it sucks, you can quit.” Don’t get stuck in the “I have to go 5 miles or it doesn’t count” mentality.

2. Vary your means. Once, I made it through what felt like a daunting 10-mile run by doing 5 miles outside and 5 on the treadmill. For some reason, it seemed easier. You can also make long runs feel less intimidating by doing multiple short out-and-backs, rather than one long one. This way, if you get tired, you’re never that far away from home base. (That’s what you tell yourself anyway…)

3. Visualize how you’ll feel when you get back. Picture what you’ll do, in detail. Think about how proud of yourself you’ll be and how much more deserved your post-run leisurely activities will feel.

4. Go somewhere beautiful. Drive to a park or conservatory. Google trails in your area. Run along a lake (or, if it’s accessible—you lucky dog, you—a beach).

5. Make it a means to an end. Run to get somewhere, rather than just running to run. (What a novel concept! Haha.) One time, I planned my running route to go past the movie rental store, where I picked up a new release to watch when I got home. It was somehow easier, knowing I just had to get there and back, versus completing a certain mileage.

6. Run public. Run along a busy road or hop on a treadmill at the gym. The peer pressure of thinking that people are watching you will egg you on.

7. Give yourself an unlimited walking pass. If you end up just going for a walk, oh well. At least you got out the door. But the chances that you’ll want to pick up the pace just to finish earlier (now that you’re out!) or that you’ll start feeling up for a run once you get going are pretty good.

8. Don’t overthink it. Just go. By the time you get done considering it, wallowing in your misery over the idea, slowly pulling our your running clothes, stalling with more stretching than necessary, and finally heading for the door, you probably could have already gone and come back. Plus, the more time you spend thinking about it, the greater the chance is that something could come up that prevents you from going. (Like, say, bedtime. Ha.)

9. Think of your body like a dog. (Stay with me…) Your body craves exercise and movement even when your brain is lazy and wants you to lay on the couch. So take your body out for a run the way you’d grudgingly take your dog for a walk even if you didn’t feel like it. It just has to be done.

10. Get fresh electronic entertainment. Download a new podcast, put new music on your playlist, rent a movie (if you have a TV/treadmill setup), etc. Find something you’ll be excited about, and reserve it for runs only.

11. Make yourself feel obligated. Get in your own face by setting reminders on your phone, including a “get ready to run!” reminder half an hour before you want to be out the door. Tell someone you’re planning on running later. Tweet about your upcoming run half an hour before you plan to leave.

Bonus: Bribe yourself. Nothing wrong with a little post-run congratulatory treat. (Ideally, not always food….)

In the end, I did make it out last night, and it wasn’t bad at all. I took advantage of #10 and popped a fresh Jillian podcast onto my iPod, and it was actually pretty entertaining. (Except for the parts when she’s awkwardly bantering with Janice—I can barely stand those.)

As expected, the movement woke me right up, and my stomach even calmed down. I came home still a little bummed about the 8-miler, but grateful that at least I got out and did something.

What tricks do you use to get yourself moving?


{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Rachel B @ Busy Mama Fitness May 28, 2013 at 11:25 am

Love this! I have recently switched my run time to 5 am so I can focus more on hill runs without having to take the jogging stroller (where I live, the hills are STEEP and pushing the BOB is great training, but not if I want to run more than 5 miles) and getting myself out of bed to run can be really tricky. Making it an obligation works. Having new music on my iPod works (though I am definitely going to start trying some Podcasts.. maybe NPR’s “Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me”) and reminding myself how I’ll feel if I *don’t* go out and do it definitely works!


emma May 22, 2013 at 7:10 pm

What is a “jillian podcast”? Like the trainer from biggest loser? I do her workout videos…
I like the tip about running in public so people know I’m running- I have used that one many times!
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Kim May 22, 2013 at 9:50 pm

Yep, that Jillian! Sorry, I apparently expected everyone to read my mind! Her show is pretty interesting if you want to check it out. :)


Suzanne May 22, 2013 at 9:23 am

These are great tips to get yourself out of the door for a run. I never would have thought of several of these!
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Kim May 22, 2013 at 9:51 pm

I’m the master of excuses, so I have to employ a lot of weird brain tricks to get myself going. :)


Nicole @ Work in Sweats Mama May 21, 2013 at 9:17 pm

Love #9. Never thought of it that way before… My dog gets super excited whenever the word ‘walk’ is mentioned and starts going crazy, whining, scratching at the door, doing circles around us. I need to approach my runs with that type of enthusiasm!!


Kim May 21, 2013 at 10:21 pm

Haha definitely! Just picture your body scratching at the door. :)


Katie @ Live Half Full May 21, 2013 at 7:12 pm

#3 works best for me-I workout in the morning, so thinking of how much energy I’ll have afterwards when I’m tired works for me!
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Kim May 21, 2013 at 10:20 pm

Do you work out first thing in the AM? Just curious. I’ve never had any luck going straight from bed to running–my bed is always way, way too comfortable. I love late morning workouts though, when I can make them happen.


Sarah @ PickyRunner May 21, 2013 at 5:55 pm

There are just times I’m not feeling like heading out. Usually because I love running so much, this is a time when I truly need to step away from it and give my body a break, but for the days where I’m just feeling plain lazy, these are all great tips! Working out in the morning gets me out the door every time.
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Kim May 21, 2013 at 10:15 pm

Good point! I didn’t think of that (probably because my problem is usually just laziness, ha). The evenings are more convenient for me now that I have a kid, but I agree, mornings are ideal for lots of reasons.


Giselle@myhealthyhappyhome May 21, 2013 at 3:08 pm

Haha! I do the same things! I also always say to myself, “it’s only ____ minutes.” It will be over before I know it. Thinking about those that can’t run always motivates me to do so as well :-)


Kim May 21, 2013 at 10:10 pm

YES, that’s a great one too!! I still think about Boston almost every time I run.


Kim May 21, 2013 at 2:43 pm

Great tips!!! I am one of those people that has to get my workout done in the morning. If I wait till evening, I always talk myself out of it!!
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Kim May 21, 2013 at 10:09 pm

Good point! I agree it’s much easier in the morning, plus then you have all day to bask in your accomplishment. :)


Katie @ running4cupcakes May 21, 2013 at 2:33 pm

Great post! I use the “I only have to go this far and then I can stop if I want” reasoning frequently. And like you, once I am out the door, it usually goes alright. I am loving the warmer weather because I can use Luke as an excuse too because he can come with me in the jogging stroller, we get some Mom/Luke time together and both of us get fresh air!


Kim May 21, 2013 at 10:05 pm

That’s awesome! I so wish I had a jogging stroller so I could use that one, too! :)


Kelly May 21, 2013 at 1:27 pm

Great post!

I especially agree with #1, 4, and 6!
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Kim May 21, 2013 at 10:05 pm

Thanks Kelly!


Sarah May 21, 2013 at 1:09 pm

I love your post! I go through much of the same internal dialogue to try and get out of my runs, and like you, I really do enjoy running :) I also like to remind myself how good it feels to finish a tough run, that sometimes helps!


Kim May 21, 2013 at 10:04 pm

Yes, great one!


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