Whether you think you can or you can’t – you’re right. That’s why these motivational mantras for the beginning runner will help keep you positive and focused on your running goals.
Exercise is incredibly important for both our physical and our mental wellbeing. As far back as 1999, researchers were noting the connection between physical exercise and anxiety, self-esteem, brain function, and most importantly, as a treatment for depression.
We know this, and at this time of the year in particular, thoughts of losing weight and getting physically fit often loom large in our heads. That’s why many of us choose starting running as a goal. We then hope for the best, but the truth is, changing our habits is hard.
But here is something I totally believe to be true- the achievement of running goals (and probably most exercise goals) is 90% the result of mental strength.
Note that I’ve attached affiliate links here for your convenience. This means if you click on a link and purchase an item, I will receive a small commission at no cost to you. Click here for my full disclosure policy.
Before I go on, I want to say that for some people I know this is not true. People with significant illnesses or physical conditions, for example, may find their physical limitations will get in the way despite all the mental stamina in the world.
But I’m talking about those of us who are able-bodied and reasonably healthy. And I’m using myself as an example, as this year I went from starting running with the Couch to 5km program on the first of January to running an half-marathon in October without walking once (full disclosure, I did start running as an almost 41 year old in December 2014, but never went further than 10km and did my “last” run in March 2016).
When those training runs were getting tough, when the distances were further than I ever thought I was capable of, when it was pelting with rain or stinking hot, the messages I told myself saw me either get through or bail before I even started.
When I missed a run, the negative messages were things like: it’s too wet, I’ve got too much to do, it’s too late, and my biggest one – I’m too tired.
However when I ran, there was only three times out of all that training that I didn’t meet the target I set for myself. Once was when I’d had something really bad happen at work that had a significant effect on me. Once was when we returned home from overseas and I was sick, and once was when I was at a conference in a strange town and ended up running in a scary secluded area that freaked me out. Even with these examples, you can see two of the three were head games.
Now, if you get started with running in the New Year, chances are you will start to see the excuses you make for yourself on a regular basis (Top tip- If you write them down, this may help you recognize them sooner).
One way you can counteract the effect of these excuses is by actively substituting them with more positive, inspiring messages, or mantras, that can help you achieve success in your running goals.
From life, reading, and listening to podcasts, I’ve come across five such mantras that have helped keep me going as a beginning runner and that you too can use to motivate yourself.
5 motivational mantras for the beginning runner
Never miss twice
As I mentioned above, although I achieved my half-marathon goal, there were definitely a few missed runs of the training plan along the way. The motivational mantra I used here, “Never miss twice,” meant that even if I missed one training run in a week, I didn’t miss two – especially not two in a row.
This mantra comes from James Clear, who states “Research has shown that missing your habit once, no matter when it occurs, has no measurable impact on your long-term progress.”
However missing twice becomes three times and eventually the end.
I have also found a modification for this useful for things like eating unhealthy meals – never have two bad meals in a row.
It’s just what I do
This is my most recent addition to my motivational mantras, and comes from Darren Rowse’s Problogger podcast in his discussion on productivity tips to help you build healthy habits. When you feel any of that doubt, any of those excuses, you say to yourself – It’s just what I do.
You see, a lot of the time we make exercise a choice and if something is a choice then we can of course choose NOT to do it.
By saying that running is “just what I do” you eliminate that choice aspect.
Do you know anyone with the same excuse who does it anyway?
I really wish I remembered where I got this from as it was one of those mind-blowing statements that made me challenge a lot of my excuses.
I mean if you think about it, there are working women just like you who are getting out there and getting it done. They may have exactly the same excuses as you – meetings, kids, home commitments- but they make exercise a priority because they recognize the value it brings to their lives.
So when you feel like making an excuse for yourself then ask yourself who you know who is doing it despite being in similar circumstances. And if that isn’t enough of a motivator then go and ask them what they are doing to make it happen.
When you think you’re done, you’re only 40% done
I came across this rule through this blog post on developing mental toughness in June of this year. This motivational mantra is a navy one, but it has science behind it, as discussed in the original article.
The basic idea is simple- you have more in you than you think.
You can test it out right now. Touch your toes- reaching as far as you can. Now do it again. Got further the second time, didn’t you?
That’s a simple example – I seriously suggest you go and read both the articles as they show the power of what you can achieve even when you think you’ve reached your maximum.
When I was feeling the pressure on a 16, 17, 18km run, I would often tell myself that I was not close to being done yet – which meant I still was less than 40% done. This would give me the strength to carry on.
If it doesn’t suck, we don’t do it
This Navy Seal motto was explained in the same articles as the above, but for some reason I didn’t take it in until a month ago when I started training again for our next half.
The reason I believe this motto is so powerful, is that we are used to thinking that things have to be comfortable for us in order to do it. For example, you have to have the right temperature in which to run, it can’t be raining, you have to be feeling on point. We can’t handle dealing with discomfort. But when you can’t handle discomfort, you severely limit the circumstances in which you can function.
When you think about the fact that some people only do things if they suck, it really challenges you to think about how you can grow by pushing yourself. Having something suck is no reason not to do it.
I’m not a born runner. A work colleague who saw me running once told me I should try to look like I’m at least enjoying it. Another told me I looked like I was in agony. Sometimes I struggle through, swearing under my breath and counting off the miles. But other times I have loved every second of it and finished on an amazing high.
Either way – it doesn’t matter. Because regardless of the experience, I have never regretted going for a run and I’ve never regretted starting running at all.
To sum up
If you’ve set yourself some running goals, accept there that after the first few euphoric experiences, things may start to get difficult and your excuses will come out. When they do, arm yourself with your new motivational mantras for running, and just get your shoes on. Once they’re on, get out the door, and go. Your physical and mental health will thank you for it.
Are you a beginning runner? What excuses do you tell yourself? Do you have any mantras you use to help motivate yourself?
PS Sometimes your fixed mindset might also be getting triggered by these new and challenging experiences. If that’s the case, I suggest you check out How to conquer your fixed mindset triggers.