Motivation for New Runners

Understanding  why we  people find it hard to drop out of a running routine can be difficult as the problems are so very personal and individual. What is important is to identify your weaknesses and get others to help and support you for your problems. 

As Tim Yokes writes in his book 'The Lure of Running' (1985) quoting John Martin and Particia Dubbert from the University of Missipi,  (Martin and Dubert, 1984) there's a a few  strategies  in place to assist the beginner and also some more experienced runners, to maintain motivation:

Goal setting- Set a achievable, short term goal in training (in terms of distance or time run each day or week) and to have longer-term goals, like participating  a local 5k, fun run or even a 10k and more. New runners may find it a good idea to create a logbook to help set goals and reinforce successful behaviors. 

Shaping. This is the process in which the target to become fit enough to compete and run further/faster is broken down into a series  of steps that eventually achieve the desired goal. A good place to start with running would be with simple tasks. In running, particularly for the first 8-12 weeks of  a novice runner, the goal should not to become fit, but to develop the habit of regular exercise. So some initial  shaping methods can include the below:

  - Allocating a certain amount of time each day to your running, This should include time to prepare for your run (like to shower and get dressed after exercise) 

-- Deciding what time of day is best for your running. 

- Running with a group of friends or friendly people from our running club!

Reinforcement control- Any encouragement that reinforces the exercise habit will be beneficial to the runner. Like running in a group, enjoying increased physical fitness. Running can be a huge social activity, and the more benefit you draw from that social interaction the easier it is to keep running. 

Prompts to encourage exercise -- Tips such as laying out running clothes the night before, wearing exercise clothes around the house, or always wearing it in the car. Associating yourself with regular exercises and discussing personal training or performances, along with reading about running can make you more willing to exercise. 

Associative and dissociative strategies -- In summary, when running, either think about everything but what you are doing, (dissociation), or concentrate purely on an activity and how your body feels when you run (association). In general, it is believed competitive runners do best if they associate during races. However for novice runners, it appears they do best if they dissociate. As soon as beginners start thinking about their running, and how their bodies are hurting, they are less likely to continue exercise. Running in more pleasant  and varied surroundings, can help this dissociation process.

It is easiest to dissociate when the runs are relaxed and easy and becomes harder with more intensity. By running either faster or slower, novice runners will soon learn to switch  naturally between associative and dissociate thinking. 

Coping thoughts -- 
With new runners , learn positive-self talk methods, such as 'i'm doing well to exercise at all today'  since I wasn't looking forward to it', 'i'm nearly half way'  or 'i'm nearly finished'. At first it's better to be excessively self-congratulatory on your efforts.

However if you are a highly disciplined person, the problem is in reverse, rather than doing too little, you are likely to aim too high, too soon. It is important to set  realistic goals and start gradually. Be aware that in the beginning the mind, heart and lungs are stronger than the bones, tendons and ligaments of lower body. And serious injury is almost a certainty  to anybody that starts training too soon. 

Cameron Harris-Head Coach