How To Stay Motivated On Your Fitness Journey

Practical Tips & Advice

Motivation, if unstructured can feel like a fleeting emotion. However, it’s needed most when you don’t feel like running. Finding your ‘why’ and creating a motivational structure through layers of support and accountability will help you during the times when you just don’t feel like getting outdoors.  Keep reading for tips on how to nurture and maintain your motivation so you can get out and run, whatever day you’re having. 

Simon James, International Mountain Leader and Founder of Run the Wild shares his experiences with igniting motivation and some useful tips to help you reach your running goals. 

Finding The Motivation To Get Outdoors: 3 Tips

Your plan says to run 12km today. You look outside. It’s a grey, damp and cold morning. An extra glass of wine last night meant you didn’t sleep well. With a stressful work call to make later today and that annoying pain you can feel in your right knee, the cases for putting off today’s run are stacking up. You could always run further tomorrow. Sound familiar?

Tip 1: Take A Look At The Pros

I’m completely guilty of watching Eilish McColgan crossing the finish line, arms raised in jubilation. I think to myself, ‘gosh, how lucky is she?’. And yes, she is lucky, she’s a fantastic runner. Currently uninjured and one of the few reaping the benefits of their hard work.


However, NOTHING, and I really mean NOTHING, can escape the fact that she’s put in hours of hard work day in day out to be where she is now. The number of paid athletes out there is minute, even when you’re talking about podium finishers. Yes, they may get some kit, but the free kit doesn’t pay the heating bills or the mortgage.


At the end of February on Instagram, Eilish posted her month in numbers: 558km run, 11hrs on the ElliptiGO, 9 track sessions, and 10 gym sessions. Even this doesn’t really give a true picture of the level of sacrifice she goes through on a daily basis. 


So how do the pros do it, and ultimately, what can us ordinary people do to gather even a small amount of that motivation?  


Last summer we were lucky enough to have HOKA ONE ONE athlete and ultra-trail runner, Hayden Hawks, join us on the first day of our Tour du Mont Blanc. Spending time with him was not just inspirational in terms of his skills and techniques, but also his attitude. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who came across as more grateful that he could run.


Yes, winning is great, and being a paid athlete is great, but the simple act of having the physical ability to put one foot in front of the other is something he didn’t take for granted in the slightest. He even talked about the inspiration he draws from spending time with other runners who're not completing marathons in just over 2 hours like he can, but from those that are out there for over 5 hours. He was in awe of those who find running challenging but get out and do it anyway. 

Tip 2: Think Process Not Outcome

The phrase ‘process not outcome’ is often used, but it still speaks volumes. If you’re only ever focused on the end goal and never on the path to get there, you’re lining yourself up for disappointment and a daily mental battle. You should try to understand the reason why you’re running that isn’t purely an end race goal.


I’ve recently signed up for the Courmayeur/Champex/Chamonix (CCC) race as part of the UTMB world series at the end of the summer. It’s a 100km distance with a 6km ascent. If my only goal is the last 50m running towards St Michel Church in the middle of Chamonix and crossing the finishing line, I’ll have too many dark moments in the 24 hours leading up to the final stretch. Never mind the months of training before that. While this is a bit extreme, the same is applicable for our every day running and training. So, what’s your why and how do you discover it? 

Tip 3: Finding Your Why

First, write down what aspects you enjoy while running. It may be social, getting time away from a desk, listening to music uninterrupted, treating yourself to something delicious post-run, seeing the spring flowers, spending time in fresh air or that simple feeling of movement. By taking time to stop and think about these aspects, they’re brought back into focus.  


It’s also worth thinking about what aspects of running cause stress, and how you can mitigate these. Stressed by pace? Leave your watch at home. Worried about safety? Join a running group such as Run the Wild. Don’t know how to find routes? Join a local running group, or have a look at heatmaps on apps like Strava. For every stressor, there’s likely to be a workaround that you can try.  


As coaches, we commonly hear ‘I just didn’t have time’. But when we’re completely honest with ourselves, this means ‘I prioritised other things over running’. That’s fine, but also be honest with yourself. Running doesn’t have to be your priority, but if you want it to be more significant in your life and feel you would benefit, try to find your workaround. If you need to pop to the shops, can you run there with a backpack? If you need to post something at the post office, can you make a nice route to get there? Dropping the kids off at school, taking the car to the garage, or exercising the dog; there are a number of ways you can squeeze it in.  


Your ‘why’ should take you to a warm place of positivity. Try not to make your why solely a whip, without the carrot. Goals such as ‘run to lose weight’ or those outside of your control such as winning an event, tend not to stick. Any small derailment can be a reason to throw the towel in. Your ‘why’ needs to be an overriding positive, the soul of your running and it can be deeply personal. 

For Long-Term Success: Create A Motivation Structure

The foundation is the ‘why’. Next, you need to create a structure that keeps you supported throughout your running journey. Here are our top 10 support tips! 

1 – Take Away The Decision To Run

In January I pledged to run every day. The criteria was to run at least one mile each day. 


Rather than being exhausted by huge mileage, I ran lower mileage than in a typical month, and I used short gentle runs as specific recovery runs, rather than going all guns blazing every time I laced up.  


The debate of whether to run or not was taken away, and without that mental ‘shall I, shan’t I’ each time, it was far easier to get out the door. One mile including changing before and after could be completed in 20 minutes at a push, and let’s be honest, we can find 20 minutes during a day. If we have time for 20 minutes of procrastination or scrolling on social media, then we have time for a short run too! 

2 – Reflect On The Positives

On each run you do, spend a few minutes afterwards thinking about the positives of that run. It may be a cool sunset, you saw Jan from across the street, you managed 500m at a target pace. Whatever it may be, there will always be some positive. No one ever thinks a run was a waste of time, just make sure you enjoy the endorphin rush post-run! 

3 – Create Your Support Group

Find someone to run with. Whether that’s a friend, a club, or a group like Run the Wild. Running with others is the perfect distraction. They’re also your support network! Sharing your disappointments and getting support from your peers as well as  encouraging others is motivational, and you’ll be stronger for it too. 

4 – Create Achievable Goals

Sign up to an event. There’s nothing like booking an event in the calendar to inspire your need to go for a run. Remember how it feels to go into an event fully prepared, rather than not at all, and use that as motivation. If you pledge to run an event for charity, then this will inspire you even more.

5 - Distraction

Make the focus of your run something that is not the run. Meeting friends, facilitating getting home from a work do, or picking up something from the shop. This will take the pressure off the run (we wonder why the 10km Brewery Trail Run at Run the Wild is our most popular event?!). 

6 – Create A Pilot Light For Running

Go easy on yourself. When you really don’t want to go out, set the bar low. After all, you only need a tiny flame to start a big fire! Rather than making every run about optimistic goals, set achievable goals that you know you can work towards, and build your confidence from there. Say to yourself your objective is to just run a single mile or even just the warm-up. You often find once you’re out the door you become more keen to keep going. 

7 - Get A Running Coach

Get a coach like the ones offered at Run the Wild. There’s nothing like the accountability of someone checking in with you to make you more likely to get out for a run. It also takes some of the decision-making process away from you. Find a coach who nurtures and encourages the runner you want to be, not just the runner they think you should be. 

8 – Plan To Run

Prepare for your run in advance. Plot a route, lay out your running pack and put your running kit on long before you head out. Have whatever you need to make the transition of being in a nice warm house to outside more likely.  

9 – Add Music

Create a playlist of your most motivational music, or perhaps download a podcast. If I’m on a longer training run, I’ll listen to the ‘Off Menu’ podcast. It’s entirely non-running related, isn’t remotely motivational from a content perspective, but it distracts me and often makes me laugh out loud while I’m running. Whatever you need to get in the zone and out of your own head, just try it. 

10 – Pack Your Running Shoes

Take your running shoes everywhere. Off on a hen do this weekend? Why not pack your running shoes and do a little extra sightseeing? If you’re off for a work trip, why not see if the hotel has a gym/treadmill, or if there’s a river path (it’s a lot harder to get lost if following a waterway). Remember, you don’t need to have a spare 2 hours, just a spare 30 minutes and you’ll feel better for it. 




To get the best out of your motivation, you need to structure it. Find your ‘why’ and see the bigger picture. Don’t let motivation be an emotion, let it support you! 

Thanks so much for your inspiring words, Simon! Put Simon’s tips to practice and keep your training on track.


Looking for a run buddy to stay motivated? Check out the Runners Need Run Club. Led by qualified run leaders, surround yourself with like-minded runners and be supported every step of your journey. Or join Simon and the team on a Run The Wild adventure to try something new. 


Book a Run The Wild Adventure 


About The Author 


Simon James is the founder of Run the Wild - the UK’s first premier, dedicated trail running holiday adventure company. Operating in the UK and the Alps, they deliver holidays that combine the sense of 'team' from mountaineering, with the thrill of trail running in wild places. Simon is a keen trail and marathon runner with a PB of 2hrs 37mins. He is a qualified Leader in Running Fitness as well as International Mountain Leader and offers treks in the Alps. 

You may also like:

Let us know you agree to cookies

We use marketing, analytical and functional cookies as well as similar technologies to give you the best experience. Third parties, including social media platforms, often place tracking cookies on our site to show you personalised adverts outside of our website. We store your cookie preferences for two years and you can edit your preferences via ‘manage cookies’ or through the cookie policy at the bottom of every page. For more information, please see our cookie policy.