Why It’s Important to Always Run With a Purpose

As a therapist and prior running coach, all too often I’ve heard people say, “I don’t really enjoy running, I’m glad when it’s over.” That in and of itself makes it difficult to stay consistent. Who wants to work out when they aren’t enjoying their stride?

One way to make the experience more enjoyable is to focus on a specific goal, whether it’s to lose weight, clear your head, accomplish a certain distance, or set a new personal record. Having clear goals—a scheduled outline-creating purpose—means you’re more likely to feel a sense of accomplishment throughout the journey. Take these tips and run with them:

Make a running journal. Sit down on Sunday night and write out your daily runs for the week. Get as specific as you can, listing when you’re going to go, how far, where, and how fast you plan to go (or what type of running workout you want to do). At the end of the week, record any barriers you experienced—things like heat or physical ailments—along with any areas of strength you noticed, like how calm, focused, and strong you felt. Reviewing your progress can provide a sense of growth and success, as you’ll be able to see how far you’ve come. And that will encourage you to go farther!

Take a break. Not taking any rest days—or simply running too many days in a row—is a recipe for burnout. If you find yourself not enjoying your runs, throw in some cross-training workouts, like Spinning, yoga, or swimming. It’s no use pounding the pavement just because without positive gain. Junk miles just aren’t worth it.

Appreciate the smaller milestones. After years of training, I took a sabbatical from running because I was pretty busy having four children. It was an accomplishment to complete 30 minutes of any type of exercise a couple times a week—I considered it a victory if I got in some squats and push-ups during nap time. Don’t beat yourself up for fitting in what you can.

Change things up. I used to run solo with no music. I enjoyed my alone time and the opportunity to push myself to the limit in preparation for races. Now that I’m running again, I don’t take myself too seriously. I make a playlist of songs that motivate me and I invite my kids to ride their bikes next to me. Sometimes changing your routine is just the refresher you need, and knowing I’m providing an example for my kids gets me on the road regularly.

Create a goal you’ll want to work toward. My short-term goal is to have FUN with each run as I train for the Chicago Marathon in October. My long-term goal is for a cause bigger than myself: raising money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Maybe your goal is to get up early and move your body. Set an intention before you take that first step, and then remember to thank yourself for doing it.

Run mindfully. Listening to your breath, relaxing your shoulders, and feeling your heart rate increase can set the foundation for being present throughout your day. Enjoy the environment you’re running in—notice your surroundings and awaken your senses. Pay attention to how the breeze feels on your face, take note of things you’ve never seen before, and listen to your breath as you establish a steady pace.

Make a positive mantra. As a cognitive behavioral therapist, I’m a firm believer in our internal dialogue positively or negatively affecting mood and productivity. The minute you tell yourself you can’t, you won’t. Your body will shut down. Tell yourself you’re doing great even if you feel like you’re lying to yourself. Acknowledge the discomfort and let it go. Running isn’t easy—it’s not always going to feel good. But don’t let the feeling discourage you. It’ll pass.