How To Enjoy Your Run Without a Goal

Tips and tricks to help get you out the door when there’s no race you’re prepping for.


BY CHRIS HATLER |

So, you finished a marathon a few weeks ago. Now that you’re fully recovered, you’re starting to get antsy about training again. But every day, you tell yourself, “I’ll start tomorrow.” Next thing you know, it’s been another two weeks and you haven’t run a step.

Is it the post-marathon blues? Perhaps. More likely, it’s because you don’t have an upcoming race or goal to get you to lace up and head out the door.

But that’s okay. Instead of beating yourself up for missing another run, think about it this way: You don’t have to be training for anything. Free your mind from the tether of mileage and workouts, and simply run to enjoy it.

We talked to a James Randon, professional runner for the Saucony Freedom Track Club, and Claire Hewitt, running coach, about their philosophies on running for running’s sake, and tips and tricks you can use to get out the door.

It’s great to have goals, but they’re not everything

“One of the things that makes [running] so accessible to so many people all across the spectrum is that it has a lot to do with what our personal goals are,” Hewitt says. “I think that lends itself too often not being completely satisfied.”

When you’re coming off a race—whether it’s a mile or a marathon—it’s normal to think of what you could’ve done better. Maybe you didn’t hydrate well enough beforehand. Maybe you were feeling good and decided not to check your watch for a while, realising too late that you were off pace.

“It’s human nature to look back on those difficult experiences, especially when you’re outside the moment, and think of a place where you could have pushed harder or made different decisions,” Hewitt says.

Randon likens this phenomenon to the saying “money can’t buy happiness.”

“Sure, I want to make money, and there are a million ways that money can help me,” Randon says. “But if I make money my end-all, be-all, then I’m headed to a dark place.”

Translation: You don’t always need a goal to chase—it can even be liberating to run without a goal, because you’re not tying your enjoyment of running to a specific outcome.

Here are a few tips and tricks to get you out the door

If you’re having a hard time getting motivated without a running goal in mind, should you just wait until inspiration strikes?

“Motivation doesn’t build over time—it builds through experience,” Randon says.

He likens the situation to playing the guitar: You can’t start shredding as soon as you pick the instrument up—you have to practice. Once you see some positive feedback, you want to keep practicing.

If you’re looking to practice motivation, try out a few of these tricks to see what works for you. After you build a routine, it’ll get easier and easier.

1. Listen to your favourite podcast

Whether you’re a true crime fan, news nut, music lover, or foodie, there are hundreds of podcasts to listen to right at your fingertips. Find one you like and designate it as your go-to “running podcast.” That way, when it’s time to get out the door, you have something else to look forward to.

It helps to choose a podcast that fits how long you’re looking to run. It can be as short as 20 minutes or as long as an hour. Whatever gets you excited and holds your attention as the miles go up.

2. Explore a new route or break up your run

Running is a great way to explore where you live. Finding new scenery is refreshing and will get you excited to try something new.

Hewitt agrees that a new route can be exciting, especially when you find a new trail. If you don’t feel safe exploring, Hewitt recommends breaking up your regular run into pieces, such as a one-kilometre warmup, a kilometre or two of pickups, and a one-kilometre cool down. “All of a sudden, instead of slogging through half an hour, it’s chunked and over before you know it,” she says.

3. Treat it as time to yourself

Running allows you to take some time out of your day just for yourself, Hewitt says. Life is so busy and often full of distractions—such as work, school, entertainment, news, or whatever else keeps your attention—that it can be hard to find time to sit with your own thoughts. Carving out some time to run where it’s just you, your shoes, and the road beneath you can be mentally therapeutic.

4. Enjoy the weather

Everyone has those days when they’re stuck inside, looking out at a gorgeous, blue-skied sunny day, wishing they were running instead of doing whatever they were wrapped up in. Use that desire to your advantage and get outside as soon as possible, whether for a lunch break or after work, and enjoy the run.

It’s always easy to run on beautiful, sunny days. But it doesn’t have to be temperate out to enjoy a run. Next time there’s a light rainstorm, go out and splash in some puddles. If it snows, take in a picturesque winter wonderland on your jog. Just ensure that you’re being safe and avoiding dangerous conditions, like lightening or ice.

5. Meet up with friends

Whether you’re a part of a running group or have a couple friends you like to connect with, sharing a run with people is always more fun. In addition, you’ll be much less likely to skip knowing that you’re supposed to meet up with someone at a certain time.

Hewitt coaches a group of over 100 members who all have different life schedules. She hears of many casual meet ups at different times of day, but she also stresses the importance of having a consistent date and time on the calendar. Therefore, her runners know there’s always time once a week to connect with others.

6. Don’t forget that running is good for your health

When all else fails, remember that running is important to living a long, healthy life. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity. That’s only about 21 minutes when split up every day—a manageable amount of time to spend on your health.

7. Know that it’s going to be hard—and that’s okay

“There are going to be times where it isn’t easy to just get out and do it,” Hewitt says. While having a motivational toolkit is nice, that doesn’t mean you won’t have hard days. Everyone from the everyday runner to the professional runner understands this.

Randon says the biggest hurdle to jump over is simply starting. No matter how long you planned on running for, he recommends forcing yourself to get out there for 10 minutes.

“You’ll be surprised by the result,” he says. Either you only run for that 10 minutes, or you end up running farther. Regardless, you overcame a mental hurdle to get a run in without needing to think of a long-term goal.

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