How to Start a Run When You Just Don’t Feel Like It

Whether you procrastinate on runs like this writer or just have trouble getting out there regularly, let this advice give you a kick to get out the door.


I’ve always felt validation when reading a story about writers and their love of procrastination. I thought it was just me who gets more work done around the house with a deadline looming and who finds every excuse not to write until the time feels exactly right — or the time has run out.

Well, a while ago I realised how I do this with running, too, especially long runs on the weekends. I stare at my closet trying to determine the perfect outfit for the weather. I go back and forth on what to eat and how much coffee to drink. Should I have half a cup? Down a full one (or two) then wait until after I go to the bathroom to head out? I stop for a quick foam-rolling session or grab my massage gun for a bit, then do some dynamic stretches. Before I know it, I’m starting my run an hour later than planned.

I tend to overthink my runs, especially the start, rather than focusing on how the sport makes me feel powerful and strong…

Some pre-run rituals are necessary, of course. A warm-up helps me feel ready for those initial steps. If I have double-digit kilometres on deck, I definitely need to eat and drink before I start my stride. But really, I’m just putting off those first few kilometres — those steps where the legs feel tight and the upper body cranky, the mind remains in bed, and instead of finding a rhythm, the steps feel like short, broken verses waiting for me to string them together in better harmony.

I tend to overthink my runs, especially the start, rather than focusing on how the sport makes me feel powerful and strong, and like I’m gliding over the trail rather than clomping with every footfall. That rumination makes getting out the door super difficult sometimes.

I know I’m not the only one who has trouble simply getting started. Ahead of the Chicago Marathon this past fall, Emily Sisson, pro runner and U.S. women’s marathon record holder, said one of her favourite mantras is “motivation follows action.” She’s not always inspired to go run 32 kilometres or clock a tempo run at a 3-minute/km pace. But once she starts moving — after a few warm-up exercises with her mini band or a light and breezy running warm-up — the drive to put in the work picks up.

Similarly, Tristen Rodriguez, a RW member who trained with Runner’s World for the 2023 NYC Marathon, mentioned how he is only motivated to run about 20 to 30 percent of the time during a training cycle. It’s the discipline that gets him out there. Checking off training runs and workouts on a plan can give you a shove to get out the door instead of relying on the sheer desire to do so.

Like Rodriguez, I’ve found that setting goals, following a schedule, and tackling workouts on a plan helps remove the need to rely on willpower alone, and adds in the determination to succeed. That’s one reason I sign up for races on a consistent basis throughout the year. And like Sisson, I know once I start moving, I’ll want to pick it up and conquer the run ahead because the resolve to perform well settles into my stride.

Focusing on how good it feels to finish a run — no matter the pace or distance — also gets me out the door. So does removing any barriers to said door. That’s why, despite being more of a night owl, I’ve come to love early morning easy runs: I can basically roll out of bed, slip into the outfit I laid out the night before, and hit the road. No fretting about pre-run activities. I just go, without thinking about it.

Even with all my love and deep appreciation for running, I still have to tell myself a little story about the run ahead, about how wonderful it will feel just to get myself moving (even if that’s not entirely the truth, at least not all the time). These helpful mind games give me a little kick in the glutes to start running. And sometimes, when I find I’m still procrastinating, I just thank my deadline-driven mindset, which turns on when time is running out and I need to stop thinking and just start stepping.

How Other Runner’s World Editors Motivate Themselves to Start a Run
I asked my colleagues for their best tips for getting started when motivation is low. Besides the reminder to take a rest day when your body calls for it (because that’s also important!), here’s what they had to say:

“Usually, I think about how mad I will be at myself if I don’t run.” — Aly Ellis, Deputy Editor, Social Media

“The biggest thing that gets me out when I don’t want to go is having a real reason to! The main ones, for me, are meeting up with my local running buddies or following an actual training plan for a race. In both cases, I guess I feel guilty if I bail, so I don’t and will be out there even in a cold rain.”  — Jeff Dengate, Runner in Chief

“I focus on the basics — what to wear, what to eat and drink, and what I’ll do — because when I overthink, I tend to convince myself not to go. If I have those three things covered, I’m good.” — Monique Lebrun, Associate Health and Fitness Editor

“I mix it up. That can be something like bringing my phone with me and listening to music (I usually run in silence or with friends), or driving to a trailhead to take in some new scenery.” — Theo Kahler, News Editor

“If it’s raining or cold (or worst-case, both), I bundle up, even though I know I’ll overheat after a few minutes. Making sure I feel comfortable in those first steps helps get me started.” — Pat Heine, Senior Video Producer

READ MORE ON: motivation running tips

Copyright © 2024 Hearst