If you’ve ever hit the snooze button at 5am, taken one look out the window and put your sweatpants back on, or gotten halfway through a run and decided to call it quits, you are not alone. We all have days where we just don’t have the motivation to run. If you let them, your excuses can get you out of a lot of things — not just running — that you may not feel like doing. Accomplishing a goal comes down to ensuring that the voice that pushes you to keep going is louder than the voice that wants to quit. Here are ten ways I have found to help with silencing excuses and building good habits.
1. I can’t do it, or I’m not a runner.
Rebuttal: You can, and you are.
“I can’t” is the easiest cop out and the biggest barrier to accomplishing any goal. Start thinking about ways you can practice positive affirmations by changing your “I can’t” into “I am.” This sport, just like any other athletic pursuit, is a mental game. Whatever you’re feeling you “can’t” do — climb that hill, hit those repeat times, finish that long run — change the conversation in your head and come back with reasons why you can. Just like running requires physical training, positive thinking requires mental training.
Reciting positive thoughts is just like logging miles: you get better at both the more often you do them. Your brain is wired to become more efficient at neural pathways that are strengthened through repetition. So, the next time you catch yourself saying “I can’t”, fight back with thoughts like “I am a strong hill runner,” “I am relaxed and confident,” or “I am tough enough to finish this run.”
Even if you don’t believe it, tell yourself you are until you do. Run in honor of those who physically can’t. And by the way, if you run, you’re a runner.
2. I don’t have time.
Rebuttal: Make time.
We all have busy lives. The difference between people who go out and run and those who don’t is that those who do make time. They plan ahead and figure out how they will fit running into their day. They get up earlier and get it out of the way before they start their day. They get creative and run a few miles in the morning and a few miles at night. They run on lunch breaks. They run while their kids ride their bike. They run on a treadmill while they read or catch up on the news. If running really is a priority, make time for it.
3. I’m too tired.
Rebuttal: Try first.
I often wake up when my alarm goes off at 4:30 and think, “Why can’t I sleep for another two hours?!” Even while I’m brewing coffee, I continue to think, “Wow, I’m soooo tired.” Heck, even a mile or two into my run, I still feel sluggish sometimes.
But I rarely come back from a run not feeling more energized afterward. Never judge a run by the first mile. Consider that part of the reason you could be feeling tired is because you need to exercise to feel better and more awake. That being said, if you’re routinely tired after a good night’s rest and suspect there’s another reason for your fatigue (e.g. nutrition deficiency), consult your doctor. Otherwise, get out there and run.
4. It’s too hot. It’s too cold. It’s too windy. It’s raining. It’s snowing…
Rebuttal #4: Control what you can control.
I’m guiltiest here. I live in the desert, so typically my excuse is “it’s too hot” to run (one of the ways I fought my “it’s too hot” excuse was to sign up for the Ventura Marathon, which took place at the end of the hottest months in Tucson). However, the number of days we encounter perfect weather are far outnumbered by the days when the weather is less than ideal. Just like race day, you can’t control Mother Nature on your training days either.
You do, however, have control over how you react and adjust. Run at a different time. Wear something else. Choose a different running route. Run on the treadmill or an indoor track. Perhaps most importantly, adjust your expectations for the run. If it’s 95 degrees outside and you have a tempo workout on your schedule, run at tempo effort, not tempo pace. If it’s snowing, wear layers and look for a route that’s plowed and salted. Unless there’s a weather advisory cautioning you to stay inside, suit up and get moving.
5. Running is boring.
Rebuttal #5: Make it interesting.
Change it up! Running is only as boring as you make it. There are a number of ways to add variety to your running: explore a trail, play with pace, run with a friend, take your dog along, or tune into your favorite playlist.
A lot of runners also join running groups to make the work more enjoyable. You can do the same. And Excuse #1 will remind us that our brains become more efficient at what we do and think the most. Instead of focusing on how boring your run is, get into a mindfulness mode and appreciate the world around you and be proud of yourself for tackling the challenge.
Try signing up for a trail race, as it forces you to explore trails in order to be prepared for the race. I tried this strategy out and ended up running the Hardesty Hardcore trail race (5.5-mile distance), which was so much more fun than I had ever expected.
6. I’m not making any progress.
Rebuttal: Progress is a process.
Like many other endeavors, becoming a better runner doesn’t happen overnight. And while it can be easy to get discouraged if you aren’t losing weight, getting faster, or meeting your goals, remind yourself what else running does for you. Running positively impacts your heart, mental health, immune system, and energy levels. So whether or not you’re seeing the progress on the scale or reflected in your race times, you should keep going; the visible results will follow.
If you’re still not convinced, you can do other things like write your goals down and keep track of your progress. Sometimes it helps to see your data over time to motivate you to keep going. Don’t downplay what you’ve accomplished and give yourself credit for logging the minutes and the miles. Remember that progress is a process, not a destination. That being said, one of the best ways to evaluate your progress is to sign up for a race! During one of my marathon training cycles, I signed up for the Scandia Run 10K (intending to run it as a “training run”), and ended up missing a PR by only nine seconds!
7. I’m sore/injured.
Rebuttal: You are stronger than you know.
If you’re truly injured, see a doctor and figure out what you need to do to get back on track. But if you’re just feeling a little sore from a good weight session or a tough hill workout, push through it. Think about the challenge as an obstacle which you are stronger for overcoming. Repeat the affirmation “I am strong and powerful” if you’re struggling to finish. Envision yourself in a race facing the same struggle and ask yourself what it’s going to take to keep running. Practice overcoming physical discomfort and call upon your mental strengths to get you through.
8. I’m lazy/out of shape.
Rebuttal: Whatever you believe, you will become.
Although “I’m lazy” is an excuse, it’s not a valid one if you want to become a stronger runner. And if you’re out of shape, running is a brilliant opportunity to initiate a change. If getting started feels daunting, start small. Go for a ten-minute run or walk. Plan to meet a friend for your run so that you can be kept accountable. Change the conversation in your head. Tell yourself, “I’m motivated” or “I’m working hard to get in shape.” If you believe it, your beliefs will soon become part of who you are.
9. I don’t have anyone to run with.
Rebuttal: Be your own cheerleader.
When I was just getting started with longer distance running, I joined a training group to prepare for the Capital City River Run. We got together for track workouts, but it still was up to me to do the work throughout the rest of the week.
While it can definitely be harder to get out the door without your partner or group, learn to take ownership of your identity as a runner and run for your own body, mind, and sense of accomplishment. If you’re craving the socialization, reward yourself with an outing with friends or family afterward. If you’re worried about safety, leave the headphones at home and bring your phone in case of an emergency. Tell someone where you’re running and when you plan to be back.
The solo time may also surprise you and become something you start to enjoy and look forward to. Take advantage of the opportunity to gain some insight into who you are as a runner and acknowledge your strength in overcoming this excuse.
10. I’m too old to start running.
Rebuttal: You only age when you stop moving.
Whether you’re someone who hasn’t ever been a runner or are trying to get back on track later in life, you are only as old as you feel. Cliché as it is, your body is capable of so much more than you realize, and the more you keep moving, the younger you will ultimately feel. The longer you stay active, the longer you will be able to enjoy running and other physical activities. Especially as you age, running is a great way to keep your heart young, your bones strong, your blood pressure in check, and your attitude sunny. Keep moving.
The Bottom Line
People who want to run will always find a way and people who don’t want to run will always find an excuse. If you don’t see your worst excuse listed here, you can still tame it with the themes you’ve seen throughout this article — using positive affirmations, flexibility, and perseverance to find a way. When it comes down to it, running is a mental game of courage just as much as it is a physical pursuit. You don’t have to be perfect, but hold yourself to an expectation that you can be proud of. And remember to have a little fun along the way!
Emily Bushouse is a recreational runner who has competed in more than 100 races ranging from 5K to ultramarathon. Her running journey started over a decade ago and continues to bring new challenges and adventures. Emily is dedicated to her progress as a runner and is currently training for her first 50-miler. She loves mile repeats, post-run pizza, and blogging about the trials and tribulations that come with identifying as a runner.