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The question: I stopped running over the winter. Recently I started again but it feels way harder than I remember. It makes me not want to start running seriously again. How do I get motivated?

The answer: I empathize with you, I really do! I recently had a similar experience. Over the winter I took a three month hiatus from running. My body needed a break. Instead I cycled, lifted weights and did yoga.

After three months I was itching to run. I expected my first run back to feel relatively normal, easy. I was excited for the feeling of "home" that I traditionally feel when I run. Instead, I felt like I imagine you felt - achy, stiff and uncoordinated. Running was harder than I remembered.

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I told myself to be patient. Progressing slowly allows one to adapt to the stress running puts on the body. Running felt unnatural when I had first started twelve years ago. I needed to get back to regular running for it to feel good again.

I really believe in making lemonade out of lemons, so I also told myself to frame my initial discomfort as a good thing. The discomfort reinforced the importance of progressing slowly. It is one key to staying injury free. Running is hard on the body and you need to give your connective tissue, bones, ligaments and muscles time to adapt.

My advice, in a nutshell, is to be patient yet persistent.

Part of finding the motivation to exercise is persisting through the initial phase where just putting on exercise clothes feels like work. Unfortunately, you have to do the activity enough times so you form a habit. Plus, you need to give your body time to develop a kinesthetic memory of how great you feel post workout.

Other "tricks" that always help me stay motivated are:

  • I set my workout clothes out in advance.
  • I block workouts into my schedule.
  • I live by the motto that being active is a "non-negotiable." It is not "if" I train, but "when" I train.
  • I work activity into my daily life.

Trainer's Tip: Running is hard on the body. If you want to run injury free for life, remember that you shouldn't be running to get into shape, but rather getting in shape to run. Make sure your exercise program is well rounded and not just about running. Ensure that you are strength training and stretching as well.

Kathleen Trotter has been a personal trainer and Pilates equipment specialist for 10 years. Her website is www.kathleentrotter.com.

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