19 running motivation boosters

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1/ Horror show

Netflix marathon seeming more appealing than a tempo run? Recent research linking TV watching to premature death might just nudge you off the sofa and into your running kit. The study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, followed 221,426 adults over 14 years and found watching TV for three to four hours a day was associated with a 15 per cent increase in risk for major causes of death, including heart attack and cancer.

2/ Stow me the money

Adding a financial incentive to your runs could deliver the extra push you need to keep hitting the road. Create your own rewards system by stashing a certain amount – say, £1 – for every mile you run, then at a set date (after your next race, or in six months) spend the cash on yourself. The payoff will go beyond that new pair of jeans you’ve been after: ‘External rewards are wonderful incentives because they often transform into internal rewards,’ says Harvard Medical School sports psychologist Jeffrey Brown, author of The Runner’s Brain. ‘The payoff includes increased confidence in reaching a goal.’

3/ More is less

Now take your jam jar jammed with £1 coins into the modern age with the ingenious site Running Heroes, membership of which allows you to earn points through exercise, which can then be translated into money-off offers at a variety of partners, including Spotify, Ashmei, Mizuno, Uber, Solgar, Polar and many others.

4/ Sore point

If aching muscles are a regular roadblock to your running motivation, supping up could clear the way. A study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism found participants taking an L-glutamine supplement reduced post-exercise delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), especially in women; and recovered their muscle strength faster, especially in men.

5/ Bright future

Your best 100m times may be behind you, but age needn’t be a barrier to a motivation-boosting PB target if you play the long game. Analysis of the fastest ultra-marathon runners from 1960 to 2012 published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that the average age of the fastest man has increased from 29 to 40 (though for the fastest woman it’s held at steady at 35).

6/ Chubby genes or skinny jeans?

If you’re starting to think that running can’t win in the battle against your genetic predisposition to weight gain, don’t give up on sole power. Research at McMaster University, Canada, which analysed data from over 17,000 adults suggests that while variants of the 14 genes studied do have the potential to increase a person’s risk of becoming obese, physical exercise can reduce that risk by up to 75 per cent. In other words, when it comes to your weight, you can outrun your genetic destiny.

7/ Go on, liver little

Just a little running can do a lot for your liver. A study published in the Journal of Hepatology found that three different eight-week exercise programmes – 60 mins of low to moderate activity four times a week, 45 mins of high-intensity activity three days a week, or 45 mins of low to moderate activity three days a week – all significantly reduced liver fat and visceral fat.

8/ Blast from the past

Next time you’re struck by a willpower-cut, think bright thoughts about a great run or race from the past. In a study published in Memory, this recall of a previous positive exercise experience was associated with increased motivation to exercise again.

9/ Memory jog

It’s not just your heart and lungs that will thank you for lacing up your running shoes. Recent Boston University Medical Center research found that better cardiorespiratory fitness was associated with larger brain volume and better memory-test performance.

10/ Junk miles

The occasional post-run takeaway reward won’t slow you down, says a study in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. After a 90-minute glycogen-depletion workout, subjects were given either isoenergetic sport supplements or fast food while they recovered. Tests found no differences in their rate of glycogen recovery, blood sugar, insulin response or in their performance in a 20K bike time trial following the recovery period.

11/ And the beat goes on

You probably realise that running now is an investment in your future health, but new research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association confirms how high the returns can be. Following thousands of adults from initial fitness tests in the 1980s to follow-up tests an average of 27 years later, researchers found that higher early cardiorespiratory fitness was associated with better heart health and a lower death rate from heart-related issues, or any cause.

12/ Take heart

You don’t have to wait that long for the benefits to kick in, though. A new study from Massachusetts General Hospital, found training for a marathon can trigger structural changes in the hearts of recreational runners previously only thought to occur in elites, lowering their risk of cardiovascular disease.

13/ Breathe easy

If you struggle with asthma, here’s another reason to run: a study on mice published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports suggests regular moderate aerobic exercise (30 mins at a moderate pace three times a week for eight weeks) can ease the severity of asthma attacks, improving lung function and altering inflammatory response.

14/ Spaghetti function

The guilt-free consumption of carbs is one of the great rewards of our sport. And despite recent questioning of the carb-loading principle, it seems you can still pound those pavements powered by penne. Australian research published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found carbs are the primary energy source used by the body during half marathons.

15/ Resolution reboot

In his research, psychologist Dr John Norcross found that three months after making a resolution, 50 per cent of resolvers had fallen off the good intentions wagon. But his research also revealed that people who make resolutions are 10 times more likely to change their behaviour than those who don’t. If you’re struggling to stick to a running resolution, stop thinking you ‘have to’ go running, says Scott Douglas, co-author of Meb for Mortals. ‘That mindset can make running feel like an obligation.’ Instead, he advises reframing your running in the language of reward, saying you ‘get to’ go for a run.

16/ The bib idea

A goal race is one of the most powerful motivators, but when injury (or life in general) derails your plans, it can leave you flat. Time to find a new race, without any further strain on your finances, via Bibswitch. Ever swapped gig tickets on an online portal? This is the same principle, except you’re doing it with that race place you can no longer use. It means your entry can go to a good home and, in return, you can browse worldwide for entries at other races. Still in its infancy, here’s hoping this big idea takes off.

17/ Train in vein

Another reason to HIIT the road: A study review published in Sports Medicine concluded that 12 weeks of thrice-weekly high-intensity interval training is a powerful way to enhance vascular function.

18/ Get on the ladder

After all the fun, how about an appeal to your more competitive side? Enter your result from a British Athletics-recognised race on Run Britain, claim your age-graded handicap score and your place on the national rankings ladder - then set your sights on moving on up.

19/ Trick question

Here’s a sneaky DIY psych trick: a review published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology of more than 100 studies examined the ‘question-behaviour effect,’ a phenomenon in which asking people about performing a behaviour influences whether they do it or not. It concluded that asking questions about whether you will do a certain thing makes positive behavior more likely to happen. So, are you going for that long run?