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7 Ways to Find Your Joy in Running

article goals and plans improvement joy joy in running mindset running Sep 17, 2022



Sometimes when runners start to get more serious about running or want to improve, they get so focused on getting faster or running longer that they end up losing some of the joy and the fun. This can lead to running feeling like a grind, a chore, or something you just have to get through, and where’s the fun in that? 


So what is joy exactly?  The dictionary defines joy as “The emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.”  Interesting.  Joy is not the same thing as happiness.  They are linked, but not exactly the same.  


Running, like life, is not about being happy all the time.  It’s not always going to feel great, this we know.  So how can we continue to find joy in our running journey and go after those things we desire?  Let’s talk about 7 ways that we can find more joy in our running. 


1. Remember your why


Why did you start running?  Maybe it was to get in better shape, lose some weight, find a social group or a team, or just to challenge yourself.  What was that original reason and did it bring you joy?  Or did the thought of what you wanted to accomplish with it bring you joy?  


For example, losing weight might not evoke a sense of joy, but having the strong and fit body that you desire would.  


Maybe your reasons for running have changed over the years, and you haven’t really thought about this in awhile.  Reconnecting to your why can remind you of what you desire and what you want to get out of running now.


2. Set a non-race-related goal 


You don’t have to have a race on the calendar to make progress.  Sure, races can be helpful, but if you’re not motivated to race right now, that’s ok too.  What is something else that you might want to accomplish in your running that is not race-related? 


Maybe you want to be able to run longer distances, maybe you want to improve your strength, or maybe you want to transition from a run/walk to a straight running approach.  What sounds fun right now?  Set a different type of goal that will motivate you and head that way.  


3. Try a different type of race


Not into marathons, half marathons or 5ks? Try something else!  There are so many different types of race - trail races, team relay races, odd distances like 4 milers, 15k, 10 milers, etc.  


Repeating the same race distance is great, but sometimes it can feel a little monotonous and lead to comparison and judgement.  By running a distance or type of race that you’ve never done before, you can tap into a spirit of experimentation, fun, and curiosity.  What else is out there? 


4. Join a group


Find some running friends! A sense of community is a great way to bring more joy to your running.  You can find in-person running groups in most cities and even smaller towns.  If you’re not sure where to look, check out your local running store or do an online search in your area.  There’s probably runners like you nearby just looking for a new running pal!


If an in-person running group doesn’t sound appealing, look for an online community.  There are so many online running communities where you can connect with other runners, post about your runs, ask questions, and just connect with other like-minded individuals who understand you and your running journey.  Believe it or not, we’re not that different.  Regardless of your pace or distance, running is running and runners get it.  Having people that understand the struggles, the highs and the lows makes a huge difference in how you feel about your running journey.  


5. Ditch the watch 


Ah, numbers.  Running is a largely numbers-driven sport and all of the current technology makes it so easy to get caught up in our paces, distances, leaderboards, recovery times, VO2max, and so many other metrics.  Sometimes it’s helpful to just run.  Without the watch. Without the numbers. Without the constant comparison to yourself and everyone else around you.  Go out and just run.  Look around you. Forget about your pace.  Just enjoy the run.


Keep in mind that this might be super uncomfortable at first, and if it is, that might be a sign that you need to attempt it on a more regular basis.  We can become so dependent on technology that we forget how to listen to our body and just enjoy ourselves.  Disconnect and just run.


6. Look at the bigger picture 


There are different types of fun and different things that lead to joy. Level one fun is fun in the moment.  You enjoy it as you are doing it.  Level two fun is something that might not be super fun in the moment, but you can look back on it and appreciate it for the joy that it brought you.  


Running can be both.  Sometimes things are worth doing because of the long term rewards and the life that we want to create for ourselves in the future.  Running leads to growth, and growth is often uncomfortable as we are doing it.  Even so, it is totally worth it and one of those things that we all strive for.  There can be immense joy knowing that you are challenging yourself and evolving.  Going back to that definition of joy, we can find joy as we think about the prospect of something that we desire.  What kind of person do you want to be? What goals do you want to achieve? Find your joy in striving for those things.


7. Connect to a higher purpose 


Running is about so much more than just ourselves. We can use it to connect to something greater, like a spiritual practice, a higher power, nature, or the divine.  We can use it to raise money for charity to help others and use it to create more good in the world.  We can inspire others by living a healthy life and taking care of ourselves.  You never know who might be watching and possibly changing their lives because of you.  The possibilities here are endless.  Start to look outside yourself and see how running can make you feel more connected to the world, the universe, and the people around you.  


Running can bring so much joy to your life if you just open up to new possibilities and ideas that you maybe haven’t thought of before.  


Now get out there and run your life.

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