It’s been awhile since you made those New Year’s resolutions, plus vacation days are on the horizon — and in many places the weather is becoming too hot and humid to be active. It’s the summer doldrums and it’s hard to stay motivated and focused in the midst of them.
“I always find June is a tough month,” said Lanni Marchant, the Canadian marathon record holder and an Olympian who’s sponsored by Under Armour. She typically has a spring race goal — often the national championships in May — and then does a championship race at the end of summer or a big marathon in the fall. It’s a schedule most recreational athletes also follow, though on a less intense scale. That means by now, you’ve already had your big spring or early summer event, yet “it’s still a long way to the fall,” she says.
“It’s really easy to fall off the wagon once patio season comes,” she says, which is what they call it in Ontario when the weather gets warm and everyone just wants to hang out on the patio drinking beer.
Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to stay motivated. One of them is to remember you might feel bad or run slow in the heat and humidity, but that doesn’t mean you’re getting less fit. You just need to adjust your expectations and tell yourself: “It’s the heat. It’s not that you’re not making progress,” says Jeff Gaudette, head coach at RunnersConnect.
Here are four ways to get back on track:
1. REASSESS AND ADJUST
“You need to do that regardless of whether you’re on track or things are falling apart,” says Gaudette.
Whatever your goals were at the beginning of the year — lose weight, run a half-marathon, set a PR at your local 5K — it’s time to step back and assess how things are going. Did you meet your early season goals? Have you been busy and had a hard time fitting in workouts? Or, maybe you’ve been killing it and need to make harder goals for yourself for the rest of the year?
In 2015, Marchant reassessed and changed her plan multiple times mid-year, first because she had a swollen foot and decided to move to shorter races, and then because racing shorter distances was going so well that she decided to focus on the 10,000-meter at the Pan-Am Games. She won bronze. Reassessing can be a good thing.
Whatever the situation, the important part is to “accept where you’re at,” says Gaudette, and go from there. The key is not to be negative, but to see this as a chance to evaluate and make necessary changes.
If you’re burnt out, take some time off to rest and recharge, he says. If you’re injured, do what you can and try to address the underlying issue. If you’re just too busy, then figure out what will get you motivated and how to fit your workouts in.
2. CREATE A REWARD SYSTEM
What the reward is depends on the person. “It could be something as small as buying a new outfit,” says Gaudette. Mix up your playlist. Try new routes. Get training partners to hold you accountable.
“Having someone in the trenches with you helps a lot,” says Susan Kitchen, a coach and owner of Race Smart. She advocates having a training buddy who meets you for regular workouts or a coach or trainer who will know if you’re skipping things. Whatever it takes to get through the days that aren’t as much fun, because the days that are fun will be worth it.
Ultimately, the reward is the work itself — which is why it can also help to reframe your attitude and remember why you’re doing this in the first place.
“Keep your goals in the front of your mind,” said Kitchen. That means writing them down and reminding yourself why you want to do these things in the first place. “This is really a gift to you,” she said, so enjoy it!”
3. STICK WITH A ROUTINE
Planning ahead is key during the summer months, says Gaudette. That doesn’t mean every training day or every workout is enjoyable. “You just have to put your head down and commit,” says Marchant, “and then you get to the fun bits and it’s fun again.” She sticks to a schedule and treats it like a job, but even if you’re not an Olympian, a schedule can be important.
Both Gaudette and Kitchen advocate getting your workouts done first thing in the morning, because (especially in the summer) stuff can come up later, social obligations happen or the kids need you. If you know you’re going to be at a barbecue one weekend, then you can plan ahead and get to bed early the night before so you can run early in the morning before barbecuing.
If you can’t do the whole workout while on vacation, Kitchen said, “get creative.” Maybe that means cutting out some of the workout or hiking instead of running or swimming by tethering yourself to the side of the tiny hotel pool (it’s a real thing).
READ MORE > WANT TO CRUSH YOUR GOALS? GET SMART
4. PLAN SMALLER GOALS ON THE WAY TO YOUR BIG GOAL
When we plan our year, most of us tend to aim for something big — often a marathon or a championship race or an “A” goal. But getting there typically requires months and months of work, which “takes a lot of mental energy,” says Gaudette. He finds our capacity to focus tops out at 3–4 months. That’s why it’s important to have smaller goals and races along the way to motivate yourself and break things up.
In goal-setting, there is a concept called process goals, which means goals you set as part of the process — getting to the pool four times each week, working your way to be able to run your intervals at a certain pace, finally doing that one workout you’ve never been able to do. But process goals can be “difficult to conceptualize,” says Gaudette. While you don’t have to race to be motivated for working out, smaller races along the way, with their own goals, can be easier to get yourself out the door for.
“You have to have more than one goal race on the calendar,” says Marchant. She likes to have something — time trials, races, training camps — every 4–6 weeks to keep her motivated and sharp. In the winter, that can be a destination race to somewhere tropical. Even if it’s not your big target event, find another reason it matters to you, she said, whether it’s a chance to compete against some new people, see somewhere new or just try something different.
“Sign up first and then commit to doing it,” she said. Odds are once you pay $100 to sign up for a race, you’ll feel a lot more motivated to train for it.