The Psychology of Motivation: Turning A Race Day Nightmare Into Running Motivation

Fitness Challenge Failure Spawns Running Motivation

 

Sept. 1st, 2022 | 6 min read

TL;DR

  • Learn how to pick yourself up after a fitness challenge #fail and use the experience as a source of motivation instead of letting it get you down.

  • Who should read this: Anyone that needs a pick-me-up after a rough race day, or even just feels like they’ve hit a plateau in whatever training it is they’re doing – it feels good to know we’re not alone when we struggle.

  • Takeaways: No matter how hard you train, there will be good days and bad days. Don’t let the bad ones get you down; leverage them as tools to help you learn and get better.

  • Your Next Move: Take your newly found motivation and either join or create a fitness challenge within the Year of 1000km application. Spread your unwavering positivity within the community and help others overcome their own difficult times. You’ll thank yourself once you do.

Just an Easy Peasy Fitness Challenge…. Right?!?

Normally, I associate the about-to-barf feeling with the end of a race, not the moment I pull into the parking lot near the registration tent. 

I saw a Facebook ad for a free 5K a few miles from my house, and I was excited to get back into racing post-COVID. I never stopped running during the pandemic, but I had certainly fallen out of racing shape. I didn’t need to do couch to 5K to prepare to make it to the finish line, but I was far from my former competitive-racing self. 

I figured a free neighbourhood 5K would be the perfect way to get back into the swing of things — after all, there’s no running motivation like focusing on passing the person in front of you.

Oh, how wrong I was…

I figured that a track club or other athletic organisation was putting on the event, and they were there to help with registration before, you know, the regular people (like me) showed up. 

Nope. 

I got out of the car and walked over to the registration table. I listened to the chatter between the Adonis-type and his buddy behind as they organised bibs. 

Buddy: “I couldn’t believe it – it was my first marathon and I think I ran 2:30? And it was just like… effortless.”

Adonis-type: “Nah dude I felt the same way. I think I ran a 2:23?”

I wish I were making this up. 

I smiled, told them I was there for the race and signed my waiver. I glanced around and noticed that everyone seemed to know one another… except me. 

A man with mile-long legs and a body that looked like he ate ground turkey and green beans for 95% of his meals picked up a megaphone and called everyone over to begin the group stretch. 

​​You’ve gotta be flippin’ kidding me.

I took my place in the circle and realised that I was the only one who didn’t know the pre-game routine. I had stumbled into a military track club race that was (for reasons still unbeknownst to me) open to the public. And it was too late to back out. 

Megaphone man began to corral everyone over to the starting line. I tried to take my place toward the back of the pack, and, much to my dismay, Megaphone Man called me out. 

Megaphone Man: “Excuse me! Miss! Your bib is green, so you’re in the first corral! Go ahead to the front!”

As if this could get any worse. 

I squeezed my way between the Olympic-athlete-look-alikes and took my place, fiddling with my headphones and pretending that this was just a regular race for me. I glanced around and noticed that, of the 40 or so people at the starting line, I was one of only five (5!!!) women. 

*Someone is running with a dog. At least I’ll beat the girl and the golden retriever.*

Then, the gun went off. 

I started running with the pack. I glanced at my Runkeeper app after an incredibly breathtaking first few minutes and noticed that I was running at a 6:40 pace. On a great day, I can run a 7-minute mile — and then I congratulate myself, walk one more mile, and call it a day. 

I quickly began to fall away from the group, one sad step at a time. I wish I could say I found a burst of energy and motivation and ran my best 5km time ever… but that’s absolutely not what happened. 

The race went on, and I fell further and further back from the rest of the group. 

I got passed by the golden retriever.


After about a mile and a half, I heard the unmistakable putt-putt-putt of the golf cart that brings up the rear in case 
anyone gets injured. I looked behind me, and yep — it happened — I was in last place. 

I debated calling someone to come to pick me up. I debated ducking between some tall buildings, hoping that the golf cart medics wouldn’t notice that I was done. I debated faking an injury. 

Instead, I trudged on. Eventually, one person got hurt and decided to walk the rest of the way, so while I didn’t technically come in last… I might as well have. 

When I crossed the finish line (in a totally respectable — for me — 31 minutes), I didn’t want to look anyone in the eye. I crept off to my car without making eye contact, called my dad (also a runner), made some jokes, and then… the awful thoughts began. 

Maybe I’m not cut out to run. 

I’ve been running for decades, and I never thought this would happen. 

Should I even bother racing again? This is pointless. 

I’m not just getting older, I’m getting worse.

I’m glad to say that these thoughts didn’t stick around (for long) but they did get me thinking about what motivates us to keep going after a setback. Every race has a runner who comes in last, and I’d be willing to bet that most of us race again at some point.

Why do we keep going after we fail?


Turning Crap Situations Into Motivation: What The Research Says


When we go through a shit-show of a race, it can be tough to figure out how to get motivated again.

Motivation (and not just running motivation) is hugely personal, but there are some overarching themes that apply to most of us when it comes to getting off the couch after failure. 

Self-determination theory, or SDT, shows that people who participate in autonomous exercise (like running, swimming, biking, etc.) are typically motivated by several factors, including: 

  • Intrinsic motivation 👤 : Physical activity makes us feel good, and we know that when we get up off the couch and get moving, we’re in a better mood. We usually don’t think about exactly how our endorphins boost us up when we get a good sweat going — we just know that we feel better after we’re done. Of course, after a particularly awful workout or race, intrinsic motivation can wane — but it usually comes back stronger than ever once we dig back in.

  • Extrinsic motivation 📸 🤳🏻 : Let’s be real — for most of us, looking hot is a major motivational factor that pushes us to stay fit. Wanting to improve our looks, get the attention of someone special, or even show improved numbers at our next doctor’s appointment are all examples of extrinsic motivation. <Did someone say, #selfietime!?> Extrinsic motivation can backfire — in my sob story of a race, for example, my desire to cross the finish line with a social-media-brag-worthy time backfired, and my motivation tanked when I realised I wasn’t going to hit my goal.

  • Basic psychological needs 🧠  : In order to feel psychologically healthy, we need to have a sense of control over our own lives, a sense of relating to others, and a sense of competence. Taking part in a fitness challenge or just working out (and getting progressively better at our chosen method of movement over time) can help boost our mental health. Many of us notice the negative effect that a few days off from working out (even when they’re much-needed) can have on our mood, and it makes sense that our psychological health gets a boost when we get moving again.

  • Goal contents 🎯🎯 : Goals matter. Whether you’re participating in a fitness challenge for motivation or you’re keeping your running motivation up by working toward a personal best at your next race, keeping your goals in mind can help you overcome setbacks. It provides positive motivation. After a hard setback, it may be time to reevaluate your goals so that you have something achievable in mind. This doesn’t mean that those big fitness goals need to disappear, but you may want to reconsider the amount of time it will take you to, for example, get back to your high school track team mile time.

  • Causality orientations 📅 : It can seem like motivation comes and goes out of nowhere, but we actually have a decent amount of control over how motivated we feel from day to day. Setting up our lives so that we’re more inclined to feel motivated can have a positive effect on how often we exercise. Organising your schedule and home in ways that make it easy for you to get moving can be motivating in itself, and make it more likely that you’ll keep honing your athletic craft. 

Getting Back Into Racing After A Setback: Five Steps To Make It Work

If you’ve gone through a major setback (like I did at that God-forsaken race), we’ve got good news: you can come back stronger than ever. Follow these steps to get back to the starting line of your next race without wanting to barf all over your running shoes:

1. Take a minute to wallow.

The worst happened. It sucked. It’s ok to feel embarrassed, upset, and like maybe this whole running/swimming/biking thing just isn’t for you. Take some time to feel your feelings, and remember that a bad day isn’t representative of your entire athletic career. 

2. When you’re ready, figure out where you went wrong.

After you’ve taken some time to sulk, you’ve got to get to work on figuring out what went wrong. This can be really difficult, especially if you tend to make excuses – such as a lack of motivation – when things don’t quite go your way (totally calling myself out here, btw). 

Some tough questions to ask yourself after a big setback include: 

  • Did my training plan really prepare me for this race?
  • Did I stick to my training plan?
  • Were other factors (like a poor diet or lack of sleep) a likely cause of poor performance?
  • Did I go out too fast?
  • Was my goal too ambitious?

Only you can know how honest you’re being when you answer these questions. The more you can get real with yourself, the easier it will be to create a plan and set new motivational / fitness goals that help you move forward. 

3. Get to work.

Now that you know what went wrong, it’s time to get to work and set yourself up to rise again. Maybe you need to focus on some new areas, like cleaning up your nutrition or increasing the number of easy miles you’re getting in each week.  Perhaps you need to try a new approach to training that will make injuries less likely. Think of realistic goals that will get you on the move with less effort – or adopt performance goals where you focus solely on doing better than your peers.

No matter how you decide to get back into the swing of things, enjoy the surge of fitness motivation that comes with the start of a new plan. This will help to reinforce positive outcomes.

4. Sign up for a new event.

You know how you’re going to move forward — now, it’s time to sign up for a new race or fitness challenge so that you can face your fears head-on. You don’t necessarily need to sign up for the same distance as your disaster race, but doing so can help push away the fear that hot-mess-express-race could happen again. 

Once you sign up, tweak your training plan (if necessary) so that you’re as prepared as possible for race day.

5. Embrace the fear of failure.

Failing fucking blows. There’s no way around it. But here’s the thing: once you fail, you realise that you don’t just survive failure — it helps you grow

Whatever your definition of failure — a DNS, a DNF, or just an awful 5km run time — experiencing your worst fear makes racing a little less scary. When you know that your worst racing nightmare has already happened (and you made it through to tell the tale), your confidence begins to grow. 

Failure doesn’t have to set you back — it can push you forward (if you let it). 

Time to Wrap It Up

Let’s face it, bad things happen to everyone. 

But so do good things. 

Sometimes we need to create our own good things when presented with an opportunity to do so. 

Sometimes the difference between an opportunity and a shitty situation is not all that obvious.

But if you can maintain a clear head and stay positive in tough times, who knows, maybe your abysmal 5K will lead you to a not-so-abysmal 10K.


… by the way, don’t forget to sign up for the Healthy Lifestylers Hits newsletter to ensure you don’t miss out on any of the great content we’ll be pumping out every single week!


The Author

​​Amanda Turner, M.Ed., is a NASM-certified personal trainer, mom, and full-time freelance writer living in Danville, Pennsylvania. She’s been virtually coaching clients since 2015. As a former counsellor, Amanda loves working with clients to help them understand and overcome the issues that are holding them back from becoming their happiest, healthiest selves.


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Latest Articles

Mind the Fitness Challenge App Gap: Year of 1000km to the Rescue

Join a fitness challenge today - everything from half marathon training to couch to 5k

 

Nov. 1st, 2021 | 8 min read

TL;DR

  • Learn how the Year of 1000km fitness challenge application and global community of amazingly awesome humans can push anyone to get motivated and become an even better, healthier version of themselves.

  • Who should read this: Anyone looking for something that will actually create a feeling of accountability and keep them pushing forward when motivation begins to wear off. 

  • Takeaways: Runners are awesome — but you don’t have to be grinding out half marathon training to find serious value in being a part of the Year of 1000km community. If you need a kick in the ass to get off the couch (even if it’s just to do a Couch to 5k, meditate or dust off that rainbow coloured xylophone your kids don’t play with anymore and learn to crank out some serious Yankee Doodle chimes), Year of 1000km has you covered. 

  • Your Next Move: Smash this link to create an account (both Free and Premium options available) once you’ve finished reading this article and join our Facebook Group to embrace the full Year of 1000km experience. Just do it. You’ll love it.

For too long, fitness enthusiasts, personal trainers, and those who simply crave a social aspect to their health and wellness have struggled to find a place where they can come together online. 

The past year hasn’t helped — many people who depended on group fitness options to come together with like-minded people have found that, in reality, their options are severely limited. 

Broad-span social media apps can help, but it’s too easy to get sucked into the not-so-healthy effects associated with social scrolling (how the hell did a 20 second clip on “how to master the perfect burpee” turn into 3 hours and I now know who Charli D’Amelio is AND that my favourite singer is @samhairwolfryder!?)

Year of 1000km is Changing the Fitness Challenge Game

If you have any interest in fitness, you likely have several free workout apps installed on your phone. 

Whether you’re a personal trainer who runs fitness challenges through Facebook, a weekend warrior who is taking on a Couch to 5K challenge (or just LARP’ing like a champ on the reg), it’s helpful to have access to exercise motivation at your fingertips.

While free fitness apps can be helpful and fun for tracking progress, it can be tough to cross sport-specific boundaries with your fitness fam. A runner and a swimmer, for example, may have similar fitness and improvement goals, but it’s tough for a running or swimming app to quantify the two in a way that makes comparative sense. 

Someone who is working hard to gain muscle and someone who is trying to lose fat may have similar motivation and craving for competition, yet struggle to work together due to their vastly different goals. This very issue is keeping active humans confined to their own sport-specific boxes – enter Year of 1000km: a physical and mental fitness challenge solution that brings everyone together into a community to motivate.

Finding Your Crew

Your Fitness Challenge Crew - motivating for everything from half marathon training to couch to 5k

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Whether you’ve been working hard at perfecting your training for years or you’re just exploring new ways to move your body, nothing beats coming together with awesome people looking to motivate others, and be motivated themselves. 

On standard social media channels, it can be tough to find a crew who is ready to work on your level, with your focus areas (and of course, similar taste in workout apparel).

Year of 1000km Gets It

Whether you’re looking for a group that’s just as dedicated to half marathon training as you are, or you’re searching for other parents who are trying to figure out mommy fitness (because let’s be real — juggling kids and your own personal well-being is like trying to teach a whale how to knit), we’re creating a way for you to connect with people in your backyard and around the world, without having to make it to group fitness classes or another lamo Zoom workout on your iPad.

What Makes Fitness Challenge Apps So Helpful?

Fitness apps today fall into one of two categories:

  1. fitness/nutrition tracker apps; and 
  2. personal training apps

Both are excellent resources for those who want to get fit or want to help others get fit. 

We’re not here to replace the best free and paid fitness challenge apps that you’re already using — we’re here to add a social fitness hub to your phone, where you can interact with your trainer, your friends (both old and new), and stay motivated to hit your goals, no matter what healthy activities you might be knocking out. 

Apps likRunkeeperStravaFreeletics, and MapMyRide are great for tracking physical activity, providing insights into improvements over time, and creating screenshot-able pics to splash all over your social handles (of course, sprinkled with a shameless selfie here and there).

Serious and novice athletes alike love seeing their progress change over time. It’s exciting (read as: addicting) to check out how distance splits, time spent moving, and average pace ramp up as experience grows and fitness improves. 

Users of fitness tracking apps also love the motivation and encouragement they feel when they receive badges for achieving a new distance or pace, as well as the ease of tracking their workouts using the latest GPS tech. Heart rate monitoring options allow users to get a sense of how their fitness is improving over time using real-time data.

While some fitness tracking apps offer challenges that allow users to compete with one another, they fail to allow users to compete across multiple activities (good luck to any swimmer who thinks they can swim their way through a RunKeeper distance challenge).

Fitness Challenges to Compare Across Activities (ie - half marathon training & couch to 5k)

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Apps like MyFitnessPal and Lose It! are awesome for meeting nutrition goals. Many nutrition apps offer users several ways to track what they’re eating, and can be customised to help users meet their goals. 

Barcode scanning and restaurant menu uploads make it easier than ever for nutrition app users to track what they’re putting into their bodies. Calorie counting, macro tracking, and flexible dieting plans can all be accommodated by nutrition tracking apps. 

Much like fitness tracking apps, users of nutrition apps love seeing how their stats change over time. Whether they’re trying to lose weight, gain weight, or change their body composition, it motivates them to monitor their own progress, and the information provided within the apps can provide insight into the changes necessary to continue moving forward. 

Many nutrition tracking apps even upload data from fitness tracking apps, allowing users to check out an estimate of their caloric burn so they can decide whether they need to take in more calories to fuel up. 

Personal trainers love apps likMindbody and True Coach to manage their clients and schedules. They also get a kick out of monitoring their clients’ activity on both fitness and nutrition tracking apps. Many personal trainers use these apps to easily move between progressions for exercises, making it easy to progress or regress movement based on a client’s needs.

Standard social media apps like Facebook provide a platform for trainers to create a team environment for their clients, but often, clients get distracted by all the other shiny objects available to them on non-niche social media.

So… How Does Year of 1000km Bridge The Fitness App Gap?

Year of 1000km will not replace your (free or paid) fitness apps — it will supplement them.

We’ve created a space for anyone craving movement — from beginners to seasoned athletes (and the professionals who are there to help get everyone moving) — to enjoy a social, supportive environment that encourages them to take their fitness and healthy lifestyle to the next level.

Year of 1000km is a virtual hub where anyone who wants to get healthy and become an even better version of themselves, can come together to find their crew — while working to complete challenges. There are official challenges that anyone can join, and it’s also possible for users to create their own custom challenges and invite others to them.

It all started with a few friends challenging each other to run 1000km over the course of a year; this became our flagship Distance Challenge (official challenge). We have since expanded this challenge to include other distance-based activities such as cycling, swimming and much more. It’s tough, but doable, and we love watching our members work day in and day out to make progress toward their 1000km goal.

While the 1000km Distance Challenge was our original spirit animal for everything from Couch to 5k training to half marathon training, it didn’t stop there. A Distance Challenge isn’t the right goal for everyone, and the whole point of Year of 1000km is to create a virtual space where anyone can work to improve their fitness and mental health. 

Our official Healthy Lifestyle and Healthy Mind Challenges invite anyone who wants to become a healthier, happier version of themselves to commit and create lasting change.

The Healthy Lifestyle Challenge invites members who want to make big changes in their lives — like sticking to a nutrition plan or getting their asses moving — to stay on track with the accountability and motivation that can only be provided by a group of people with a similar mindset. The Healthy Mind Challenge works in a similar way, inviting participants to stick with activities like spending more time reading, meditating or even practicing an instrument.

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We know that fitness professionals are craving a space where they can bring their clients together to create a collaborative and supportive environment — something that’s become increasingly difficult to achieve since the Pandemic began.

With the Year of 1000km application, personal trainers are able to create groups consisting of clients that are working together toward similar goals and invite them to custom challenges that they create. This can be a convenient, effective way for trainers to help their clients stay on track and make progress, even if they don’t have the opportunity to meet face-to-face. 

Trainers don’t just need to stick to fitness-based challenges on the Year of 1000km application. Many trainers find that groups of clients struggle in similar areas, such as with getting enough sleep or sticking to a nutrition plan. The Healthy Mind and Healthy Lifestyle Challenges are perfect for clients who need extra support in meeting goals outside of their personal training sessions that will have a lasting impact on their long-term wellness.

Fitness Challenge comparisons such as couch to 5k vs half marathon training

With the Year of 1000km application, trainers and fitness group leaders can recreate the teaching session they would give in the gym, online, making it easy for clients to get the knowledge they need, ask questions, and fully participate, without having to make it to the gym (we’re all busy, and nobody likes giving into The Man!).

Trainer resources soon to be launched on Year of 1000km include:

  • Whiteboard functionality to share workout plans, nutrition information and draw cute little stick figures;
  • Video conferencing, both for leading training sessions and for providing information to clients (AKA: virtual Friday afternoon drinks, anyone!?
  • Live broadcasts, allowing trainers to provide updates to clients and shout out their success;
  • Real-time chat for both clients and trainers (let the shit-talking… I mean, motivation, begin!!)

Personal trainers with a large client base can use Year of 1000km to group their clients into micro-communities that have similar goals. Progressing through groups (from novice –> advanced, for example) can be motivating for clients and will help to keep them on track between 1-on-1 training sessions.

Since Year of 1000km allows users to engage in healthy competition, no matter what their exercise of choice, trainers can group both weightlifters and aerobics fanatics into the same group if they want to, depending on the challenge that would best benefit them.

The Power Of Community to Motivate

Many people today are lacking a supportive community, especially in the fitness space. Social media is packed with influencers, edited before and after pics, and filtered photos that can make even the most dedicated fitness lover lose motivation.

We’ve created a positive space where our users can push and encourage each other, no matter what their exercise / sport / hobby of choice.

Year of 1000km is going to disrupt the fitness industry. 

If you’re ready to get moving and join our community, we’re ready to support you. 

Stop reading. Go create an account and join your first challenge today (it takes under 1 minute and can be done while “checking your emails” in the can) — after all, you came here to read our very first blog post and kick some ass… and we’re all outta blog post!!

… and don’t forget to sign up for the Healthy Lifestylers Hits newsletter to ensure you don’t miss out on any of the great content we’ll be pumping out every single week!


The Author

Lee D. Hainesis a dad, half-baked runner and the Founder of both the Year of 1000km fitness challenge application & Healthy Lifestylers Marketplace for Personal Trainers. Originally from Canada, he is a dual citizen living in The Netherlands. Lee is passionate about getting people moving and chasing their dreams to become healthier versions of themselves.


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