I was asked recently by an online running friend, "whats the best way to motivate others?"
The question was posed to a lot of persons and it generated a lot of answers, but in general most of the answers were just words… that combined with some "motivational comments" that I found irritating caused me to consider the question a little more.
When I was young I was on the swim team with my sister. She was a very talented swimmer. I was, well, less talented.
She used to swim up behind me and grab at my toes. I would swim desperately trying to avoid that feeling of something coming after me.
The first summer she decided to do this, Jaws or one of the remakes was extraordinarily popular. She terrified me, as I had an active imagination and always was sure that there was a huge shark about to "get me"
Just look at those teeth!
Even today if the pool is particularly empty and maybe a little hazy, I occasional get the feeling that something is coming after me. It's spooky. I do thank my sister for that. But I have to say, probably not the best way to motivate anyone.
But the question remains, what is actually the best way to encourage or motivate someone. In truth, I think it's impossible to do without one ingredient. The person to be motivated needs to have some small amount of interest or motivation already. If they just don't want to do the activity, or make no effort to do it, then, well…good luck to you! For example if someone says outright, "I can not run I have bad knees" etc… there really isn't much point in trying to tell them that losing 40 pounds will make those bad knees feel like new knees. Someone who says, "I want to start running, but…." On the other hand can be motivated.
In the case of running, I see a lot of husbands/wives, girlfriends and boyfriends take up running in an effort to spend more time with their loved one. The loved one is usually quite excited. Eventually the partner may lose interest, and drop off causing the running person to wonder, "How do I motive so and so to stick with it"….
Much of the time, people make comparative statements either comparing someone to others, or comparing them to what they were doing before, or they give weak platitudes, such as "you're doing great"….
Comparing someone to others is not very motivational. Just as you can find someone who is slower or less accomplished, you as easily find someone who is faster and has achieved more…
Thus it really seems to backfire.
Comparisons made from the then and now perspective are often appreciated, and less likely to backfire. Sometimes when a person is feeling demotivated, pointing out how far they have come is a great way to rekindle the fire…
Encouraging them to look at last years times (for runners), compared to this years times, or distances can offer much motivation to continue, as long as some improvement can be seen!
There are other ways I can think of that are entirely useful in people motivation in the case of running.
Look for something that has meaning for that person, then have them choose a race that reflects that meaning. Training for a race that benefits only the race promoters can be fun, if you like training and racing. If you don't, there is no extra motivation to continue. Training for a race that benefits a charity or group that a person cares about often gives an extra boost.
On a cold wet, or hot and steamy morning, it's easy to want to skip a training run. Images of breast cancer survivors, special olympians, or your kids special projects budget for schools can keep a runner on track.
When I was training for my Marathon (which I never got to do due to injury Boo. 😦 A friend of mine would sometimes leave pics of kids in refugee camps taped to my locker, with a note saying "thanks". This definitely motivated me to continue running. A note like that placed in the gym bag or taped to the bathroom mirror can be very motivational, as well as respectful. It doesn't always have to be a bleeding heart kind of thing. A friend of mine was motivated recently by a half marathon that instead of medals gives our a certain very popular handbag…. She is doing great, and we are both looking forward to running, and using the handbags. (definitely a bit more practical than a medal for the ladies….)
RUn with a group of peers. Peers meaning people who run your pace. THere is nothing more discouraging than running with people who are much faster than you. Sure, it gives a runner something to strive for, but when catching up is pretty much impossible it is really only discouraging…
Just like any exercise, if you have it scheduled with others, you'll be less likely to skip it.
Setting your friend or partner up with a group they feel comfortable with is a great motivator, as it gives them the opportunity to make more friends who are at their level. Note this does not mean, take your Boyfriend who can not run a 5K yet to your running group for a weekly long run. He might go, and might not say much, but not being able to keep up, in front of your friends will make it a lot easier for him to hang on the couch the next time around, no matter how nice everyone is. More friends who run means more motivators. Added motivation for many is having that time to catch up on things.
(Disclaimer to this, I hate running with people….but…many people really do well with this.)
TIp number three: be willing to be foolish for your friend/partner that you want to motivate.
One guy that I work with is planning on running the Disney Princess Half Marathon with his wife this year. She likes to run but finds it hard to fit it in with children, work, laundry etc. He told her he'd run it wearing a tutu if she would also train and run it with him.
Last I heard she had made several schedule adjustments to stick with the training schedule. I even want to run that race now just to see this 6 foot linebacker looking guy in a pink tutu….
In my opinion initial motivation has to come internally. The person has to want to become a runner. Once that decision has been made, there is a lot others can do to help.
Going to post this up on my Vox blog too, just because I worked a little bit long on it….