The one (or two) mile rule

One of my running clients has struggled recently with motivation to get out the door. It’s something every runner faces at one time or another. We don’t really want to get out there every single time. Well, ok, I’d probably sell my first born right now to have the chance to go out every single time, but I digress!

Anyhow–I told her to try to get out the door, even if it means telling herself she’ll only go a mile or so. Because here’s my theory: When motivation is low, it’s the getting out the door part that is hardest. It might be raining, blustery, hot, cold, whatever it is that makes you dread going out. Or maybe you’re just not in the mood. But once you’re out there and a mile or two into it, the odds are you’re going to stay out there.

Studies have shown that any type of exercise done outside is capable of boosting your energy. To me, higher energy equals a better mood. So making yourself get out there, even if it’s only for a couple of miles, will pay big dividends. You may decide to can it after that mile or two, but I doubt it. Rare is the day that that I’ve gone out for a run and not felt like staying out. I always feel better afterward for doing so, regardless of how I felt before leaving the house.

What gets you out the door on a low mojo day?
Does my theory hold true for you?

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  1. Katie says

    the 10-minute rule (similar to the one mile rule :) usually works for me. but it's been a while since i've really struggled with motivation, i guess that's what years of injuries does to you! sigh.

  2. Terzah says

    Your theory is totally true for me, unless I'm truly ill. I can't think of time I ran and regretted it. If I could run 30 minutes twice a day (morning and noon), I think I'd be set, mood-wise, for the duration.

    That said, I do think that true foot-dragging lack of desire to run has only happened to me when I am or am about to be overtrained. I have to make sure I stick to rest days when I am training for something to avoid this.

  3. Penny says

    Your theory is true for me. What motivates me out the door is knowing that someone is waiting for me to go running with them. Running partners

  4. Lisa says

    Cheers to the 1 mile rule!

    I also use it during hillwork. Never stop mid-way up a hill; allow yourself to stop just a little bit past the crest – chance are, you won't stop.

  5. Laura says

    10 minute rule for me…and it has to be 10 minutes away from the house not a loop. At the end of it all a 20min run is better than nothing but I usually end up making it through whatever workout I was scheduled to do.
    The first 10 min may just be more swear filled than usual.

  6. J says

    I have had days that I have not wanted to go out and then when I just tell myself two miles, I go and its a great run! Its just getting out the door that is the hard part! Especially in the morning when its dark and cold!

  7. bobbi says

    Yup – 1 mile for me – I don't make any decisions until AFTER a mile. The first mile is always the toughest, but once it's past, it's rare that I can a run…

  8. Sara says

    YES! You are spot-on!!!

    I have been majorly struggling with motivation since my marathon in May. And, I found, rather than force myself to commit to a long distance, if I set out the door to "run a mile or two," I feel better than if I had done nothing – even if I really do go a mile or two. It has completely turned my motivation around!

    Jenn at from Fat to Finish Line just wrote a guest post about this on my blog – Operation No Mile Left Behind! You post goes perfectly with what we have been talking about – awesome!

  9. Jamoosh says

    The only time my "running" mojo is low is if I am injured and cannot run. On the other hand, other exercises…still looking for a cure.

  10. Johann says

    Your theory is 100% spot on. I must say I can't remember the last time I had no or low mojo. Having plenty of long term goals keeps me motivated…plus the fact that running is my life!:)

  11. Matty O says

    Yeah, your theory is right on.

    Don't think, just do it. The more time you think about it the less likely you will do the workout. I call it shutting your mind off.

  12. Vanessa @ Gourmet Runner says

    That rule works for me as well! I just make myself go out for 10 minutes, and tell myself I can walk if I want. Well, once I go out there I always complete my planned workout!

  13. Tricia says

    Your theory holds true for me as well. I've yet to regret a run. Though this morning I was struggling a bit with motivation because of some crap stuff at work — finally just stepped out the door and started running and immediate peace settled in. All anxiety left and I wondered why I was having trouble getting out of the house in the first place. :)

  14. Jim ... 50after40 says

    Great post – I couldn't agree more. Some mornings, I'm just not feelin' it – but I tell myself I'll just do a short run, and then before long, I get an energy boost and I'm in the middle of my scheduled workout! For me, having a goal like an upcoming race or time goal gets me a little more motivated than just taking off running.

  15. LB says

    i have the hardest time finding motivation to get out of bed for an early workout. i dont have as much trouble finding motivation for a midday or afternoon workout. but running buddies usually motivate me more than anything to get up super early, too bad i only have that luxury on weekends.

  16. Nelly says

    Great idea on telling yourself that you are only doing a mile, rarely if ever do you stop at that after getting outside though.

    I'm with you – I'd give a body part to be able to run daily right now!

    I agree that sometimes simply getting to the gym is the hardest part, then once you are there, you feel so much better during and after you leave.

    Generally I don't feel very good on runs for the first mile or 2, then after I warm up I've feeling way better.

  17. Nelly says

    Oh, and that is a bummer that you didn't find XC and track earlier on, I bet you would have been awesome in high school (just judging by your races later in life).

  18. lindsay says

    This is definitely a good rule. However, I did find that after months of still feeling motivation-less or not getting "into" the run, you could be dealing with burnout… In general though this is a rule I use too. It just took me foreverrrrr to admit I needed a break.

  19. ShutUpandRun says

    There is not a magic tool. We all struggle to get out the door. It is a decision, and you don't give yourself a choice. You just go.

  20. cheryl says

    Never had a low mojo day…I have so much energy after my run to put in a full day as an educator after I run. Now after school? Swim, bike…but the run has to be in the a.m. It's my vitamin/coffee rolled into one!

  21. Jeff - DangleTheCarrot says

    Your theory is tried and true!

    When I go through down times I make plans with other runners. Track day – 445am – if it was only me I'd probably miss a few days. Since a bunch of my buddies are going I need to get my arse out of bed!

    Tell her to find a run club – the social aspect of it will help with her mood too.

  22. Running Moose says

    I do agree with you! Just GET OUT THE DOOR AND START! Once you get dressed, got your shoes on and get going, you might as well get your run in!

  23. Ewa says

    My problems with motivation end as soon as I open the door. Getting to the door… well, that can be a battle. These days I am on the winning side and I have no idea why.

  24. Jason says

    True true and true is that theory.

    The thing that gets me out the door is that I know I CANNOT do the workout in the evening because of the system I set up.

    I workout early so that I have 24 hours to recover. If I don't go out in the early morning and think I might do it in the evening then that next early morning workout is going to be awful.

  25. Leah @ Chasing Atalanta says

    How timely! I was experiencing some major motivational difficulties this morning. I totally blew off my track workout and almost didn't run at all, but after much wasted time finally managed to drag myself out the door. I only ran 4 miles, but that's better than nothing.

  26. Char says

    I use a route which can be short, medium or long depending on how I'm feeling. I used to tell myself that I would just do the short route but invariably I'd take the detour that made it longer once I had been running for a little while.

  27. Kate says

    Your rule holds true for me.

    When I don't want to go out, one thing that helps me to do it is knowing I'll be fine once I'm out there and I'll feel like a big loser if I don't go.

  28. Caratunk Girl says

    I use a 10 minute rule. Similar to what you said with 1 mile. If I go out for 10 minutes and STILL don't want to be there, I bag it. 99.9% of the time my blahs have gone away and I am happy to be out there.

  29. Fran says

    Absolutely true. I haven't used the 1 mile or 10-minute rule yet but I'm definitely going to next time.

    Last Saturday I really didn't want to run but I did go anyway because the weather was too good for running. But I didn't do the planned distance but kept it short.

    This morning I overslept (like last Wednesday). Last week I didn't go running because of it. This morning I decided to run only make it a shorter one because time was limited.

    Both runs, even though they were shorter, made me feel good about myself afterwards that I did go.

  30. Emz says

    Omgosh. Yes. Love this.

    It's that dang door [in my case – on switch] ;)once you get doing…you keep going.


  31. Kate says

    I completely agree! I tell myself, just try to run a mile. If it still sucks then go home. Never have I stopped after a mile. :)

  32. Gina says

    (Thanks for stopping by! I hadn't realized you had another blog…I had had MissZippy Coaching in my blog reader.)

  33. Denise says

    i know from my experience that every time i don't want to go or think i'm too tired, those usually tend to be the best runs. remembering that gets me out the door nearly every time.

    i've practiced the one or two mile rule when i was really burned out and it helped. also just running for fun, no garmin and no set pace, really helped.

  34. Marlene says

    Even when the LAST thing I feel like doing is running, I usually end up enjoying it after a mile or two. It's a good rule!

  35. Colleen says

    100% true! We follow it many days! And before we know it, we have 5-6 miles under our belts and feel a gazillion times better!

  36. Black Knight says

    Your theory is perfect. When I have a bad feeling I get out the door thinking that, however, something will happen.

  37. The Hungry Runner Girl says

    SO SO SO TRUE!!! It really is just getting out the door for me that is the hardest part. The thing that motivates me the most is knowing that I will feel a million times better after a workout and so I just have to do it!