How to Make Running a Habit

Note: this post was originally written by me for Run Farther and Faster blog.

Some weeks can be particularly chaotic, consistent with the regular ups and downs of life. Needless to say, the moments of stress do not inspire me to lace up my running shoes and head out for a run. However, there have been workouts where I set out feeling down, but returned home afterward flowing with energy, with a clear mindset and perspective, and a more positive attitude. During these runs, I could feel my outlook change as my Garmin beeped at each mile marker. I was so thankful that I had chosen to run, mostly because it has become a habit of mine.

There are many ways to manage the rollercoasters of life- whether it be sitting back, breathing through your frustrations and letting the anger or sadness pass via meditation, or more proactively working against the angst through active pursuits such as running or another favorite form of exercise. Everyone can benefit from habitually getting outside and being active in some way on both emotionally down days as well as those feel-good days. You won’t ever regret regularly spending some of your valuable time participating in a mind-clearing activity such as running- you will only regret not doing it.

27124817002_97059da42f_oPC: @meredithmckee @Wanderlust

Here are a few tips that have helped me make running a habit (and for more tips, check out these suggestions from coaches Lisa and Julie in Runners World:

  1. Follow a running plan. Closely adhering to a set plan is the best way to stay on track. Even better, hire a coach to design a plan that meets your particular goals, ensure that you are training smart to achieve your goals and avoid injury, and who will help keep you accountable. Here is an example of my Phoenix marathon training schedule generated by coaches Lisa and Julie of RFF:

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  1. Make an appointment. Treat your run like an appointment and set aside time in your busy day for exercise. On days when time is extremely limited, consider heading out for just a few minutes, which is always better than no run at all.
  1. Run regularly. Consistency is key for habit-building! While you’ll want to make sure you give yourself at least one day a week for recovery with no running at all, you should aim to get into a regular weekly schedule of runs. On days when you feel you are just too tired, head out and apply the ten minute test—if, after ten minutes, you cannot get in a groove, give yourself permission to stop.  Most of the time, you will find that after ten minutes, your groove will appear, and your desire to stop will subside.
  1. Run first thing in the morning. This can take some planning and action, especially if you are not naturally a morning person or if you’re often up late at night. Morning runs require going to bed earlier as well as preparation the night before such as laying out clothes and gear so you’re ready to dive in at an early hour. Stay tuned for a future post on this!

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  1. Make running fun. Running with other runners and friends, exploring new routes to vary up the scenery, buying a new running outfit and shoes or making a great playlist or purchasing some new music or download fresh podcasts are a few suggestions to make running more enjoyable. 

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  1. Get the appropriate go-to gear. Along the lines of treating yourself to some new running clothes and gear, make sure that they fit well, particularly your shoes, so that you’re running comfortably. For first-time purchases, go to a local running store for shoe and gear sizing. This will save you time, money, and pain!
  1. Check in a month from now. Know that habits take time and patience. Allow yourself some flexibility. Sure, you want to be dedicated in your running routine. But do not get too worried when you miss or cut short a run or two.

img_0431PC: @heygoodluken

Making running or another favorite form of exercise routine a habit is one way to maximize your happiness. What are some ways in which you have made exercise a habit?

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34 thoughts on “How to Make Running a Habit”

  1. This is a great post. I feel like I need to share this with a few of my clients who are getting a tad lazy with their marathon training right now. Summer heat and vacations certainly makes it difficult. I like the idea of making an appointment!

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  2. Number 4 works so well for me. It’s a bit hard on the cold winter mornings but it’s even harder to motivate myself to go running after a day of work! It’s a great way to start the day!

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  3. I agree with lots on here – especially running regularly. I find as soon as you stop, it is a massive hurdle to get over. Even 10 minutes in a day will help to keep the motivation going.

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  4. I’m all about the plan, and appointments! I have the plan printed out on my fridge, and runs are entered into the calendar on my phone. :) I’m always open to rescheduling, but once they’re in there, I’m unlikely to “delete” the event on my calendar!

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  5. Great points. Running in the morning is my fave way to start my day, too. I think it helps me to think of it as “me” time — something I’m putting into my day almost every day that is solely for me, absolutely healthy for me, and separate from the hustle and bustle that will ensue for the rest of the day. I think once we start and feel the changes (mentally and physically), we begin to crave that time and look forward to it as the best part of our day.

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  6. Great post! 1,3, and 4 are the key for me to keep running as a habit. Once I stop running it’s really hard for me to start again, but when I’m consistent with it it is easy to keep going. Signing up for a goal race is another way for me to make running a habit since I don’t want to waste the money on a registration and I won’t show up to a race unprepared!

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      1. Training is . . . going. LOL! I was just writing a post about my terrible long run and I’ll say that yesterdays speed work session was pretty bad too. I would LOVE to BQ but these runs have squashed any BQ confidence I was having
        !! :)

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        1. It’s so difficult to train in the summer! I feel that I have more going on between weddings and many other summer commitments. And that HEAT! What do you think? I recently started running inside a couple of times each week and although I prefer running outside, I have found it easier running inside in the AC, even on a “dreadmill”. Also, it’s been nice changing it up and watching some fun shows. Running outside truly is a better experience, but I’m not sure I agree in these humid summer days. Don’t worry if your long run doesn’t go according to plan once in awhile- some coaches believe that quality over quantity and focusing more on cumulative fatigue are valid approaches to marathon training. Cumulative mileage is what truly counts. Good luck and I look forward to reading your update!

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          1. The heat and humidity is killing me this year! It was not nearly this bad last summer. Almost all my weekday runs are inside on the treadmill so I can take advantage of kid’s care. While I get bored, there are days when I have the opportunity to run outside and still choose the gym since it has a/c! Thank you for the reassurance on my missed long run, it helps to hear!

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  7. Even though I work weird hours and it’s crazy hot in the day, I sprint 2km at night after work on work days, just to keep on the road during the week. I save long runs for the weekend when i have time and weather ony side.

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  8. All of the things you suggested are what I do to keep my running habit. I also explore my town on foot. If I really want to go someplace, I’ll run there!

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  9. I love this! Especially the part about “make running fun”…running with a friend is the only way to go for me! Thanks for the great advice…just what I need to keep at it :)

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  10. Getting up and out in the morning is key to this. If you find it hard, you probably need to shift all of your days to be earlier to bed and earlier to rise otherwise you effective experience jet lag on the days you force yourself up early! I can be up and out of the door in 15 mins from my alarm. Don’t check email. Don’t check social media. Just get out of the door as quickly as you can. Before your brain clicks in and asks stupid questions, or gets distracted by something else. Get up. Get dressed. Get out.

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  11. I already do some of these things, but it’s nice to be reminded of them! However, running in the morning? Bwahahahaha! No way. I can only do it once in a while! I wish I could do it more often, but unfortunately I have other issues which aren’t conducive to morning runs. Ah well! Miss E.

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  12. Strive to do the mornings runs as it burns more fat than in the evening, is more vitalizing than a coffe and no other plans get in the middle. Thank you for the article and nice plan to keep a great habit. Keep going the extra mile

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  13. Jane – I am absolutely in LOVE with your post. My love for running cultivated from winter track at school. I started my running “journey” at Girls on the Run (an after school program) and hated running. However, when running was the only sport I could do at high school, I didn’t have a choice but go on those long runs, those interval workouts, and tempo runs. And much to my surprise, I discovered my love for running. So every morning this summer I’ve been waking up at 6:20am to run. When my alarm at 6:20 rings, I am always 99% convinced to just stay in bed and get those extra minutes of sleep. However, for some reason, that 1% ALWAYS wins and I find myself going out to run at 6:30am. I don’t know how it works but part of me thinks that it’s because I feel SO GOOD after the run. When I come back to my house at 7:15am, I am a different person. It’s almost as I just got caffeinated. And your points hit home. I’m grateful that I can resort to running during stressful and tired times because I’ve made it a habit.

    Happy Running!

    xoxo,
    Stephanie

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  14. Im taking all of this on board… My mind can only seem to work if things are habbits else I am just not motivated to move. We are are always made to think that habbits are always bad for us. At what point do you think running as a habbit could become bad for health?

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