The truth is that I don’t like running all that much. I never have.
I’ve gone for periods in the past where I get into running and then I fall out of the habit. Never doing any more than about 30 minutes of running.
It’s always an obstacle lacing up my running shoes and getting out the door.
Once I do it though, I’m usually okay. Even if I am huffing and puffing away, especially those first few weeks (ie right now).
Now that we are back in Medellin, I needed a new challenge, something to propel me forward. I reluctantly decided to embrace running once again.
I’ve long toyed with the idea of running a 5k race, but never pulled the trigger.
This morning I finally pulled the trigger and registered for 10k run. Even though I’ve never so much as run a 5k, I’m jumping into it and challenging myself a little more.
Registering for this 10k race, the Corre mi Tierra run in April, will hold me accountable. I am now committed to doing it in about two months time.
No backing out.
You don’t need super fancy running shoes, compression shorts, and a fancy water bottle holster.
Running is one of the simplest and cheapest exercise habits to build.
Spending a bunch of money on gear to guilt you into running isn’t the best strategy.
Here are my 5 tactics for starting and maintaining a running habit.
Don’t Over Do It
If you want to create a new, long-term habit, don’t risk burning yourself out in the beginning. Many people get excited to get in shape (especially in January) and get out there everyday with gusto.
While that is admirable, it might actually be counter productive. Your body needs to adjust to your new workload. Your feet, your shins, your ligaments, and your lungs all need time to adjust.
Give your body time to acclimate and recover between workout sessions. Or you will be inviting injury, fatigue, and burn out.
In the beginning, I would suggest running no more than every other day, or 3x per week.
Use your running rest days for other forms of exercise that won’t stress the same part of your body. Lifting weights, doing push ups, pull ups, sit ups, etc, are all excellent choices.
When first starting out you shouldn’t go out and run for 30 minutes straight if you haven’t been active. Build up to it over time.
There’s no shame in that.
Couch-to-5k is something I’ve used at various times and is proven to help you build up your running. In the beginning you will alternate between running and walking. And over the course of two months you build up to running for 30 minutes straight (roughly 5k).
There’s an App for That
We’ve all got smart phones. Let’s use that technology to motivate us, keep us accountable, and moving forward.
Here are a few app recommendations that have helped me forge a running habit.
This app is amazing. RunDouble features the Couch-to-5k program with audio prompts to tell you when you should start running or walking. But beyond that it also GPS tracks the distance, pace, and mileage of your runs.
Afterward you can examine your pace at different parts of the run and see all sorts of data.
You can set it to share your runs with Facebook, tapping into the power of social accountability.
The data it collects provides me a great deal of motivation because I can see myself improving.
You can also buy cheap add-on plans, such as the 5k Improver, 5k to 10k training, and even half-marathon training runs.
This is a habit building app for anything you want to do or stop doing on a regular basis.
You set the goal (running or exercising) and the app prompts you to do the things you set out to do. You can build up streaks of exercising which encourages you to not break the chain.
I’m using my Coach.me app for all sorts of things at the moment. Daily exercise, reading at least 20 minutes, writing at least 750 words. Each of them on a daily basis.
It will also send me emails which remind me to keep my streak alive. It’s great to get harassed on different fronts.
Some people like to run to music. I used to be like that. But my preferred audio company is now educational podcasts. It’s a great thing to get out there and exercise while also learning some amazing new stuff.
Podcast Addict was the best player I found after a long and frustrating search. It allows me to download various unread episodes, create playlists, and other basic functions.
I always end my runs feeling energized and coming away with new actionable strategies and tactics for my business.
If you have a friend that wants to get out running, you can do no better than having a commitment to meet up and go running together in person.
You might dread the idea of lacing up those shoelaces and hitting the road, but you’ll be far more likely knowing that your buddy is there waiting for you.
If you can’t find a local running buddy, you can always have virtual check-ins with someone else committed to running. This also works if you are at different distances/speeds in your running progress. Just a quick Facebook message or email helps keep you both accountable.
Finally, sign up for an actual run. Just do it. Find a race a few months out, sign up, pay the money, and commit to it. Now you’ve got skin in the game. That simple fact is going to increase your chances of following through.
Once you sign up for a race–tell people! Like running with a buddy, you’ll want to follow through on your word.
So yeah, that’s why I’m telling you all here: I signed up for a 10k race on April 24th. I might not rock it, but I’ll be running it.
Set SMART Goals
SMART Goals is an acronym that stands for: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.
Don’t set a goal of “wanting to start running”. That is a stupid goal, because it doesn’t follow our SMART acronym.
Specific would be: run a 5k, which in this case also happens to be measurable. Attainable means developing a plan to build up to 5k.
Realistic in this case is different for everyone. For me, running a 10k with two months training is realistic. Signing up for a marathon next weekend is NOT realistic for me.
Timely means that you bring a deadline to it–these are not someday goals.
My SMART goal: run every other day with the 5k-to-10k training program to take part in the 10k race on April 24th.
You should set SMART goals for anything you hope to do. Be specific, make a plan to do it, set a deadline for action. Read more about SMART goals.
Make Positive Associations
At first running is going to suck. There’s no way around that.
You’ll be out of breath and sore. You’ll tell yourself there’s no way you can do it or keep it up.
They say that it takes about one month to make a habit stick. You should see your associations with running change over that time.
Try to make it something that you actually want to do and have positive associations with by the end of the month.
You want to go from “this sucks” to “I need to go for a run to clear my head” or something compelling. Perhaps it is embracing the challenge of running, maintaining your exercise habit, or so forth.
If your internal dialogue about running doesn’t change, you’ll be far less likely to stick with it in the long run. You want to form a positive habit that you want to do.
Try to replace the phrase “I have to go running today” with “I want to go running today because ______”. IE I need to prepare for the race, I need to be healthier, I need to push myself.
We should try to commit ourselves to doing what is best for us, not what is easiest.
Sure it’s easier to sit home and watch Netflix (I’m looking at you House of Cards!) than lace up the shoes and head out the door. But don’t forget: doing hard things matters.
How you do anything is how you do everything.
So get out there and run.
What tips do you have for staying committed to a goal and following through with it? Have you battled with running? How did you make it stick?
Read Next: Why Doing Hard Things Matters
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