How to Make Running a Habit

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

By Charm City Run Training Coach Kristen Watkins

I have had quite a few people ask me; how do you stay so structured with your runs? They talk about how the first week or two they do well and then they miss a run here or there and it all starts to go sideways. Or maybe you are tired after that first week and so the thought of lacing up your shoes and getting out there is a bit daunting.  You want to run but mentally you’re stuck. What is the secret to creating a running habit? There is not really a secret, however they are some key strategies I have put in place to help me keep my running at the forefront of my week!

“Me” Time

We all live very busy lives between work, family, friends, chores…I have carved out this time 3-5 days a week dedicated to what I love! Running is where I solve problems, seek answers, or even shut out everything and just relax. Having your runs scheduled for the week is key, put them on your calendar as you would a meeting or a doctor’s appointment.  Most weekly runs range from 30 minutes to an hour (depending on what you are training for). Don’t feel guilty for taking an hour a couple days a week to feed yourself.

Plan your routes

When looking at my runs for the week I plan where I am going to run. Know yourself and choose areas that will make your run enjoyable. For speedwork I have found parks or tracks that I have access to allowing me to do my intervals and sprints without worrying about having to stop for traffic, turns or running out of road!  I also love having a few “default” routes. I am a road runner, so I have a few places that I run where the traffic is very minimal or non-existent, I use these when I feel distracted or tired allowing me to focus on my run and not have to worry about cars. I also have my favorite local loops; these are routes that I know like the back of my hand!  When I need to get a longer run in or I want to know exactly what kind of terrain to expect I hit these loops, whether I am doing 1, 2 or 3 depending on the mileage I need to gain, they provide me the comfort I need. Be careful not to get hung up on a route either, be willing to change your mind at the last minute for what you need. There are a lot of great apps out there that can either help you to create a route or that has routes available for you to choose. 

Vary your runs

What I love most about having a training plan is that my runs are varied. I have conversation pace runs, hill sprints, intervals, long runs… it gives me the variety I crave. Not only has this been good to build myself as a stronger runner, but it also curbs the thoughts of “I can run tomorrow” because today’s run is sprints and tomorrows is a recovery run. I don’t want to miss out on the workout at hand. I love having a coach and a running program that I can rely on to give me this structure.

Don’t take yourself too seriously

At times I am known to take myself too seriously! This can affect me from getting out the door for my run at times. I might look at my run schedule and think “I don’t have time for an hour run” or get in my head about having to do intervals knowing I don’t feel like I have the energy to get the pace I am looking for. Don’t let these stop you from lacing up and doing what you can! While having the schedule and structure is important, so is enjoying yourself! When I feel like I am taking myself too seriously I remind myself, that this is my hobby and I do it for enjoyment. I want to meet my goals, but not at the expense of taking the fun out of my desire to run. A few ways I slow myself down mentally and embrace my runs are, taking pictures throughout my run, running with a friend, and making it a point to talk and catch up.  I have even signed up for races that I know are going to be very difficult but amazing to do. These allow me to run for the pure enjoyment of it and not worry (too much!) about my pace or time for that race.

Sign up for a race

There is something so satisfying about signing up for a race. The initial excitement of putting the date on your calendar, perusing the swag, and seeing who else you can get to sign up with you. Nothing helps to create a habit like having an end goal! From a 5k to an Ultra, signing up for a race helps us all to stay on track with running. We have a deadline and being able to achieve our goal for that specific race gets me out the door every time! Signing up for a variety of races can also keep your running habit fresh and fun. There is something about the energy of race day that feeds my soul. The camaraderie, encouragement, and joy of hearing your name being called when you cross the finish line, whether you’re the first or last runner you are showered with love by the crowds.

Always speak positive language into yourself regarding your runs!

The other day I had finished running with my training group and there was another training group that had finished as well. I asked one of the runners how they did.  His response (with a bit of a negative tone) was “I just ran 2.2 miles” my response, “please don’t say just”. Own your run whether it was for 5 minutes or 5 miles! And don’t compare yourself or your goals to anyone else’s. We are all at different places in our running journey and comparing your run to someone else’s rarely has a positive effect. When we speak negative language into ourselves it diminishes our excitement and does not reinforce the habit of wanting to run. While we know that every run will not be our best or what we expect from ourselves, constantly talking down about your runs removes the joy out of what you are doing. Instead talk up what you achieved or what you learned from a not-so-great run! “Wow, I took 3 seconds off my interval from last week” or maybe “I probably should not have eaten pizza and wings the night before a long run”!

Motivation is typically what gets you out the door the first few days, desire is what keeps you lacing up!

The difference between the two is that motivation comes and goes, but desire is lasting. Motivation is fun and drives our emotions, desire depends on us to actively engage it. This is foundational in creating your running habit. We all have bouts of motivation and embracing them is key. However, depending on motivation to keep you running is not ideal, we cannot feel motivated all the time. However, we can understand our desire and use that to get ourselves out the door and onto the road/trails we love.  Be specific with your current desire to run, is it the race you signed up for, the mental break you need, or maybe you are working on a specific pace goal. Lean into these when you feel less inclined to run. Think about your goals and why you created them to begin with. This drives me out the door every time.

The power of the group!

Did you know that when geese fly together it adds 72% to the distance they can cover then when they fly alone? I recently heard this statistic and was blown away. Cyclists also rely on riding with a group during a race or when covering distance to help them be able to go further and faster. Runners may not see the “lift” or “draft” as significant as the above do, however; when running with a dedicated group a couple times a week you will find structure, and accountability. I find that I can easily cover more distance when running with a group of runners then by myself. Personally, I would consider myself a solo runner, but I find comfort in running with a group, whether I choose to run next to someone or not may depend on the day but being able to encourage another runner or be encouraged by one makes the miles a lot easier.

Being a runner has become part of my identity. I have more running tights than necessary, when I find a good pair of running shorts, I buy them in a multitude of colors and don’t even get me started about my running shoe collection! I dive into my data after a run, take ridiculous amounts of selfies and I am always “shopping” for the next race. I love running in the heat or bundling up in the cold to conquer my miles. I enjoy the way I feel physically and mentally after a run. Even with all of this it does not mean that it is always easy to stick to my runs, I also work full time, am a wife and mother and have other responsibilities. A recreational runner does not have the time that a professional one has, we squeeze our mileage in where we can, early mornings, evenings, getting up early on a Saturday instead of sleeping in. Once your habit is in place you crave to make these choices, you look forward to meeting your group on those early mornings and you give yourself the gift of running!


Wednesday, January 19, 2022

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