How to Get Yourself a Running Habit

Image by lululemonathletica

This is a Guest Post By Julian on behalf of JTX Fitness

The health benefits of running are well known and documented across literature and the web. Running regularly makes us slimmer, healthier and fitter and even better, it helps us to balance our stressful lives, relax our minds and makes us overall happier as well. All we need to do is to start running, right?

Well, as I am sure many will agree with me it’s just not quite that simple. Running, and especially running regularly requires a vast amount of mental strength particularly during the first few months before it becomes part of our weekly routine and we start feeling weird if we don’t go. An that is precisely the state of mind and body we are aiming for, the sensation of craving to go for a run which is followed by a sense of relaxation and relieve after the run rather than total and utter exhaustion and physical pain.

It is hard work to get to that point and once you are enjoying your running, you still need to put some effort into keeping the momentum up as it is quite easy to lose it all again after a week away on business or a family holiday spent eating well and putting your feet up. For some people, running is part of everyday life – even a way of life and they will not travel without their running gear. Running can be quite addictive to some people but most normal people find it a lot more difficult mentally to get into that routine.

Every person’s body and mind work differently so there is no hard and fast rule of how long it will take to get to that magic point. From personal experience I would say it takes between 4-6 weeks before I am where I want to be. Personally, I am not what one would describe as an enthusiastic runner.

I do not own a running outfit or several pairs of running shoes. I do not wear skin-tight running shorts or even worse, those super short ones that always seem to threaten to reveal a little bit too much. I try to run regularly because exercise makes me a happier person. Every time I decide to get into running again I go through the same mental process. At first I am very motivated and do ok for a week, sometimes two. Then I will use any excuse to not go for a few days, forget about the whole thing and a month later I have to start over again.

So here is a guide of how to get yourself a running habit which is working for me, the average lazy guy:

1. Sit down, work out what you are trying to achieve and write it on a piece of paper. Writing down why you want to run will help you to remind yourself and to get motivated. Then turn that paper around and write in big letters ‘I love running’ on it before you stick it up on the wall in your room. Remember that the overall objective should be to enjoy running regularly, everything else will fall in place from there.

2. Set yourself targets. Short term and a long term targets on how often you want to run are a great start. Making sure they are achievable yet challenging in both frequency and distance. Don’t be too tough on yourself especially in the beginning as the objective is to enjoy it. Making it too difficult for yourself in the beginning increases the risk of you dropping out of your regime.

3. Keep a record of your runs. A little notebook will do but if you are a little bit more technical and enjoy your Apps and gadgets, there are some amazing and mostly free running apps out there allowing you to track your progress on the computer, manage your targets and challenge you to improve your personal best time. Apps I have used in the past and would recommend are the Nike+ app as well as the free version of Runkeeper.

4. Try to be methodical and build the running into your weekly routine. Try to fit the running into your life rather than attempting to re-arrange your life around your new favourite hobby, an approach that is not likely to stand the test of time. For example find something you do twice or three times a week and attach the running to that. Instead of putting your feet up and wasting your time ‘unwinding’ in from of the TV after work, get your running shoes on. If your live is not very structured and every week is different, choose something you still do every day like getting out of bed.

The thought of exercising early is daunting to some but there is no better way to inject some energy into your day than an early morning run. Other alternatives are during your lunch break at work (provided the office has changing facilities and a shower) or last thing in the evening. That latter version is probably the most difficult one if you have an active social or family life. As a woman you should also think about your safety – running through the city late at night, probably even along the same route on the same days every week may be a concern.

5. Do daydream! – Letting your mind run free will take the focus off the running and help you to get into an almost meditative state making the run feel a lot shorter and less exhausting. Instead of checking your watch or the miles you have done every 5 minutes try to distract your mind from the exercise. A decent running soundtrack or recorded podcasts on a subject you are really interested in work wonders. This kind of meditation and mind-relaxation works particulary well on a treadmill where every step is the same and there are no distractions around at all.

6. Reward yourself for achieving milestones and for keeping it up but choose the kind of reward wisely. Some new runnign shoes or maybe a healthy meal out, don’t be tempted to reward yourself with a week off running as that completely defies the objective. You can start doing that once your routine has stuck and you have proven to yourself that you can keep it up. The temptation of thinking ‘oh I will just take this week off and start again on Monday’ may put you back to square one faster than you think.

7. Religiously stick to it. Now this is probably the most difficult one as most people have the tendency to subconsciously avoid doing something difficult. Try to catch yourself when you are procrastinating and snap out of it as quickly as you can. There are no excuses for not running, it does not require much time or a lot of kit and there is always room for your running shoes when you go on a business trip or a long weekend away with friends. Bad weather is not an acceptable excuse and neither is a hangover.

Not everybody lives in an area where the weather or the environment allow running all year round and at any time of the day. If you find that external factors seem to be keeping you from running more often than not, it may be worth looking into getting your hands on a half-decent treadmill which will allow you to run in the comfort of your home any time you like. You can watch the TV to distract yourself and over the duration of a year it will certainly work out cheaper than a gym membership.

Good treadmills can be a bit pricey but cheap treadmills are a waste of money and you will end up not using them. There are various specialist online retailers like JTX Fitness selling home fitness equipment, if you are unsure about how frequently you will use it or just do not want to spend that kind of money it is always worth checking the classified section in your local paper or website for a treadmill bargain. There are always people who buy a treadmill in order to get running regularly, fail miserably and then sell a practically un-used treadmill for little money because it is cluttering their garage up. No, you won’t be one of them!

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  • http://www.MyMiBoSo.com/ Sabrina

    I’m a daydreamer myself, so the daydream tip is a great one! I do struggle though with early AM workouts, but am transitioning myself toward that (as my late work nights make it hard to squeeze it in at night too!).