Making running a habit is easier than you think, so long as you follow these simple steps and set your mind to it.
1. Start Small
Whether you choose the walk-run method or begin by just doing one lap around the block, starting with small, easy-to-accomplish goals will help you stay motivated and stick with your routine during the first couple of weeks as the habit is forming.
2. Have a Plan
Over-planning is better than under-planning, so make sure you are prepared for everything, including the days and times that you will be running to the type of running you’ll be doing, the music you’ll be listening to, and the route you’ll be taking. Also be sure to include how much water you’ll be drinking and any other training-related activities you’ll be adding to your daily routine.
Image Credit – Mark Teasdale through Flickr
3. Make it a Ritual
A ritual is defined as a specific set of actions that you take every day. Take some time to define your set of actions, starting with the warm-ups that you will begin with, motivational music that you will listen to, and the exact type of running or other exercises that you will be doing.
4. Set a Time
Once you have the steps in your ritual planned, it’s time to give it a time. Studies have shown that people who get up early to run stick to it better than those who try running later in the day or the evening. This is because as the day happens, we often end up getting distracted, tired, and out of time. By getting up early and getting your run in, you don’t have to worry about it for the rest of the day.
5. Just Do It.
Once you’ve gotten everything planned (which shouldn’t take more than an hour), set your mind to it and get out there and do it. Make running a priority and don’t let yourself make any excuses. Sometimes it will be hard, but looking constantly at your long-term goals will help you to stay motivated to put in the work it’s going to take to get there.
6. Lay Out your Running Gear
Remove all the friction from the equation by laying out all of your running gear and apparel. So when it’s time to head out of the door, everything will be set and ready.
If you scheduled your running ritual in the morning, then make sure to get your entire running gear ready the night before, so you could head out of the door with minimum friction.
There is nothing worse than waking up early to only hunt through a dark room in a semi-awake state for gear that you are going to need. Chances are, especially if you are not a happy morning person, that you gonna drop it and decide to run another time, if some of your running gear is nowhere to be found.
So whatever you need: clothes, earphones, sports shoes, vest, watch, hydration belt, headlamp, reflective vest, gels, even post-run rewards—everything in a nutshell.
If you want more, then try sleeping in your running clothes. This is always an option if you are an efficiency and productive freak, just like me 😉
7. Make it Regular
Once you decide on a running ritual, do your best to never skip a workout. If you skip a day, the process of the exercise habit formation will only get harder. It’s all about keeping that momentum going, especially during the first few weeks.
In other words, the easiest way to keep your resolution going is simply not to stop. Objects in motion tend to stay in motion. That’s a basic physic law, and you should use it to your advantage.
So if your ultimate goal is to run, let’s say three times a week, then schedule your three runs on non-consecutive days (On Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday, for instance) and do your best not to miss a day.
Repeat the pattern until becomes automatic.
8. Make it Pleasurable
If you don’t enjoy running, then forming (and keeping) the habit is going to be hard. In fact, if your runs feel like death march, then you are doing something wrong my friend.
Here is a secret: When forming an exercise habit, keep your focus on pleasure and fun, not on the end results.
Make running enjoyable by:
Running with your friend or dog,
Getting new running gear
Exploring new places,
Enjoying the scenery—pick a pristine trail running route and breathe in the fresh morning air.
Using an app to track your runs,
Enjoying the beautiful sky. Contemplate the quititude of solitude.
Loading up your playlist with your favorite songs. The upbeat music will keep you going while taking your mind off fatigue.
Or listening to an audiobook or radio show.
The possibilities are endless.
9. Recharge—Have a Recovery Day
Recovery is key whether you are looking to become a better runner, or if you are still struggling with forming a daily running (and exercise) habit. Your body needs recovery because it’s its only chance to rest and readapt to the training load.
I highly recommend that you take one day of total rest every week. It’s your free day. If you feel that you need less rest, you could just do a half an hour of easy walking that gets you moving.
The secret here is to do something every day, ideally an activity that gets you fired up and keeps your habit formation going. So don’t shy away from other exercises, since they will also help you ingrain in the exercise habit.
So do plenty of strength training, swimming, biking and yoga.
10. Give Your Running Ritual Six Weeks
I hate to sound like a broken record, but habits don’t form (nor change) overnight.
Consistent perseverance is the name of the game.
So please bear in mind that it takes roughly six to eight weeks to form a lifelong lasting habit, regardless of whether it is a an exercise habit or one that’s not so healthy.
In other words, stick with it for at least 50 days. After you reach that point, the habit will start to feel natural in your daily life.
For running, this is when you start building enough cardio base to run for about 45 minutes with ease, lose a few pounds and be able to see some real changes in your body and how you feel.