How I created a running habit
How many times have you decided that you’re going to start running?
You start off enthusiastically. Perhaps buying a brand new pair of running shoes. Maybe a new training top. You go for your first run, well, semi run at least, most of it is walking. A few days later you’re at it again. This time a little more running than the last time. Perhaps you make it a third time, maybe even a fourth.
But then the rain comes. Or it’s too windy or just too cold. So you decide that you can go running tomorrow instead. But the next day something comes up and you cannot find the time to go for a run. So you skip it. And then you quit altogether.
I don’t know about you, but I have lost count of the number of times I’ve decided to start running. Until now. I don’t think I need to count any longer. Because for some reason the running habit has stuck this time.
Why is that?
Being the researcher that I am, I, of course, had to analyze this new situation. What made the running habit stick this time? And not only that, I don’t have to drag myself out of the door as I used to. My body really wants to go out for a run and my brain is going along with it as well. I’ve only heard about this experience before. Fanatic runners saying it feels really good to go out for a run. Yeah, right, and the tooth fairy really does exist. That’s always been my response. But I have to admit it, even though a bit reluctantly, now I understand that talk of runners high. It really does exist. I’m experiencing it myself now.
And you can too. If I can do this, anyone can.
I want to share what has worked for me when creating a sustainable running habit. Maybe that can help you do the same.
Track your every move
I’m a bit of a lazy person. I don’t really like to get sweaty and I find it hard to push myself when it comes to exercising. A game changer for me was getting a smartwatch. I strongly encourage you to do the same. With a smartwatch, you can track your pulse, distance, pace etc. And you don’t need to bring a bulky smartphone on your run, you just strap the watch to your wrist and you’re ready to go.
Practise Swedish fartlek
This is not what you might think! Fartlek is a Swedish word that translates to “speed play” in English. It’s sort of interval running at will. Meaning that instead of running intervals set by time or distance, you simply run intervals that you decide yourself during your long run. There should be bursts of higher intensity during your run instead of keeping the entire run on an even intensity.
I start with fast walking to get going and then I start running. When I feel that I’m starting to get a bit tired, I decide on an object in the distance to where I should run.
Once I’ve reached that goal, my pulse should be in the high-intensity zone. This is where the smartwatch comes in. I check my pulse to make sure that I’m in the high-intensity zone. I run slower or walk for a little while until my pulse drops to a lower zone. I decide on a new goal and start running again.
Set small goals
For me, setting small goals has also been a way to push myself a little bit more when I’m out running. Say that my goal for an interval is that crossroad up ahead. But I’m starting to be quite tired and the crossroad is still some distance away. Instead of aiming for the crossroad, I set a goal that is closer to where I am. Ridiculously close. So close that I cannot give up now. And once I’ve reached that goal, I look for the next one, and then the next one. That way I make it all the way to the crossing without giving up.
This has also given me a different perspective on the landscape when I’m out running. I pay much more attention to the details since I’m continuously setting goals at landmarks along the road. The blue flower, the hole in the road and the straw that’s stretching higher than all the others. These are things that I probably wouldn’t notice otherwise, but now I do. It makes me appreciate the run even more.
Get yourself an accountability partner
Find someone to go running with. Or tell someone about your new habit and ask them to hold you accountable. Or share your progress online. If you have an accountability partner, you are much less likely to skip a run just because you didn’t feel like it.
I and my husband have started this running endeavor together and we hold each other accountable. We cheer each other on and celebrate each personal record set. We don’t compare our achievements, there’s no point in that since we have different starting points and different prerequisites. Never compare yourself to other runners, only compare to you. Again, with a smartwatch, it becomes very easy to track your progress on your running journey.
Get clear on your overall goal
Why are you doing this? What’s your motivation? Your narrative? You need to really formulate this for yourself. Grab a piece of paper and write it down.
“I go running because…”
This is essential for you to be able to keep going. Whenever you feel yourself faltering on an especially chilly evening and the sofa is calling out to you. Read what you’ve written on that piece of paper and then tell the sofa that you’ll see it later, after the run.
I do this for my kids. I want them to have their mummy around for as long as possible. I also do it for me, I want to live as long as I can. Ergo, I have to exercise. There’s no way around that. The great majority of us have jobs that are way too sedentary. We have to exercise. Every day.
I don’t go running every day, but I find the time to do at least some exercise on a daily basis. A few yoga poses, perhaps a few sun salutations, some kettlebell swings, push-ups or squats. It doesn’t take more than a few minutes and you can do them almost anywhere. This is also where the smartwatch comes into play again, it helps me keep track of my steps and number of stairs during the day. It’s a great way to make sure that I’m staying active.
Just put your shoes on
When you really don’t feel like going for a run. Just put on your shoes and go out. Once you’re out there on the road, you might as well run at least a little. Before you know it, your body takes over and you successfully complete the run. And even if that doesn’t happen, you at least got some running done. Keep up the practice. Make sure to keep up the practice.
There will, of course, be times when you get sick and therefore you cannot keep up the practice. Relax, breathe and focus on getting well again. Once you’re back on your feet, go for it again. Don’t lose the practice just because some virus got in your way.
Need help to get started?
I hope that my journey to becoming a runner can help you along the way. If I can do it, anyone can! Even you.
If you have any questions or you need an accountability partner, let me know! I’d be happy to help you along the way.
Or perhaps you have your own story about how you established a running routine. Everyone’s story is different and every little hack for creating a successful habit is most welcome. Please share in the comments!