How to turn running into a habit

With more people leading a sedentary lifestyle coupled with a lack of physical activity there has never been more motivation to wake up and get moving. But how to turn running into a habit?

Most people will find themselves in some sort of mental debate on whether to start running or not. Stress, tight schedules, and many other things often come in the way, and it becomes harder to turn running into a habit. Nonetheless, a few tips can help you break the endless cycle of procrastination.

The Building Phase
If you haven’t been working out for a long time, be sure your body is ready for exercise by visiting your physician for a checkup. The main idea is to figure out where you are before starting your journey. Some of us have medical or physical conditions that need to be addressed before an exercise program.

Start Small
Set several goals. Your long term goal may be to run a marathon, but you’re not going to do so after one day of training. Instead set modest goals for the first day, week, month, two months and so forth. Intermittent goals create the perfect opportunity to measure progress and adjust goals if and when necessary. You may want to keep your goals flexible and reflect on them according to your timeline.

Most people fall into the trap of starting too hard, and they eventually get injured, burned out or discouraged within a few days of running. It’s easy to get carried away in the excitement of starting something new, but it’s equally important to let it grow on you by taking baby steps. As a beginner, it’s crucial to start working for manageable and realistic goals.

A simple trick is to incorporate the walk-run method or opting for a short run which will make it easier for you to stick to a routine in your first few days or weeks. Most beginners will agree that the thought of a short run or walk helps to get them out of the door, especially when they’re low on motivation and will power.

Regardless of your end goal, whether you plan to lose 20 pounds, simply keep fit, or be able to run a 20k-make sure to start small with a realistic goal.

Make a Plan
Once you’ve set your mind to turn running into a habit, you must come up with a solid plan to back up your vision. Jot down everything that’s related to your running, from the time, running route, the type of run and any other thing such as the music playlist that will be part of your running routine.

Come up with a schedule that will be challenging enough to motivate, but not too intense as to cause a burnout or injury in the short run.Your plan should also be thorough enough to cover details such as the reward system. For instance, you can plan to take a hot shower, have a mouth watering post-run cup of fresh juice or anything else you fancy. Rewards act as part of the motivation system, which is good for the long term.

Once you have all the details, write down the plan and post it where you can see it every day.

Make Your Plan a Ritual
Turning your plan into a routine involves striving to start your runs at the same time every day, or on the exact and precise days you select. By working according to your plan, you won’t have to spend more time and energy laying down the exact time for your running routine. Moreover, turning a good habit into a ritual creates a greater sense of achievement and improved comfort.

Work With a Strict Schedule
Choose a particular time of the day for your run, whether morning, afternoon or evening and stick with it. Your decision should be based on the likelihood (and availability of time) to stick with your ritual. You may have to be a bit flexible if you have a tight schedule but once you’ve decided on specific times, stick with the plan.

As a beginner, determine what three days a week and the respective times you can run, walk or walk-run. Work to stick with a commitment. But if you’re unable to complete your scheduled workout, try to do as much as you can. Even during busy times, strive to do something. A 5 or 10-minute workout is better than nothing. Always bear in mind that you are building a habit which will be your platform for fitness.

Stick with your ritual with the same level of seriousness as planning a major work meeting or family function. Be sure to include running into your calendar and stay away from other duties when it’s time to go for a run.

Keep It Regular
Create a pre and post run routine that will act as physical and mental cues, and repeat them every time you’re about to go out. For instance, have your workout clothes and gear ready before running and treat yourself to something you enjoy right after the run. To turn running into a habit you need to have cues that trigger your mind and body, and they have to be consistent. Behavioral specialists have it that cues create neural pathways that make an activity into a habit.

Habits don’t form overnight so give yourself about seven weeks for it to stick. In fact, a recent study by The London University College has it that it can take up to six to eight weeks to form a lifelong habit. Once you’ve formed the habit, it starts to feel more natural.

Increase Gradually
This is a mandatory rule if you want to progress after starting small. However, it’s important to increase at the right pace. It goes without saying that sometimes your heart and lungs or even the mind might be able to handle more, but your leg muscles are not yet ready. It’s crucial to give ample time for your muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints to adjust to the stress of running as progressing too rapidly may lead to injury.

Consider Running First Thing in the Morning
Modern day life is busier than ever before, endless meetings; countless business trips; kids to care for; social media among other activities can take a toll on your plan to keep running. Considering the daily distractions and possibility of being worn out at the end of the day, running in the morning when the body is fresh and the willpower is high, can work wonders.

Research has also established that consistent exercisers make the effort to work out first thing in the morning.

It may take a bit of time to get used to waking up earlier than everyone else, especially if you’re not a morning person, but it’s well worth the effort. In fact, running in the morning has been shown to boost metabolism thus enhancing productivity throughout the day.

Build a Support System
One of the best ways to keep your enthusiasm about running is to equip your routine with activities that will get you psyched up each day. Join a running group or try to convince a few friends to run with you so the run doubles as a time to socialize; track your distance so you can see your progress and fitness improvements. Enjoy burning off the fat and embrace the relaxation of blowing off some steam.

Write a motivational statement and stick it on your fridge, on your bathroom mirror or somewhere you can see it daily. Seek support from your loved ones. Tell your friends and family what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and how you’re sticking to your plan. A little encouragement can go a long way in helping you to stay on track.

You can also leverage technology such as social media and running apps to find other runners like you. A support system will also help you to set up some accountability, which is an excellent way to become a regular runner. You can also sign up for a race or take part in a challenge. Having some form of accountability will keep you from slipping.

Life Happens
Now and then, something will get in the way of your running routine. Anything from holidays, injuries, extended working hours and family obligations may interrupt your plans. That’s just part of life and you shouldn’t strive for perfection. That said, you may occasionally miss a day or two, so don’t sweat the small stuff when that happens. You shouldn’t lose sleep over missing one or a couple of workouts as it won’t matter in the long run.

Indeed, consistency is crucial, so don’t take a couple of weeks off as you will lose much fitness. Always strive to get back on the horse as soon as you can.

Make Running Fun
You must find ways to enjoy running so try to have as much fun as possible. Forming and keeping the running habit is going to be tough if you don’t find ways to make it pleasurable. You can make running more enjoyable by getting new running gear; creating a playlist with your favorite songs, enjoying the scenery or consider running with a dog.

Get Enough Rest
Our bodies need sufficient rest to recover and readapt to the physical load of running. Depending on the intensity of your routine, it’s important to have ample time for your body to recharge. Be sure to get enough sleep, eat a healthy diet and drink plenty of water to nourish the body.

It’s also imperative to do some form of physical activity every day but there’s no harm in taking one day of total rest every week. The secret is to incorporate other exercise routines so they can help you maintain the exercising habit. Don’t shy away from activities such as swimming, biking, yoga and strength training. Plus, it helps to break the monotony of running.

Shop for Proper Gear
Running is relatively inexpensive, compared to other sports. However, as much as the basics are minimal you can’t afford to scrimp on any of the necessary gear. Invest in a good, comfortable pair of running shoes. A leading cause of running injuries are caused by old, improperly fitting or worn out running shoes so getting the right shoes will not only protect your body but also save you plenty of time and money in the long run.

Visit a running specialty store; try several brands and models to find the best one suited for you. The correct shoe will often depend on things such as how you land when you walk or run, your body type, level of exercise and running history among other factors.

Expect A Few “Bad” Runs
Everyone has those days when they feel sore, tired or unmotivated, even professional runners. It’s okay to have a “bad” run every once in a while. In the first few weeks, you may have more tough runs, than relatively easy and fun ones. And that’s perfectly normal. Soon, you’ll begin to enjoy more runs and feel so proud of what you’ve accomplished.

Reinvent Your Running
Once you’re able to maintain some consistency, celebrate. You might be walking a little during your runs, but that’s still fine. Feel free to take walk breaks as you work on your running endurance. To maintain the excitement and keep the habit, you’ll want to take your running to new levels. Consider a few tips:

– Try to gradually increase your running by 5 minutes each week, until you can so about 35 minutes of running at a time, 3-4 days a week.

– Once you’ve got some endurance, add some elevation to your program. Look for a hilly course and add hills to your running.

– A little speed workout once a week can help to build your endurance.

– Mix things up. Run with a group, or run alone. But don’t always run alone or with a group/partner.

– Avoid using the same routes. And try running on a treadmill, a different track, on trails or in a different neighborhood.

– If you can run for 30-40 minutes, you can run a 5K, so sign up for one. Participate with the idea of just finishing and have fun doing it.The biggest secret is to enjoy your runs.

What has helped you to turn running into a habit? Have you tried any of the tips above?


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