Let’s face it: sometimes, running sucks. This is especially true during the first few days and weeks of starting to run for the very first time or coming back after an injury or extended break. With a few tips and tricks it is possible to — quickly — fall in love with the sport. It all comes down to making it a habit and embracing the bad days.
WHAT IT TAKES TO FORM A HABIT
“They say it takes about 6–8 weeks to form a new habit,” explains Eric Wallor, co-founder and head coach of Full Potential Running. “I’d say that’s probably about right, but each person is different and could be formed a little earlier or longer than that.”
Of course, Waller adds that it all comes down to consistency, which is the key to forming any habit. The Society for Personality and Social Psychology shares that we don’t always easily recognize our habits, and studies have revealed about 40% of our daily activities are performed each day in almost the same situations.
While there is no definitive answer for how long it takes to form a habit, as it varies by person and activity, it’s important to follow through and make your intentions clear. For example, running at the same time on a consistent schedule and having your clothes and gear set out beforehand make you more likely to follow through during the first few weeks of running. Not only will your body get used to performing your running habit on the days you’ve scheduled, but you are also more likely to act on it because you’ve prepared ahead of time and told yourself you intend to run.
FOR THOSE DAYS YOU’D RATHER STAY IN BED …
Of course there will be days you don’t want to run; it happens to everyone. Your schedule may also not be conducive to following a strict plan. In those cases, staying as close to a routine as possible can work, as long as you stick with it. It is important to recognize not every run is going to go as planned — embracing that helps as well.
“Even experienced, elite athletes have their ‘off’ workouts,” reveals Lisa Reichmann and Julie Sapper, certified coaches and co-founders of Run Farther and Faster. “Look at every run as a learning experience; even if it wasn’t a perfect run that left you on a runner’s high, what is the take-away?”
In this case, your intentions and mindset are what will help you find and grow your love of the sport, even when the workout or results are less than ideal.
“Always remember that any run is better than no run at all and that the cumulative effects of all of your runs — even the hard runs — will make you a better runner,” continues Reichmann and Sapper. “Most importantly, let bad workouts roll off your back. The next day is a new day, a new run, and another chance to enjoy running.”
TRY THIS TO STICK WITH IT
Even though you are trying to form a solid habit, switching up a few things can help as you build mileage and stamina. If you find you are in a running rut from the outset, there are some tricks that can help you recharge and find your groove. In the beginning, you’ll also want to do a bit of experimentation to discover the terrain you enjoy and what helps boost your motivation.
“If you have been running, try to change your running route; go explore and adventure,” encourages Wallor. “If you really need to, take a day off and allow yourself to miss running for a day and get the hunger back. That next run after a day away is usually really nice.”
Even though running is often considered a solo sport, another way to stick with it — especially in the beginning — is to build a support network to help keep you encouraged and on track. They don’t have to be runners themselves, though that will definitely give you a better chance of following through.
“Talk to your friends and family about what they can do to support you, find a local running club or online group to connect with over running-related questions and accomplishments or hire a coach to guide you with expert advice and keep you accountable,” note Reichmann and Sapper. “You can even take it a step further and sign up for a 5K so that you have a concrete goal — and money invested in that goal — that you can put on the calendar to keep you on track.”
Above all, be kind to yourself. Understand it is going to be hard and there will be bad days (sometimes, more bad than good, unfortunately). The fact you are getting out there despite setbacks is part of what makes you stronger in the long run.
“Remember the amazing days; that helps because those days always come back,” concludes Wallor. “No matter how your day went, if you got that run in today, you were successful.”
GEAR UP FOR YOUR NEXT RUN