(Originally published 1/18/16 on Medium.com)
How to Start Running and Stick With It.
For many, this is the time of year to make New Year Resolutions, and for many, this will only last for a few weeks or maybe 2 months tops. Whatever the reason, if running consistently in 2016 is one of your goals, I commend you for such a goal. I have some advice to help you stick to your goal of running the entire year and even longer than that.
Why Do People Stop Running?
In order to meet the goal of running consistently, we must look at the reasons many people do not reach this goal. Here are some of most common reasons:
- No Plan
- Running too much too soon
- No Accountability
- Lack of motivation
- No results
- Hate treadmills
I’ll admit, all of these have kept me from running consistently at one point or another, but I overcame all of them. Here’s how.
- No Plan. If you do not have any specific goals about running or some plan to follow, it will be hard to form a habit of running. I have always found it easier to stick with it if I am following some kind of schedule. For example, running on Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday. At some point on that day, I know I need to run. Personally, the earlier in the day I run, the more likely it gets done.
- Boredom. There’s no doubt that sometimes running can become boring. Usually this is because you are running the same route or you are just running on a treadmill. Try some new places to run. A change of scenery will make it more interesting. You can try is listening to music while you run if you never tried it before. I have even listened to podcasts or books on audio while running.
- Running too much too soon. Be careful! Trying to go from couch potato to 3 miles a day can be a recipe for disaster. This kind of thing can lead to injuries such as shin splints. It can also be very difficult, and you might get a burnt out feeling while trying to adapt to this. And that could lead to making you want to quit. The injuries will just force you to stop, and then you will be starting over again.
- Busyness. When we get busy, we will be tempted to rationalize that we can wait to run the next day. But I would encourage you to stick to that running schedule as much as you can. If you find that you skip a workout but do pick it up the next day, that is great. But if you are the type of person that will put it off again and any day you are “too busy”, then I strongly suggest you find the time to get your run in. Maybe it will be before work or maybe at lunch time. How important is the new goal of running to you? Because we make time for the things we want to do.
- No accountability. It is good to have a running buddy or someone to discuss running. You share your running stories with them and vice versa. The person should probably be a runner because non-runners absolutely detest hearing about your running. They do not care that you got a second wind at mile 6 and ran the last 2 miles 30 seconds faster than the first 2 miles. But having a running buddy really helps. There are lots of running groups on social networks that will give you all the encouragement you would ever want. Also, check locally for in person running groups. Running with a group actually solves a lot of these top ten problems. Most communities have a local running group — just check around.
- Lack of motivation. This can happen to anyone. Thank goodness people like me have an “off season” where the running is decreased to heal up and not get burned out. I am currently in my “off season” but I am still running some — but not as much as I was. I find that my goals keep me motivated. My goal may be to run the fastest time I ever have for a half marathon or to run a new marathon. Your goal might be to run 6 miles for the very first time. Or maybe it’s to test your endurance and run a half marathon. Or run 100 miles in one month. It doesn’t matter what the goal is, so long as you have one.
- Injury. This is a big problem, and it can be caused by too much too soon. It can also be caused by not wearing the right running shoes for your style of running or foot type. Or not stretching enough. It took me a long time to learn about injuries and learn I did (the hard way). Take my advice and do not try to run through horrible pain. You will be worse off. I missed 7 weeks of running with physical therapy due to trying to run through pain.
- No results. If you are not seeing results, it might be because you are setting your goals too high. And if you set the goals too high and don’t achieve these goals, you will feel defeated and might give up on running. So your goals should require hard work but be obtainable. Success in running can come in small increments.
- Hate Treadmills. I hear you — I hate treadmills too. So why run on them? I love to run outside, even in really cold or hot weather. With hot weather, I run very early before it’s really hot. When it’s cold out, it just requires proper clothing to feel comfortable while out in the cold. One thing I always noticed before I became a consistent runner was that I could not run in the cold without coughing a bunch when I stopped. It’s interesting, but once I started running regularly, the cold weather didn’t bother me, and I don’t cough a bunch like I used to when I was an inconsistent runner. You should test this out if you are new to running. If running outside in cold air bothers you, then you might have to use the treadmill until spring time or try to adjust to the cold.
- Laziness. I’ve alluded to this already, and I hate to write this, but for many, this is one of the main reasons you do not run consistently. All those days that you “don’t feel like it” really add up. And what happens when you first don’t feel like it? You start to look for an excuse that you can accept. No one else really cares if you run or not (unless you have an accountability partner), and no one is going to make you run. So if you need to self justify not running (i.e, too tired, no time, it’s raining outside, etc.), you can easily do that. This happens to everyone, really! There are days I do not want to go, and sometimes it’s good to skip a run if you really need to. It’s bad when you know deep down you could go and you skip because then you are accepting complacency. So when this happens to me, if I don’t have a real excuse to miss a run, I tell myself, “You are going, whether you want to go or not” and I get dressed to run. I’ve never regretted going, and I’ve always come back feeling glad I did. When I’ve fallen for a false excuse, it’s had the opposite effect. I have felt bad and usually regret that I didn’t go run, because I knew I fell for a lame excuse.
(Follow me on Twitter, E. James White)