10 Ways to Build, Keep and Enjoy a Running Habit

Want to train for the Around the World 5K? 10 ways to build and keep your new running habit while having lots of fun! 

1.  Follow a program or use an app

It’s easy and motivating to follow a plan that helps you train at a healthy, sustainable pace, and there are many available for free or at a minimal cost. An app will even talk you through your intervals as you go (for instance walk for 2 minutes, run for 1 minute), and you can add music and connect with friends. The famous Couch to 5K program lasts 9 weeks; see http://www.c25k.com. The “None to Run” program eases beginners in more slowly with a 12-week program (start at the beginning of February and you can still run in April!): see www.nonetorun.com. Check your app store for other options. 

2. Build a great team

Accountability, friendship, motivation — run/walk buddies can keep you going like nothing else. If you can’t meet up physically to train together, you can friend each other on a Couch to 5K app or a sports app like Strava and give each other kudos, clapping-hands emojis and encouraging comments (sounds silly but it makes such a difference!). Whether you actually run together in April or not, you’ll be invested in each other’s success in finishing the race. Your team’s donations to “A Family for Every Orphan” can also be a source of shared pride and accomplishment.

3. Stay warm and safe

Take care of yourself on your running journey and make sure you are warm, comfortable and safe — and you’ll have a much easier time quieting the little voice inside that wants to turn around and go home 🙂 If you can, get help at a running store to identify the right shoes for you. And here’s a useful article on clothing: https://www.runnersworld.com/gear/a20865557/best-base-layers-for-runners/

Finally, if you run after dark, be sure to wear lights and reflectors such as these great gadgets: https://www.rei.com/c/running-safety

4. Add more fun to your runs

What else can you do to make your training runs a highlight of your day? Listen to music or a podcast (if wearing earbuds is safe where you are); wear a colorful shirt that makes you smile;  or even try out an app that makes running a game, like “Zombies, Run!” https://zombiesrungame.com/  (I’ve never tried it, but it looks like fun!)

5. Anchor running in your day

A great tip for successful habit change is to “anchor” your new habit within the routines you already have. So instead of just getting around to running at some point during the day, you could plan to go in the mornings after your coffee and before your shower (my favorite exercise time!), just before lunch, or while you’re waiting to pick up the kids at an activity. Add extra time slots during the week, so you’ll have a backup time if something comes up when you planned to run. 

6. Make it easy

You know how it is — if fruit is on the table, you’ll eat fruit, and if cookies are on the table, you’ll eat cookies (I know that’s not just me!). Set yourself up for success with your runs in the same way. Put your planned runs on your calendar; lay out your shoes by the door with your jacket or whatever you’ll need for tomorrow’s weather; have your AirPods charged; maybe even sleep in your running clothes! Having to hunt around for your gloves can be the one little thing that leads you to skip today’s run instead of going out and feeling the satisfaction and all those great endorphins 🙂 

7. Take rest days

Weightlifters know it: rest days are when your improvements happen! Your body responds to the stimulation of running by building up your strength and stamina when you’re not out on the road. The Couch to 5K programs call for training 20 to 30 minutes, 3 times a week. 

8. Cross-train

Wait, 20 to 30 minutes, three times a week — is that all? That may be all the running you need to make progress and avoid repetitive-stress injuries. But try to add in other physical activities to challenge your body in different ways. Weightlifting and swimming can be ideal complements to your running program: weightlifting works your whole body in a way that running doesn’t, and swimming doesn’t stress your joints the way running can. If those aren’t available, take walks, try a streaming yoga class — figure out what’s easy and fun for you, so you can enjoy physical activity 5-6 days a week and feel your whole body getting stronger. For current physical activity guidelines and tips, see: https://health.gov/sites/default/files/2019-10/PAG_ExecutiveSummary.pdf

9. Celebrate your progress

So often, we finish a run or a workout and just rush into the next task of the day. But it’s beneficial to pause for a mindful moment after your run, to enjoy the glow in your body and give yourself gratitude and appreciation for your hard work. This provides an extra boost of dopamine to reinforce your great exercise habit. It’s also surprisingly motivating for most people simply to keep track of their progress — ranging from simply checking off workouts on your calendar (don’t break the streak!) to geeking out with your pace, heart rate, intervals, etc. 

10. Keep your eyes on the prize

As you plan out your 5K training, be sure to include your “why.” Why will it be awesome to run a 5K in April — even if you end up walking for some of it? What benefits will it have for your well-being? Who do you want on your team, to support each other along the way? And finally, who will you become if you accomplish this? Someone stronger, faster, fitter, maybe even more energetic and self-confident? See you in April! 

Patricia Linderman is a Foreign Service spouse who morphed from a sedentary writer/editor/volunteer into a health coach and personal trainer. She helps women over 45 in the Foreign Service community (including spouses, officers/specialists and retirees) get active, lose weight and expand their thinking about what they are capable of. Her toolbox includes individual and group coaching, as well as fun stuff on Zoom like workouts, mindfulness and even a laughter group. 🙂 Find out more about her work at www.fierceafter45.com or request a totally free “change one habit today” Zoom coaching session at patricia@fierceafter45.com.

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