How To Make The Running Habit Stick

Are you a stop-start runner, getting motivated and starting a running program for 2 weeksMatt McEwan before giving up or getting injured? I know this was me for a long time. It’s been 10 years since I ran regularly, my last (and only) marathon was in an Ironman Triathlon 10 years ago. Since then I have played over 35’s soccer but never run consistently apart from that.

I’ve recently had a crack at running regularly and it seems to be sticking this time. Here’s 10 things I’ve found that helped me.

  1. Find your “Why”. I usually lift weights 3 times a week, surf and play summer soccer. In February I fractured and dislocated my shoulder, had surgery and discovered sourdough baking during Covid lockdown. This added some kg which I definitely didn’t need. My reason for running is I need to replace my usual exercise (which will be off limits for up to a year), burn off energy and get healthy.
  2. Have a plan and stick to it. In the past I’ve just started running a few times a week randomly out of the blue, got a sore calf or knee and then stopped again. This time I took my own professional advice and set out a long-term plan to go from fat to fit over months not weeks.
  3. Walk before you run: When my sling came off, I started walking 3-4 times a week with our family dog. Millie loves our 5.20am starts and it’s been good to get her out exercising as well. As well as programming an exercise habit, walking is fantastic preparation for running, getting the bones, tendons and muscles ready for running as well as burning calories.
  4. Ease into running gradually. This is where most people go wrong. Research shows that if your BMI is > 30 (that was me) you are at greatest risk of a running injury if you run more than 3km in your first week of running! It takes patience, but our walk/run progression program we use here at Parkside was fantastic for graduating up to 3 x 30 minute runs a week. It takes 6 weeks but by carefully increasing the amount of running it never felt really hard to finish a session and I was always looking forward to the next session, and the next week where I knew I’d run some more
  5. Check your ego. It is hard starting from scratch when you’ve run well in the past, or if your friends are regular runners. Your pace will be slow, your heart rate will be high. Compete against yourself and the comfort of a cosy bed
  6. Use the power of habits. I HIGHLY recommend the book “Atomic Habits” by James Clear. This book has some gems like:
    • make it obvious: write out your new habit in a prominent place. “I will run three times a week” and stick it on the fridge,
    • make it easy: lay out your running gear the night before,
    • make it fun: take the dog, buy a GPS sports watch to track your progress
    • make it attractive: bundle a reward after your run
    • make it satisfying: use a habit tracker like a wall chart to see your progress and don’t miss twice
  7. Have an accountability partner. Tell someone what you are planning and check in with them once a week or so.
  8. Flip your mindset. Instead of thinking “I HAVE to get up and run before work so I don’t get swamped with work stuff and feel guilty for missing my session” turn that thinking upside down to “I GET to run before dawn, see the best part of the day unfold and kick start my energy levels for a productive day”
  9. Don’t overthink it. I’m running before dawn in daggy trackies, a hoody and beanie with my iPhone in my pocket as a stopwatch. You don’t need the latest active wear or a $1000 smartwatch to run.
  10. Wear comfortable running shoes. There’s no perfect running shoe that will prevent injury. Get a pair that fits properly, feels comfortable and that you can afford.

Most of all, enjoy your running and the many benefits there are to enjoy from becoming a “runner”

If you’d like a copy of our “Walk-Run” Progression Program, Click here to grab a copy