Running can be one of you healthiest habits. But like any habit, it can be hard to stick with, especially as life shifts and your energy for the sport fluctuates.
“It’s hard to prioritize running over other, more directly or measurably ‘productive’ activities, especially for those of us who aren’t elites or sponsored. Running is a financial and time expense rather than a source of measurable reward,” says runner Heather Flewelling.
Even when you greatly value the subjective benefits running brings to your life, such as health and vitality, it’s common to struggle to squeeze in a run. Before you know it, three days, five days or a whole week has flown by since your last running fix.
“We hold ourselves accountable to other people but tend to slack off on our own stuff,” says time management expert Evan Zislis. “When we make ourselves a priority, we follow through. Decide what’s important and schedule it. Leave realistic windows of time between tasks and appointments so you improve your chances of successful completion and preparation for the next activity. Then follow through like your life depended on it.”
Committing to run with others is a great way to stick to your plans.
“I love having a group of women to run with for my training runs, or at least one friend because I don’t want to let her down,” says trail runner and mother of two, Janis Taylor of Glenwood Springs, Colorado.
“I force myself to get up a little earlier on a busy day to make time to run,” says Sabrina Harper, a teacher and new mom in Canmore, Alberta. “It always feels so good knowing I’ve had my run fix and the rest of the day rolls so much better!”
But despite your best intentions or attempts to plan ahead, running can still fall by the wayside.
What sometimes seems like a lack of time may actually be attributable to something else; something over which you have more control than you might think: your mindset.
Here are some of the many ways our beliefs influence our running habits:
1. You are just “too busy” to run on a regular basis
Would you believe me if I told you that time is not a linear construct, but that it expands or contracts based on your mental state? For example, stress has a way of robbing you of time because when you’re stressed, you feel that your obligations are squeezing in around you.
But you can overcome stress by gaining clarity on exactly where the stress is coming from and how it’s affecting you. Use a journal or training log that lets you track stress as well as running workouts can be a powerful tool for ending the overwhelm that robs you of valuable time and energy.
2. You believe that running is selfish
Believe it or not, viewing running as something that is a self-serving activity influences where running falls on your daily list of priorities.
If you constantly value running less than the things you do for other people (bosses, clients, spouses, kids, pets, etc), then you are reinforcing the belief that your needs are less important than everyone else’s.
3. You often put others’ needs before your own
It may seem counter-intuitive, but there’s a reason the airlines tell you to put on your own oxygen masks before helping others. Satisfying your needs is your personal responsibility. You know that running boosts your mood and keeps you healthy, but these things are also essential to your having the capacity and willingness to serve others.
Only once your body and soul are sufficiently nourished can you give care and love to your dependents, employer, employees, etc.. In this way, your running also benefits those whose lives you touch every day.
4. You undervalue really short runs
Running for even 20 or 30 minutes help you make significant fitness gains and improve mood and confidence. During these short bi-weekly sessions you may run just three miles, but if over the course of a month, that adds up to an additional 24 miles you wouldn’t have run otherwise.
The next time you have only a small window of time in which to run, do it anyway; you might be surprised at just how rewarding and effective a short run can be for re-setting your day.
5. You sticking with a running routine feels really hard
While making big changes can seem overwhelming, initiating small changes is much more doable. A simple trick for this is to use an existing behavior to trigger a new habit that supports your bigger goal.
For example, say you want to stretch more regularly. Ideally, you’d do yoga two or three times a week or stretch for 15 minutes immediately after every run, but there never seems to be time for those things. Instead, after you brush your teeth in the evening, lay down on the floor with your legs extended up the wall for five to 10 minutes.
This is a fantastic hamstring stretch that can improve your running stride and prevent injury. As a bonus, it is a restorative yoga pose that supports sleep.