6 Ways to Commit to Running

It can be challenging to get into running (or get back into it after some time off), but you can use some simple ideas to motivate yourself to get out the door.

Here are six ways to commit to a healthy running habit:

1. Find Meaningful Motivation

“You have to have a reason, whatever it may be,” says Carol Eaton, who committed to healthy habits—and saw dramatic weight loss—after finding herself out of breath when climbing stairs. Why do you want to run? Do you want to be healthier? Do you want to win a race?

Think about why running is important to you and keep that goal at the forefront of your mind. Whether you want to fit into last year’s jeans or comfortably play with your grandkids, a strong sense of motivation will help you create your running goals and tackle them. Pick something realistic that you will stick with.

2. Personalize Your Approach

Think about other challenges you have tackled in the past. What type of approach made you successful? When you try something new or make it more challenging, do you want an expert to walk you through the fundamentals and teammates to work out with?

As you approach a new running goal, you may find that a training group will keep you going. Training groups will follow a schedule, focus on fundamentals, and train for specific races or events. They may help you stay motivated and make the training process more fun and meaningful.

Maybe when you approach a challenge, though, you prefer to figure it out alone by reading and watching videos, or working with a coach one-on-one. Perhaps you want to reach a certain level of fitness on your own before you join anyone else, or you always like to run solo. Maybe a group isn’t an option for you because your schedule is insane, or you live in the middle of nowhere. Regardless, you must pick an approach that works for your preferences and your current lifestyle if you want to be successful.

3. Get the Right Running Gear

It’s hard to run your best if your shoes are two years old and your big toe is poking through. The same is true if your shorts chafe and you can’t find a comfortable running bra. Go to your local store and let an expert fit you for shoes. They can help you find comfy, moisture-wicking socks and apparel as well. Getting quality running gear will make you more comfortable and bring more joy to your running.

While you’re at it, make sure you know how to stay hydrated and get the proper nutrition. Running is a simple sport that requires little gear, but having the right pieces can make or break your training. If you’re properly outfitted, you’re more likely to rock each workout and approach a goal race.

Two runners wear the ASICS x Fleet Feet exclusive apparel for Spring 2019

4. Register for a Race

Races keep you honest. They provide excellent motivation to train, and the competition and supportive environment of race day can bring out energy and strength you didn’t know you had.

It’s easy to continually say, “I’ll start running tomorrow.” But it’s not easy to put it off if you don’t have a deadline. The clock starts ticking when you have a race on the calendar, and it helps to plan ahead if you want to have a good experience. There is nothing like a race to prove that you are stronger than you thought. Tanisha Arseneau (Huntsville, AL) describes the motivation she felt to train for a half marathon in difficult conditions. “I didn’t want to waste my money,” she says. “And I didn’t want to go to the race and not be able to finish.”

Even if you don’t feel ready to compete, a race can be a fantastic “rust buster,” or way to get out of your own head about training and show yourself where you stand. Sign up for a shorter distance race, and use it as a benchmark or time trial. See what happens when you’re surrounded by the crowd and a kick of adrenaline. Practice embracing what it feels like to push yourself beyond running comfortably, and see what you can do when you are surrounded by competitors.

Sign up spontaneously so you don’t have time to get nervous, and see what happens.

5. Pick a Benchmark Workout You Know You Can Complete

Find a running workout that is challenging but also fits your strengths. Completing it will raise your confidence and allow you to mark your progress as you improve.

Many experienced runners will kick off their training with a two-mile time trial. They will repeat the trial every two to three months to see how their training has progressed and use it to dial in paces for upcoming workouts. Some runners prefer the challenge of tempos or threshold runs. Others can’t stay focused for that long and prefer the variety they will get in an interval or fartlek workout.

Pick a workout that fits your strengths and use it to measure and gain fitness on a regular basis.

6. Focus on opportunities rather than threats

When confronted with a challenge, your brain immediately deems it a threat or an opportunity, affecting your expectation of the outcome and your approach to the situation. That expectation is incredibly powerful in determining the outcome of the situation. If you view it as an opportunity, you are more likely to be successful; if you see a threat, you put yourself on defense, trying to protect yourself from pain or loss.

Take control of your wiring by mentally pausing to recognize when you perceive a threat. Focus on what you can control and keep moving toward your goal. Simply noticing the threat can help you take control of the situation.

Alex Schwartz, safety and training director at the North Carolina Outward Bound School (NCOBS), says that students and instructors in NCOBS programs learn to focus on opportunities and manage expectations in order to have success on their challenging outdoor courses. “Expectation has a huge impact on outcome,” Schwartz says. “The belief that you are in control and can be successful impacts your success. We want to set students up for success and give them transferable life skills. We are teaching them an approach to challenge where they focus on what they can control. Effort and attitude are most important determinants of success.”

How does this transfer to running? If you’re nervous about a tough workout or race, it helps to pay attention to gains throughout your training. Think about the training you have put in so far. Focus on what’s ahead of you, not behind. If you’re in a race, don’t focus on the people who might catch you. Rather, think about the finish line and the things that you can control, like your breathing, form and level of effort.


By Kate Schwartz. Schwartz has been running competitively for 20 years, and she currently runs with the Asheville Running Collective. She lives in Asheville, NC, with her husband, Alex, and their cat, Clementine.

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