Andy Hawthorne

Thoughts, stories and ideas

Making running a habit

Being a runner needs a commitment level beyond what you might expect.

To achieve success you need to know what success at running feels like. And you need to make going for a run a habit.

I was overweight and unfit when I started running.

It was July 2014 and I used the Couch to 5K app. The first few run/walk sessions were easy.

I finished the program before time and it never occurred to be that I didn’t do it right.

I kept at the running, though. My pace was terrible and my form was rubbish. But I kept running. I kept running even though I developed niggling injuries. Oh and blisters. Loads of blisters.

I kept running when each step was painful. I kept running when shin splints was crippling me. I ran when walking was painful.

The point here is: not how stubborn or heroic I was. Because I wasn’t either of those things. I was becoming a runner. And I was doing that by thinking of myself as a runner. That’s the point, I was developing a habit.

Let me explain…

By thinking of myself as a runner right from the beginning, I stopped being a fat, unfit 49 year-old, but became somebody fixing the issue.

That was an important. Why? That will take a little longer to explain.

Running is hard. To improve at it is even harder. I was going to be fat and unfit for a while to come. But thinking like that wasn’t going to help.

It was one thing for my body to be overweight. It was another for me to keep seeing myself like that. I needed to develop a running habit and make it part of who I was.

This is not about denial. I knew what condition I was in. But holding on to that mentally was unhelpful. I had to think my way to fitness and weight loss.

As running became a habit, it got easier to keep going. But I did the whole thing: read running magazines, bought running books and looked forward to my run on a daily basis.

Oh, and I moaned about rest days (like all runners).

None of this was intended to fake anything. It was to turn me into a runner. Because to keep the weight off and stay fit, I’d decided running was the way to do it. But it couldn’t be a bolt-on to my life. It had to be part of my life. Running had to be a habit.

Setting running goals was fine. But tough goals like that are doomed to fail. Or at best, hard to maintain.

The goal part needs to be a focussed change. One that is integrated into your life. I did it that way because it seemed logical. I’ve since realised that not everyone would think like that. Hence why I’m writing this post.

I’m not claiming to be brilliant, special or unique. All I’m saying is, my approach wasn’t setting a goal and hoping for the best. It was about making running part of who I am.

Running needs dedication and discipline. To improve and to make it work for weight loss, you can’t go around thinking you’re not a runner. You can’t go running here and there. It needs to become something you do no matter what.

That is to say, you could, but it wouldn’t be helpful. The simple trick is, to say you are a runner and mean it, by running as much as you can.

When running is a habit, the rest is easier. Not easy. But easier. Because you don’t have to coax yourself out of the door. You now have a running habit and that means you’ll choose to go running by default.

The one thing left to do is set goals for what you’d like to achieve as a runner. Then make working to achieve those targets a habit.