As the new year looms, many people want to try to make running a habit. But many people can’t make it stick. This can be self-sabotaging as running is a sport built on consistency. The more inconsistent you are with running, the harder it will feel. And the harder it feels, the less likely you’ll want to do it.
But having a running habit is worth fighting for. Running regularly has a host of mental and physical benefits from less stress, a sharper mind, stronger bones, a healthy weight, and so much more.
That’s why I’m here!… To help you make running a habit—a very healthy habit.
In this article, I will answer common questions about regular running as a habit and lay out 10 steps to make running a habit.
Specifically, I will answer:
- Can I make running a habit
- How do I start running every day
- Is a 30-minute run worth it?
- How do I motivate myself to run?
- How do I make running less boring?
- And, ten steps to make running a habit.
If you want more information on how to START running safely, check out this article.
Okay, let’s go!
Can running become a habit?
Yes, running can become a habit. In fact, some people say that you can become addicted to running. This is because as you stay consistent in running, it becomes easier, and feel-good hormones and chemicals become released in your body that mimics a “high.”
Read more about how running makes you happy here.
How do I commit to run everyday?
If you want to start running everyday or running regularly, you need to build up to this running habit first, so you don’t get injured.
Having a good running base, a set time to run, people to run with, the right gear, and a goal to work towards like a race will set you up for success.
Is a 30 minute run worth it?
Yes, a 30 minute run is worth it. Throw out the all or mothing attitude. Consistency is key for running and if being consistent means you only get out for 10 minutes, DO IT! Something is always better for nothing for keeping your motivation and momentum going and staying on track towards your goals.
Related: How to Start Running: A Complete Guide
If you wait for the perfect time to do your perfect run, you will not make any progress. Do what you can. Pat yourself on the back. And move forward. Overthinking and waiting will only make running regularly feel more daunting and overwhelming. Just do the dang thing!
Related: How to Stay Motivated to Run in Winter
Why do I have no motivation to run?
There are several reasons why you may have no motivation to run. It could be that it feels hard to you, or it’s cold outside, or you aren’t getting enough sleep, or you find it boring. You could also be burnt out and need a break to avoid overtraining.
Identifying the roadblocks to your running requires being introspective. Once you realize why you have no motivation to run, you can brainstorm ways to overcome that obstacle.
Related: How to Get Your Running Motivation Back
How can I motivate myself to run?
I find the best motivation for running is thinking about how good I feel about myself afterward. I feel accomplished and strong, and that feeling carries me through all the other things I must do that day.
This internal feeling of self-worth is more powerful than trying to motivate yourself with external rewards like pizza or a massage. If you think about how running connects to what you care about (being healthy in your one and only body, for example), you will likely feel encouraged to run.
Some people ask, how do I force myself to run? You don’t want to force yourself to run. You want to encourage yourself to run. Encourage yourself to use this beautiful gift you have of moving your body and feeling strong in what it can do.
Related: How Running Makes You Happy
What is a good run schedule?
A good running schedule alternates hard and easy days, aka concentrates rest and optimizes stress. So, a more advanced run schedule may look like this:
- Monday: Easy run day
- Tuesday: Speedwork day and lift
- Wednesday: Cross train day or easy miles
- Thursday: Tempo run day and lift
- Friday: Easy run day or cross-train
- Saturday: Long run
- Sunday: REST
Related: How to Concentrate Rest and Optimize Stress in Training
How do I run and not get bored?
Don’t get bored while you run by switching it up and adding flavor to it. Run with friends, or a different route, do a fartlek, or listen to a new playlist or podcast or audiobook. Avoid running the same route and pace every day.
10 Steps to Make Running a Habit
I got with Ben Reale, founder of the personal training group Condition One Fitness & Nutrition,
who has helped thousands of non-runners make running a habit to develop this ten-step plan on how to create a running habit. I hope it helps you make running a part of your life!
Choose the goal.
First things first, you need to choose your goal. This goal needs to be specific. It may be to start running every day or train to run a half marathon. Don’t be vague with your goal. Know exactly what you are setting out to accomplish.
Related: 5 Ways to Overcome Race Anxiety
Next, take this goal and break it into small parts. If you try to eat the whole elephant in one bite, you will end up nowhere. Starting from running zero days a week to running every day is setting you up for failure (and increasing your risk for injury.)
So, if your goal is to make running a daily habit, for example, look hard at your schedule and see if you can make running 3 days a week possible for a month. Hit this goal and then look hard at your schedule again and see if you can make 4 days a week possible the next month and so on.
Related: 10 Winter Running Tips for Running in the Cold and Dark
Make behavior goals and outcome goals.
Reale has his clients chart behavior goals (also known as process goals) to support the outcome goals (like training for a 5k or running daily).
A behavior goal or process goal might be ditching scrolling before bed so you get a full night’s rest before your run. An outcome goal would be being fit enough to run an hour without stopping, for example.
Process goals support the outcome goals. If you’re going to make a running habit, the rest of your life needs to support this goal.
For me, I have process goals that include eating real meals around my runs instead of protein bars, lifting heavy twice a week, and having one rest day a week.
Related: How to Set Running Goals
Tell your family and friends.
Telling your family and friends your goal will help hold you accountable. Heck, you can even make a public statement on your Instagram account and track your progress.
But another big reason why you want to tell your family is that they need to know your goals and support you. If your goal is to run every day but you can only run in the mornings or after work in the evenings, then your husband will need to step in and help get the kids ready for school, or prep dinner while you are running.
This give and take can be challenging so you need to make sure your partner is on board and also feels supported by you with their goals.
Related: How to Make Marathons & Marriage Work
This brings me to my fourth point. Identify obstacles. For most mother runners, family obligations are the biggest obstacles that get in the way of our running goals. Other obstacles may be work schedules or engagements, appointments, lack of sleep, lack of proper nutrition before run times, lack of motivation to run in the dark, etc.
Think through what may stand in your way of getting out the door and brainstorm solutions. Also, create plan Bs if your original run time doesn’t work out.
Related: How to Overcome Obstacles to Run
For instance, if you decide to run one morning before work and school, but your husband can’t help that morning or it’s just too challenging for one parent to handle the kids in the morning—can you make that day a slow cooker meal day and run in the evening while supper cooks? Are you able to prep more things the night before? Could you run 20 minutes earlier?
It may take creative thinking along with some inconveniences to you and your family, but your health and happiness are worth it.
Related: How to Adapt to Running in Bad Weather
Find the why.
This may be the most important point in making running a habit. You aren’t going to overcome obstacles if you don’t have a powerful why for running.
If you need examples, check out my #whyirun Wednesdays on Instagram. These moms share some motivating reasons for why they sometimes move mountains so they can run.
As you think (or write!) about your why—keep asking “why” to get to the bottom of it. Ideally, you want the reason for creating a running habit to be intrinsic—attached to your core values—rather than extrinsic. Research shows that intrinsic motivation (which is tied to internal rewards) is more powerful than extrinsic.
This is the difference between, say, wanting to be healthy for your family and set a good example for your kids versus looking good in a bathing suit and impressing people with your race time.
Related: How Running Makes You a Better Mom
Hold onto this why tightly and weave it into the mantras you use on your runs when the going gets tough.
Related: What is a Running Mantra
7. Have “minimum movement goals”
Many people choose perfection over progress and thus don’t accomplish their goal of having a running habit. This is why Reale has “minimum movement goals” for his clients.
Something is always better than nothing.
So, if you have 4 miles on your running schedule but can only get outside for 10 minutes. Take ten minutes. This helps you maintain momentum and keep moving forward toward your goal.
Work hard to ditch the feeling that if you didn’t do exactly what you had in mind is a failure.
Having a daily A,B, and C goal with the C goal being simply moving your body that way keep you on the path to your success. Reframe the goal, move on, and be proud of yourself.
Game your brain.
When you’re tempted to skip a run or do nothing instead of something (no matter how small), think of your future self. Would your future self be disappointed that you chose to sleep an extra 30 minutes instead of run for 30 minutes?
Maybe the answer is no. Maybe you needed to sleep. But if your future self would be upset with your decision, get out of bed!
If your future self would be proud that you took ten minutes to move your body when the day went haywire and you couldn’t do your full run, then do it! Game your brain to think of ultimate outcome.
Log bright spots.
Reale’s clients log “bright spots” or wins regularly where things went well—even just a little bit well. He has them record what was positive and why. This helps illuminate trends in process goals and how they contribute to success.
Logging “bright spots” also keeps the mindset positive—as we know human brains have a negative bias.
This is something I struggle with big time. No matter how well a run went, I always find fault with it—even if it’s out of my control.
For example, the weekend I wrote this, I had my last big long run before my California International Marathon. I got hit with food poisoning the morning of but still ran 23 miles with the last 8 miles at a pick-up pace. Instead of being proud of getting it done, I focused on how I didn’t hit my times exactly.
So, since then, I am logging bright spots to ensure my running stays in a positive frame.
Related: 9 Mental Strength Tips from Sports Psychs
Recalibrate as needed.
If you are regularly missing your goal because of obstacles that are within or outside your control, then you need to revisit your goal and recalibrate.
The goal may not be the right fit for you. Or you may need to rethink how realistic it is for you to overcome life obstacles.
For example, if you just had a baby, and the baby is up nursing a lot or your family is fighting a constant slew of daycare germs, then training for a marathon may not be the right goal at this time.
That doesn’t mean it won’t ever be the right goal—that’s simply not true. But you may need to find another goal, say running 4 days a week, instead that sets you up for success down the line.
If you want guidance with your running goals, check out my run coaching services. Also, be sure to check out my free training plans:
- Postpartum Training Plan
- After a Break Training Plan
- 5k Training Plans
- 10k Training Plans
- Half Marathon Training Plans
- Marathon Training Plans
- Strength Training Plan