I’ve talked about my journey to becoming a “runner” on here before. I still feel undeserving of the title “runner” considering I could barely run a mile in high school, but after a full marathon, several half marathons, and a boat load of other races, I think it’s fair to say that I am a runner. But getting to that place was not and still is not easy.
For years I looked at exercise and running as a means to be thin. My day would be judged as a good or a bad day on whether or not I slogged away for 30 minutes on the treadmill. This mindset made me dread working out, but at the same time, I’d feel terribly guilty if I skipped it. So it was this vicious cycle of dread and guilt that wasn’t getting me any thinner and certainly not any happier.
I’m not sure when exactly my mindset started to shift, but I think it was around the time I started doing races with New York Road Runners. I loved the feeling of training towards a goal that wasn’t related to losing weight and the adrenaline of the race itself. Over time and many, many miles, running became more of a habit, just something I did every day (or every other day), and not something I had to do in order to feel good about myself or waste so much brain space on dread or guilt. And I think what happens when running or any type of exercise becomes a habit instead of a chore is that you do get addicted to the feeling of feeling good – not feeling good because you burned X calories, feeling good because your blood is pumping, your head is clearer, you feel a sense of pride and accomplishment in yourself. But how do you get to from that place of chore to an everyday habit? Well besides a healthy dose of time and perseverance, there are 3 other keys I’ve identified over the years that were crucial for me.
This one applies to any habit, not just working out. How can you really make a change without really knowing what and why you want to change first? What are your true motivations for wanting to exercise? Most people would say to lose weight, but push that even further. Why do you want to lose weight? Do you think you’ll be happier? It may sound a little much for something as straightforward as exercise, but I promise that really being honest with yourself about why you want to make this change will help those new habits stick.
The other part of Know Yourself is a little bit easier. Are you a morning person or a night owl? Do you need a teacher or class to hold you accountable, or can you work out on your own? Do you like to be inside or outside? Don’t set yourself up for failure by saying you’ll wake up to run every morning at 6am in the winter if you’re a night owl who hates the cold. If you really hate to run, then don’t do it! Find what is most enjoyable and what works best for you. Again, just be honest with yourself and don’t feel bad it.
This one is huge for me. There’s nothing I hate more than wasting time just to go somewhere to workout. I think that’s why I enjoy running: you can do it anywhere and it doesn’t require much planning or equipment. Think about your schedule and your commute and pick the gym or the running route that’s on your way home. Keep a bag of gym clothes and sneakers in the car so you don’t have to stop back at home. Because let’s be honest, once you’re home you’re not going back out (at least I know I’m not).
Much like those charts your parents kept to track when you did your chores or ate your vegetables, getting that gold star or checking off that list is a satisfying feeling. When training for a half marathon, I like to write out exactly what we need to do each day on a calendar just so that I can visually see it and then see each day crossed off as I get closer and closer. It’s such a simple act, yet so powerful and motivating. Plus, how will you know how much progress you’ve made unless you keep track of it all?
I also highly recommend Gretchen Rubin’s book Better Than Before – it’s all about mastering habits and she provides 21 great strategies to do so.
What strategies do you follow to stick to your exercise habits? Or what would you like to start implementing today?