I work with the full range of runners, from novices to elites. Everyone struggles. At times folks have trouble consistently getting out the door. Other days they have a tough time getting scheduled workouts done. Regardless of innate talent, experience level, or individual goals, several strategies prove successful. Read on if you want to develop more consistency in running or walking.
You In? Let’s go.
WHAT is consistency?
Consistency means you run or walk 3x/week for 30 minutes at any pace for 3 weeks as a baseline to maintain fitness. Some tools that nurture consistency include: scheduled days off, not unplanned, while longer planned periods of time off within a training schedule are kept to about one week. Weekly mileage and workouts progress gradually, vs. showing large swings in volume or intensity. Injury prevention is a continual goal as you commit to the types of auxiliary work (stretching, strength work, optimal nutrition, quality sleep) that act as preventative measures against frequent injury.
WHY is consistency important?
If you’re not getting in at least 30 minutes three times a week, your body will struggle to adapt to the stresses on your musculoskeletal and cardiovascular systems. Consistency helps you to pass the point at which every (or many) runs feel hard. In addition, sporadic runners may not know their limits, making overuse injuries more common.
But HOW can you develop consistency in running?
Running becomes habit-forming when you’re excited to do it, and when you’re held accountable when motivation dwindles.
Figure out what your most enjoyable runs have in common. (Are they morning loops near your home? De-stressing trail miles after work? Solo with music?) Armed with this information, you can then prioritize these types of runs. Fortify your resolve by joining buddies if possible, at least once a month.
If your excuse is that it takes you too long to get out of the door in the morning, streamline your getting-ready-to-run process. Set out your running gear and program your coffeemaker the night before, along with your breakfast set-up. Repeating your morning plan mentally, such as “alarm off, feet on floor, coffee” before you fall asleep can actually help you to spring out of bed a bit faster. One successful strategy that I prescribe for many of my runners is to sleep in their running clothes (minus the shoes) …Yep, it works!
Build some Strength:
Running itself strengthens the lower body, but the arms, shoulders and back muscles reap less benefit. These muscle groups are important as they help you to maintain upright posture, which equates to easier breathing on the run, which in turn translates to more enjoyable runs that lead to greater consistency. Incorporating some basic upper torso and core strength work into your life can cover your bases here.
This creates an external control system in your life that sets you up successfully to run and helps you to create an automatic choice/habit. Suggestion: Every Sunday check the weather forecast for the entire week ahead and post it to your schedule; then schedule your runs/workouts on your business planner at a time that makes sense for you just as you would any other important meeting or Action Item. Put all of your gear out the night before. “I don’t have time” doesn’t apply here. Get creative and you’ll make it happen if you want this outcome even if it’s not convenient.
Make Running a Core Value (Active Lifestyle):
When fitness is prioritized as a core value it becomes ingrained in who you are and it becomes a standard behavior. Ask yourself WHY you want to run consistently, and you’ve got your purpose. The more personal and powerful your WHY is, the more motivating it will be for you.
Track your Progress:
Like any other quantitative business measure, if you track your progress (miles/minutes/# runs, etc.) daily in any type of physical or digital log, the process and your progress become more real and you become more accountable.
Focus on Process vs. Outcomes:
Running consistency involves many different areas. Certainly, the actual runs themselves, but all of the details within those runs, not just your pace/overall time, etc. Details such as your mood, anything that you discovered about yourself during the run, your enjoyment level, friends that you may have made or new routes/environments are all part of an ever changing and very worthwhile process. Make note of all of these ‘process’ discoveries as well, and you become much more invested in the big picture.
Do some Investigative Digging:
Think about other areas in your life where you’ve successfully been consistent with follow through (whether you wanted to or not). Career? Relationships? Family Obligations? The list goes on…Why were/are you consistent in these areas and how did you achieve consistency in these instances? This same successful thought/action template can be used again within the running domain.
Runners who achieve consistency create small environmental shifts that foster success. They don’t have trouble finding the time to run because they structured their live to make running a priority in their daily routine. Running is still a choice, but on a daily basis, they remove the need for choice. Barring emergency or illness, it’s simply who they are and what they do. Whatever your end goal, research shows that developing running consistency is the number one behavior for runners to implement in order to see improvements in their overall health, speed, or ability to run longer distances.