Run forrest ! Run ! (or How to create a running habit)

swan

Seeing the nature and a beautiful swan while jogging, isn’t it nice ? Yeah… But jogging can get so boring… Or it rain, or I’m tired… So many excuses not to go out & exercise !

Sadly for most of us, using the path of least effort is the 1st option that come to mind. To counter that, we can make willing decision, or we can use some habit (not to have to think about it). By default, we build bad habits (a little snack, oversleeping a bit, postponing a project to later…). But it’s NOT hard to build good habits, it just require a conscious effort & some tricks

Why to bother about building habits ?

If we don’t think, in most case we will seek the path of least effort & immediate reward. It apply to any domain

  • Going jogging under the rain -vs- Staying under a warm blanket

  • Eating a tasting snack -vs- Being “hungry”

  • Buying a shiny car -vs- Driving the used car of your grand-mother

  • Buying now a laptop with credit card -vs- Waiting & saving for some months to buy cash a new laptop

These are simple/stupid example, but for most people, if you don’t make a conscious decision, your mind will make the wrong decision. Get used every morning to get a huge mug of coffee with sugar and caramel… After some months your wallet will be thinner and your belly a bit larger

  • a 5$ coffee each workday will amount to 12.000$ in 10 years

  • This same coffee will amount to 2 pounds of fat (1kg) per month (if the coffee is on top of your need :))

Little “inconsequential” habits can bring you overweight in a year and over the years “steal” you a big chunk of money. But it’s working both way, positive habits will make your life better over time without even having to think about it.

How to build habits

  • Clear choice: think about why you want to do it
  • Smart ridiculously small: the goal is to build the habit not to achieve immediately big results. Time will become your ally
  • Remove or limit any obstacles: this is critical in the early stage as the mind will try to use any excuse to be lazy
  • Motivate & reward yourself

The jogging experiment

I decided to try building the habit of running every morning for 30 minutes. And I will share with you how I’m doing it and the difficulties I’m encountering

Why

  • Main reason is a personal challenge, I want to participate to the Iron Man in my hometown Nice (2.4 mile swim / 112 mile bike / 26.2 mile run). As I have never been very good in running, it’s a good place to start
  • Secondary reason is to get fit to wear all my clothes which got too small over the years (and after countless fries, steak & other tasty dinners)
  • Bonus : having a good mood every morning after a nice sweat :)

How

  • First mission : define realistic objectives & timeline
  • Which obstacles could prevent me from running ?
  • reward I will award myself & when ?

Objectives

  • Long term : being able to run a marathon (end 2014)
  • Mid term : running the 20km of Brussels in May 2014 (bit more than 6 month)
  • Short term : running 5km without stop by the end of November
  • Weekly : running 3km per day, at least 5 times per week until November, then increase daily routing to hit 5km per day

Obstacles

  • Not enough time, money, equipment, motivation, bad weather
  • Money is not an issue, jogging cost nearly nothing once you have basic equipment (which would cost less than a 100 anyway)
  • Bad weather & equipment, these obstacles are linked, with a light sweater and raincoat for worst case, it’s not hard at all to run under rain
  • Motivation become quickly a non-issue, after 3/4 days of saying myself “I have to do it”, it started to become a habit
  • Time, this is the usual habit killer : “I don’t have time“. It is indeed the most precious commodity
    • First, I have defined my main constraint : I need to pick up my daughter from daycare at 6pm latest. So I have to leave office at 5pm, which require me to arrive before 8:30am. On Monday & Wednesday I’m busy all evening long with Russian classes

    • That left as main potential slots : lunch break & morning everyday, some evening during the week + weekend

    • Since I want to spend some time with my daughter on evening & weekend, so that leave mostly the morning as a sport slot

So I decided to run most of the morning before the rest of the family wake up. That leave me from 5:50am to 6:30. One of the consequence is that I’m getting more tired in the evening around 9-10pm and I’m going to the bed very easily.

Reward

I’m usually pretty frugal, so I don’t have any big need (or even want). But to fuel my motivation of running, I decided to award myself some equipments if my run regularly enough. So if I manage 2 weeks without more than 3 days without run, I will buy myself proper running shoes (for now I use old sneakers). If I pass the 1 month mark, I will allow myself to buy warmer clothes (depending on weather). If I reach January, I will consider paying 5$ per month for a runkeeper fee (I use the free version for now and it help me staying motivated… I’m metrics addicted :))

Results

After nearly 2 weeks running nearly every day, I’m quite happy with the result. I manage to run 3.5km (2 miles) without a break, I skipped only a day. And the weather was never an issue, I ran 3 times under light rain and one time under heavy run & wind without any issue (just using the raincoat)

Running stats for mid September

3 thoughts on “Run forrest ! Run ! (or How to create a running habit)

    • The hardest is to find the motivation for the 1st baby step. 5K is quite a lot. You could try to regularly run for 20/30 minutes without caring about the distance. And when you get used to the running you can start checking the distance, pace & try to improve them

    • The best thing to do Nick is sign up to a race (with entry fee) and maybe even get a few sponsors to give you the motivation to get your butt out there!

      Sounds like cashsnail is pretty motivated already… good going! Iron man is a pretty hardcore challenge! I’ve done a marathon but don’t think I’d ever want to do the iron man (I hate swimming and cycling… hah!)

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