There’s something to be said for routine. There’s something to be said for doing the same thing, in the same order at the same time, every day. Like in the morning, how you wake up, have a shower, brush your teeth, get dressed, make coffee. It’s comforting, it’s reassuring, it boosts confidence and drives productivity: we know what we have to do when, and as a result it gets done.
Routines come with a sense of completion before they are even completed: we know that we just have to start on step one, and then pretty soon, the rest falls into place and we’ve completed step 2, 3 and 4. You just put one foot in front of the other and go from start to finish. Kind of like running. Well a lot like running in fact.
And if we are going to talk about running, let’s talk about running with a routine. Or in other words, how to get yourself out of a running rut and into a routine that will motivate you to run as often as you want (or as often as your plan says you need to!)
So often, people come to me and say they can’t get into a running routine, or they can’t stick to their running plan, or they’re not feeling like they are making progress with their training. But maybe instead of focusing on a specific training goal, distance goal, or pace goal, the focus should be to establish a system or routine that allows you to work towards that goal with consistency. Let’s take the emphasis off of achieving the goal, and place the emphasis on establishing the system or routine.
You can think of it as “what can I do now in terms of establishing a routine, that will allow me to achieve my goal later?”
Step 1: Commit to a time, frequency and duration
Time – It doesn’t have to be a specific time right down to the minute (unless you want it to be), just a specific time of day. For example, in the morning, on your lunch break, while the kids are at soccer practice etc. This also needs to account for which days of the week you are going to run. If you know weekends are always too busy with family engagements, make it during the week; if you know the kids have soccer practice 4 times per week, and you would just sit at the field anyway, make it on those days.
Frequency – Simply, how many times per week you are going to commit to making it happen. This will also obviously be dictated by your days above. Start with something manageable and increase it as appropriate.
Duration – Not in miles, but in minutes. Simply commit to running for a certain number of minutes on the days that you specified as often as you specified.
The idea with these commitments above is that you create associations in your brain – i.e. your brain associates every Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday lunch hour with going for a run. Associations become habits, and habits govern a routine.
Step 2: Make the appointment – Now that you have committed to the days, times and duration, go through your planner and write them in, as if it was an appointment with someone that you couldn’t miss. Make these workouts a priority now, and treat them the same as you would a meeting with your boss or colleague.
Step 3: Anticipate the hurdles – If you have been struggling up until now to establish a routine, it is likely because you have come upon hurdles along the way and those hurdles have become a blockade that has held you back. Given that you know what those blocks are, consider possible solutions for when they come up again. For example, if your hurdle is that you always skip your run when it is raining, come up with a rainy day option: a pre-established indoor routine that you can do when it’s raining outside. This could be a bodyweight workout, purchasing a one-time pass at your local gym, or even going to a class at a local studio. For each of your hurdles, have a plan in place that you can immediately enact when you find yourself at a road block.
Step 4: Start – Perhaps the hardest step of all, but now it’s time to just start. Don’t wait, don’t say it will be tomorrow, don’t tell yourself this story that it is not a good week and that next week will be better. There is never going to be the perfect time. Start now. Start today. And in a month, when you are back into a routine and feel like you are making progress, you’ll thank yourself a hundred times over.
Need help with that last step? I offer run coaching and lifestyle management services to get you on track, into a routine and well on your way to where you want to be. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to set up your system for success!