Staying consistent in your running starts with your attitude

'Run tall,' and let the rest hang loose  Credit: Simon Bruty/Allsport
If you're like most people, you often find it difficult to get in a good workout with the demands of family and career always breathing down your neck.

Skipping the occasional run is no big deal, but too many people take up the sport, only to find days turn into weeks and then turn into months of no running when their lifestyle just doesn't jibe with their training plan.

Have you ever wondered if there was one key to consistent training? And if there is, does it involve the way I train, my attitude, my shoes ... what?

The Revelation

Three years ago, I completed my first Ironman-distance triathlon. Before I began training for this event, roughly a year ahead of time, I made up my mind that I would take a yearlong hiatus from swimming, cycling and running after the race.

At the time, I had been competing in marathons and long-distance triathlon for almost a decade. I surmised that by the time I was done putting in an inordinate amount of miles to train for such an event in a single year a break from endurance sports was what I would need.

About a month after my Ironman finish, I found myself doing a 10-mile run in my favorite training terrain, the I&M canal, a few minutes' drive my home. Surrounded by the placid beauty of sunburst-orange foliage and the occasional awe-inspiring sighting of a huge gray herring, I wondered what I was doing there. After all, I had made up my mind to take a sabbatical from the endurance rat race.

Then in the middle of a trance-like haze induced by the rhythmic sound of my heelstrikes on the crushed gravel it hit me. Running is a part of who I am. It is an integral part of my identity. I can no more stop running than I can stop writing.

The Lesson

So what does all this touchy-feely mumbo-jumbo mean?

Bottom line: We each behave and act on the assumption that we are who we think we are. Virtually every behavior (or non-behavior) is dictated in one way or another by our self-perception, our identity.

For example, if we've been running for awhile, chances are you consider yourself a "runner." You run on a regular basis, and although you may have the occasional lapse in consistency you probably get out there and pound the pavement pretty regularly. Why?

Because you're a "runner." That's who you are. It's what you do.

When running becomes part of your identity, not running for an extended period of time is usually a behavior that is not acceptable to you.

The Plan

So, if you have yet interwoven the running identity into your psyche, how do you go about doing it? Well Dr. Joyce Brothers once said, "What we do regularly and consistently, over and over again, eventually becomes who we are."

Of course, the trouble with that it, how do you get yourself to get out the door consistently in the first place? If you have trouble working out regularly, there are some tangible steps you can take to begin to integrate running into your identity.

Walk the walk and talk the talk: Use the gear and do the things runners do. Throw away the high school sweats and start wearing real running apparel and shoes. Get to know the lingo and running terminology by subscribing to magazines like Runner?s World. Join a running club.

Affirm your running identity: Whenever you find your motivation waning, remind yourself: "I'm a runner. It's what I do. I have to get out there and run because that's who I am."

Reinforce your running identity: Take every opportunity to reaffirm yourself as a runner. See yourself in the role of runner often, visualizing your successes, present and future.

Set goals: Setting goals will not only help you stay focused, they will aid you in your quest to make running part of your personality, and, consequently, part of your lifestyle.

John M. Mora is a runner, triathlete, writer and marketing consultant living in Plainfield.

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