It has been said that creating a habit takes no fewer than 21 days--and, while that may be true for some, others, still, may find that it takes much longer. No one can pinpoint exactly how long it will take for you to make it a habit. It may take 21 days or it may take 11 months. Step one on your habit journey is to accept that you aren't failing if it takes you longer than you might have expected.
Habits are formed when new neural pathways in your brain are created--pathways that transform running from something you try to do, into something that often feels automatic. The process for clearing these pathways varies for each of us.
Set your intention.1 of 12
In your ideal world, what type of runner would you like to become? Do you want to run daily or are you trying to become someone who looks forward to running twice a week? Set your intention, write it down and place it somewhere you will see it every day. You want to reinforce in your brain what you are trying to do.
Focus on small, achievable goals.2 of 12
Big goals garner attention, making it easier to allow yourself to slack off after you've already bathed in the praise of all your friends and family for simply starting. Keep a goal to yourself until you have achieved it. Create a desire to be proud of yourself internally, but also to be excited to accomplish something because you can't wait to share it with others. Keeping the goal small guarantees that you will be able to share good news on a frequent basis.
Save your running shoes for running.3 of 12
Only put on your running shoes when you are going running-- this signals to your brain that, when the shoes go on, it's time to run. When the run is over, change your shoes.
Lay out your gear the night before.4 of 12
Few people leap out of bed every morning excited to go run. For the rest of us who struggle to get up, it helps to spend time laying out what you need the night before. Even if you prefer not to run first thing in the morning, laying out your gear and leaving it where you can see it will help reinforce the intention you set the night before. It's similar to a TV commercial that has you craving whatever food just came on your screen--a food you weren't even thinking about until you saw it. Out of sight, out of mind. Keep running in sight, so it's on your mind.
Get up and go.5 of 12
Hitting snooze is terrible for a variety of reasons, but it's even worse when you are trying to make running a habit. Set your alarm for the moment you need to wake up and don't delay. If you already have your clothing laid out from the night before, you can get dressed and start your run half asleep. Which leads me to the next habit-forming trick...
Give yourself 10 minutes.6 of 12
I've been running marathons for over 13 years, but some days I just don't feel like I want to run. When I embarked on my journey to become a runner, I couldn't run to the end of the street and back. Thirty-two marathons later, I know I did some things right in cementing running as a habit. Just run for 10 minutes. If you still want to turn back after that, then do. More than likely, you'll want to keep going because you already made the effort to get out there.
Chart your progress.7 of 12
Few things are as motivating as a calendar with big large X's or check marks on the days you ran. I often run simply because I want to earn that check. Place a calendar where you can see it daily and use whatever color best motivates you to make the mark.
Create a reward loop.8 of 12
Have you noticed how little effort it takes to make some things a habit? Like your daily visit to the coffee shop for instance. Sometimes you wish it wasn't so enticing--yet, every morning you wake up and feel the pull. This habit is driven by a reward loop. You crave the coffee, you satisfy that craving by heading to the coffee shop, the coffee then gives you caffeine which wakes you up and makes you feel good. It's this "feel good" feeling that then drives you to crave the coffee again the next morning--and so the cycle continues. Create a reward loop with running and it will be easier to make it a habit. In fact, use that daily coffee loop to your advantage by only getting coffee after you've run. This way, when you wake up craving coffee, you will wake up knowing it's time to go for a run.
Focus on the immediate rewards.9 of 12
It's easy to think about what hurts or where you'd rather be while you're running, but this doesn't help reinforce running as habit. Instead, focus on how good you feel after it's over or how nice that long Sunday nap feels after having pushed yourself Saturday morning.
Make friends with runners who have already created the habit.10 of 12
Few people can help you stray from your goals faster than a good friend who thinks running is crazy. If you have friends that encourage you to do things that consistently distract from your goals, it's time to back away from them for a bit. Many people link up with others who are also trying to accomplish the same goals, but often times it can be helpful to have the encouragement and support of someone who once was where you are; someone who successfully created a permanent space in their life for running.
Stick with it.11 of 12
Running is hard. And while many parts of it get easier once the habit has been created, it remains a conscious choice that many lifelong runners have to make daily. Don't give up if you hit a bump in the road--it's all part of the process. Stick with running and it can offer you a healthier and happier life.