Making a Habit: Running

So, last year I was invited to join a five-a-side soccer match by my employer. Being a father in my mid forties, and having spent considerably more time sitting on the couch watching more soccer than playing: this was terrifying.

However, when your company (Cover-More Group) is one of the official sponsors of Arsenal Football Club, when your employer is paying for your travel and putting you up in central London, when the five-a-side match is on the pitch of 60,000 seat Emirates Stadium, it’s no-excuse time. You just have to roll up your sleeves and do something uncomfortable.

You have to exercise.

I had three weeks to prepare. I could use those three weeks to focus on skill, or I could use them to focus on fitness. As I never could produce much in the way of skill at this game, I chose to focus on fitness: I started running. Thinking this the straighter path to not embarrassing myself, I began by running to and from work (about 2 miles each way). And to my shock - it was enjoyable! I’ll circle around to this later, but for those of you who don’t know endorphins are great! Getting your heart-rate up before sitting at a desk all day gives you a bit of energy, and literally running away from work is a terrific way to decompress and cleanse your palette before you finish your day.

Why had people been keeping this a secret from me?

The five-a-side match came, we were utterly flattened by much fitter, younger and more practiced Britons, but I kept on using running as my method of commute. Completely unexpectedly, I had stumbled onto a form of exercise that was working for me. And reader - It’s been months now and I don’t think I’m going to stop!

Now, the introduction is done. At this point in a blog entry about a personal fitness topic you will expect to read about maybe “8 Tips to Start Running” or “Do this One Weird Thing for Better Running”. I don’t have any of that for you, because I don’t know your situation, that kind of advice out of context isn’t going to help you. But I will say this:

Make a habit.

My habit has been to incorporate my runs into my commute - that’s what is working for me. Maybe for you it has to be before your kids wake up, or on your lunch break or before you sit down for some must see TV at night. But find what works for you and do every day (or most days), until it’s part of your routine. Signing up to do an organized run is not a habit if you stop running after the 10K or whatever you’ve signed up to do. If one of these is the thing that starts your running adventure - great. For me it didn’t happen that way. I’ve done marathons, half-marathons and Ten Milers in the past. And after I crossed the finish line I quit that habit the coldest cold turkey way possible.

Find something in it that you value and keep doing it. But there are other ways to stay motivated:

Join a running club, run with a buddy, or track your progress. I use Strava (here’s my profile), which has an addictive segments feature which allows you to follow your progress over a particular part of your run. You can set (and break) personal records - it’s all recorded there in the app.

So for me, running has helped me feel better physically, it helps me clear my head after work, so I’m going to keep on doing it. Give it a chance, try to make it a habit and you might end up enjoying it as well.