Just over a month ago, I decided I wanted to start running again. I really dislike running as a form of exercise but I also dislike paying a monthly fee for a gym I know I will never visit. Running it is.
I’ve started and stopped a running habit many times in my life. Unfortunately now, I haven’t stayed in any shape at all and my legs and lower back often hurt before exercising, a cautionary tale of sorts to better not try to begin again.
I want to lose ten pounds and I want to make sure I keep my mobility as I age. Having parents in their mid-sixties is a great reminder of the importance of some sort of exercise habit to prepare for better mobility in later years.
Here are some thoughts about running you should know:
- I don’t like running to music.
- I really don’t like lugging my iPhone with me.
- I often injure myself when starting a new running routine by running too far, too hard, too fast. The time it takes to recover from the injury can derail my next attempt for weeks, months, even a year.
Here is what I decided to do this time around:
- I will not run with music which means I do not have to drag my huge iPhone along with me.
- I will track my time and intervals with a simple Casio watch. I do not want to get overwhelmed with a FitBit, Apple Watch, etc. I just need something that will beep when I need to run and again when I need to walk.
- I’m taking it VERY slow, running consistently to build the habit, not to over perform. I’m using a method of walking/running that allows me to take breaks and avoid injury. I’m worried less about my time running and more about the consistency of running each week. I will run three days a week and see where the mileage and times takes me. I just want to run for one month without quitting.
As you can see above, my goal is to build the habit of running, not worry about distances, times and performances. None of those matter if I don’t build the habit of getting out there each week and running those three days. Habit first. Performance second.
How to build the habit? I’ve read the average time it takes to build a habit is 21 days. Just google, “How long does it take to build a habit?” and you will be bombarded with different answers on the subject. I decided on one month to build my habit. If I run for a month without giving up, I bet I can go another month.
But is it possible to build a habit of doing something three days a week instead of a daily practice? I can’t begin a running habit by running every single day and not expect myself to either endure injury or burnout. What could I do?
I decided I would record my weight each day and what I did for exercise in a Moleskine notebook. On the days I do not work out, I simply log REST DAY and my weight. Some days I cringe at the weight number but then remind myself, “I run tomorrow and I bet that number will decrease” or when I see a sharp decline I think, “That’s from running this morning”. This tracking is what keeps me interested in running those three days each week.
The good news is I unexpectedly ran FIVE weeks in a row instead of my original goal of four before realizing I had met my goal.
Going forward, I’m going to keep at my goal of running as a habit and worry more about performance later. You can see I’ve kind of reached a comfortable level running/walking 2 miles in under thirty minutes. I can improve that time and extend that distance in the future, but first, give me time to celebrate running for five weeks straight!