Oh Hi, Mr. Routine! How are you? Wait… Where the heck have you been the last 2 months? Jet skiing? Really? And sleeping in? Wow, that sounds nice! Drinking a pint of beer on a sunny porch? Well, it sounds like you have had a great summer, Mr. Routine, but I am glad that you are back so we can cement some of our habits in action. Fall is here, which means wonderful running weather. It’s a perfect time to get back into routines or make some new ones. Mr. Routine, I want to introduce you to running. You two are gonna get it on!
I am dying to get into a routine and back to my running habit! For me and a lot of runners, it's a goal to become a habitual runner; to turn on the autopilot in your head. Wake up, squeeze into bra, clothes go on, shoes go on, step out the door and run… without even thinking about it. No fights with your brain, no negotiation, no temper tantrum. Oh, wouldn't that be grand? It's the big door prize, ultimate goal, right? Especially for new runners, when any new interference or set back can throw a wrench in your running schedule and that autopilot goes haywire. Houston, we have a meltdown.
But the good news is, you can train yourself to make running a habit. It takes time and a couple of tricks to get it into the subconscious and put the steps into action without thinking about it.
Bump it up to something you do all the time. I call these non-variables. It's something you do every day, like wake up, (hopefully). It takes a whole lot of willpower at first, but the more you do it, the more engrained it will become. It turns into a no-brainer. “If you want to do something that requires willpower—like going for a run after work—you have to conserve your willpower muscle during the day,” Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit. So if you listen to Mr. Duhigg, it would be better to get that task done in the earlier part of your day.
Start Small. Just go for a quick jog in the morning, let's say for 5-10 minutes. See how that feels. Then, add a little more every week, no big deal. Build on your small wins.
Know Your Reward. What does your brain like? This is the fun part. Find out what makes you light up, what you are counting on... You'll be more likely to do a task (running) to get that reward. Yes, everyone, we are rats in a maze with a side of black lab that will play dead to get a morsel of food. We want the treat and we'll do stupid things to get said treat. Rewards can be social time with your running buddy, post run coffee or beer or a hot bath with yummy smelling scents. Play around with what your brain likes and find your reward. If you track your progress, and celebrate the big milestones, your brain will see that as an accomplishment which is the same as a reward. Win!